At the invitation of Jewish Peace News, this posting was introduced by guest editor/contributor Deb Reich. Images included in the Haaretz article she has introduced can be viewed on the JPN blog at: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com/2009/03/photos-of-idf-training-graduates-t.html
My nephew, whom I greatly love, was conscripted not long ago into the IDF after a year of national service, and chose to join a combat unit. To my knowledge, I am the only one in the family who is unhappy about all of that (except the national service part, when he worked with disadvantaged urban youth).
However, this is not my child, but my sister's child. Since I am not the parent, what could I have said? How much could I have interfered?
I sent him an email when he was inducted, saying, basically: "Sometimes after people get in the army, they discover that it is not what they thought it would be and they are troubled when they learn how it really is. If this happens to you, there are resources -- people you can talk to, outside of the army"-- and I gave him some suggestions.... names of organizations he can contact. --Meantime he has finished basic training and is in an officer's course. I wonder what slogan will be on the T shirt someone in his unit will print to mark the end of the course (see below)?
Will I be sorry later that I did not dare to interfere more vocally? I think about what he will almost certainly be required to inflict on others, including noncombatants, including children, unless he opts out somewhere along the way, a choice requiring a very strong resistance to groupthink and to a lifetime of brainwashing, a choice grounded in a profound inner conviction that the IDF is wrong, wrongly deployed, an instrument of a criminal and oppressive national policy, massively transgressing the norms we are supposed to hold dear -- a conviction which I can't see how he can possibly have developed, all of a sudden. And, since we become what we do, I think also about what this behavior of his will be doing to him. When he comes home on leave, surely he will be treated like a good son, a good brother. No one will ask for details of what he has been doing since his last leave. How is he to know he is doing wrong if everyone around him acts like all is well? That vacuum, that
silence, seems to me to be criminal. That silence makes the families of IDF occupation soldiers into accessories to the murder of noncombatants. Doesn't it?
Today, after reading Uri Blau's "No Virgins, No Terror Attacks" in Haaretz, I sent my nephew another email - pasted below. I try to be gentle with him because I keep reminding myself that this is not a volunteer army. My nephew was conscripted, and if all the brainwashing he has been subjected to, and his misplaced patriotism, made him a willing conscript into an army of occupation, still he was a conscript, nonetheless. That distinction, of course, will have no bearing on his culpability for any war crimes he may commit while in uniform.... Not even the Qassams fired from Gaza at civilian populations in Israel will have a bearing on his culpability for any war crimes he may commit while in uniform...
I hope you are well and doing OK, hon...
When I saw this article (below), I immediately thought of you. You are the one I worry about these days, for a lot of reasons. What they talk about in this article is one of the reasons...
Try to take care of yourself somehow in the midst of all the insanity.
Below, the first few paragraphs. Read it to the end online.
I rest my case.
Last update - 22:41 20/03/2009
Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009
By Uri Blau
Tags: Israel News, IDF, Gaza
The office at the Adiv fabric-printing shop in south Tel Aviv handles a constant stream of customers, many of them soldiers in uniform, who come to order custom clothing featuring their unit's insignia, usually accompanied by a slogan and drawing of their choosing. Elsewhere on the premises, the sketches are turned into plates used for imprinting the ordered items, mainly T-shirts and baseball caps, but also hoodies, fleece jackets and pants. A young Arab man from Jaffa supervises the workers who imprint the words and pictures, and afterward hands over the finished product.
Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children's graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques - these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription "Better use Durex," next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter's T-shirt from the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, "1 shot, 2 kills." A "graduation" shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, "No matter how it begins, we'll put an end to it."
There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, "Bet you got raped!" A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies - such as "confirming the kill" (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim's head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants....
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