Global, Israel, Politics

Occupation can't be done differently

Tour with ArnonThe central message of Breaking the Silence is “it can’t be done differently.”
A humane occupation is not possible in the experiences of these soldiers and if someone is committed to the settlement project, wherein a small number of Jews live amidst and must be protected from a greater number of Palestinians, then the result will be these ugly pictures.

Said veteran Arnon Degani, 25, today in a guided tour to a half dozen UPenn Hillel students, “It’s a slippery slope. You begin doing everything by the book. But then you realize that you can get away with everything. And that’s when enforcing curfew or guarding a checkpoint turns into abuse. You have so much power for an 18 year old. Shooting your gun becomes the most exciting part of the day.”

A very agitated participant, brought in by his son today, confronted Arnon on whether the territories were safer for Israeli citizens as occupied. Claiming the Arabs would kill all the Jews if Israel ended the occupation, he clearly represented a mainstream American Jewish understanding of the conflict.

Arnon said, “If you believe the occupation is necessary for Israel’s security, then you must accept that all of this will continue to happen. For all of the world to see. All of this must happen if we are to keep the settlements. And that’s fine if you think that. But if you think the settlements are for Israel’s security, then you legitimize settlers are military targets by terrorists. They are no longer civilians. I am there to protect civilians from attacks. That’s my job.”

To me, the most enlightening testimonies given by the soldiers are those which explain the realities of military operations.

Soldier. Background: two Palestinians detained at an army post after violating curfew.“How can you tell if a detainee is a terrorist?” asked on student.
“Easy,” Arnon replied. “You radio the secret service and they tell you. You have the man’s ID. There are two kinds of detainees: terrorists and everybody else. I do everything necessary to capture terrorists. But I’m talking about what I have to do to civilians. I know these people are not terrorists. And far more numerous than terrorists. And yet I have to humiliate them to keep order. Every day. It can’t be done differently.”
This is what occupation looks like — not just the Occupation, but occupation in general. This bears an important relevance to Americans rightly concerned about Iraq today. And the message Breaking the Silence is bringing to the States is not how to end the occupation or even whether it should be.
This exhibit poses the question directly to you, asking, “This is what occupation looks like. It can’t be done differently. Are you willing to pay this price?” And the answer is up to you.
(X-posted to Breaking the Silence’s exhibit video blog.)

10 thoughts on “Occupation can't be done differently

  1. Wait a moment, how can you say that the beliggerent pro-settler attendee “clearly represented a mainstream American Jewish understanding of the conflict?” You give absolutely no proof of that, and simply base support of your own view of the conflict on this man’s poor attitude.

  2. Avi – You actually think that the attitude that without the occupation the Palestinians would kill huge numbers of Jews ISN’T the mainstream American opinion? If that’s so, I’m wondering who you spend time around and what publications you read. Anti-occupation viewpoints are still unfortunately marginal in the Jewish community in the U.S., even if they are growing.

  3. Waitaminit–
    I’m wondering who you spend time around and what publications you read.
    If the anti-occupation viewpoints are marginal amongst American Jews, it has to be the loudest marginal group in human history.
    Kudos to Kung Fu Jew for a well-written piece.

  4. I do think that the fear of what will happen without an occupation is representative of many people who are hesitant to condemn it. I do not think, however, that mainstream American-Jewish opinion is in favor of the settlement enterprise.
    This was well-written and engaging… thanks for covering it.

  5. Jews representing an anti-occupation position are not marginal. We are the majority of ‘all Jews in the US.’
    The problem is the actual and perceived power of Jewish leaders and donors that may agree with our position but want it kept ‘internal’ to the community, to those who are in fact pro-occupation. This minority should be marginal, but sadly creates an environment where the majoritarian view is seen by it’s own adherents as marginal.
    In other words, (some) Jews are secretly in control of our institutions as a result of their money, media access and behind the scenes influence. May the organizations they dominate wither on the vine…..

  6. In other words, (some) Jews are secretly in control of our institutions as a result of their money, media access and behind the scenes influence.
    you mean Jewish institutions are run by a secret cabal of Jews!??!?!

  7. I generally think that this was a well written piece. But it is my opinion that the majority of jews are against the occupation, but are seriously and legitimately scared of what would happen if it were to end. I for one think that settlements, both of the hilltop sort and those actually funded by the government are despicable. Essentially, I think neither fully pro- nor fully anti- occupation is the general opinion of the Jewish community. As I said above, I think that most people dislike it, but are legitimately afraid that attacks will not only continue but become more common if the occupation were to end in the West Bank, just as it has in Gaza. Now, we can argue whether the occupation exists as far as Gaza, but defining it as a constant Israeli military presence within areas where Palestinians live, it has ended in Gaza.
    Now, to define my earlier comment, I was simply questioning the one phrase used by Kung Fu, stating without any support that this vitriolic attendee represented the mainstream Jewish community. I generally enjoyed the piece, but I think the writers of Jewschool may be a little too caught up in their own counter-culturalism to realize that the right does not control the Jews.

  8. Thank you Rootless Cosmo…. I’m glad my attempts at humor are at least noticed now and then, if not actually appreciated!

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