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Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories, 2000-2010

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Israeli soldiers speak out for the first time about the truth of the Palestinian occupation, in "one of the most important books on Israel/Palestine in this generation" (The New York Review of Books) The very name of the Israel Defense Forces—which many Israelis speak of as "the most moral army in the world"—suggests that its primary mission is the defense of the country's Israeli soldiers speak out for the first time about the truth of the Palestinian occupation, in "one of the most important books on Israel/Palestine in this generation" (The New York Review of Books) The very name of the Israel Defense Forces—which many Israelis speak of as "the most moral army in the world"—suggests that its primary mission is the defense of the country's territory. Indeed, both internationally and within Israel, support for the occupation of Palestinian territory rests on the belief that the army's actions and presence in the West Bank and Gaza are essentially defensive and responsive, aimed at protecting the country from terror.But Israeli soldiers themselves tell a profoundly different story. In this landmark work, which includes hundreds of soldiers' testimonies collected over a decade, what emerges is a broad policy that is anything but defensive. In their own words, the soldiers reveal in human and vivid detail how the key planks of the army's ostensibly protective program—"prevention of terror," "separation of populations," "preservation of the fabric of life," and "law enforcement"—have in fact served to accelerate acquisition of Palestinian land, cripple all normal political and social life, and ultimately thwart the possibility of independence. The many soldiers who have spoken out have taken aim at a silence of complicity, both within Israel and in the wider world, that perpetuates the justification for occupation. In the process, they have created a gripping and immediate record of oppression. Powerful and incontrovertible, Our Harsh Logic is a supremely significant contribution to one of the world's most vexed conflicts.


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Israeli soldiers speak out for the first time about the truth of the Palestinian occupation, in "one of the most important books on Israel/Palestine in this generation" (The New York Review of Books) The very name of the Israel Defense Forces—which many Israelis speak of as "the most moral army in the world"—suggests that its primary mission is the defense of the country's Israeli soldiers speak out for the first time about the truth of the Palestinian occupation, in "one of the most important books on Israel/Palestine in this generation" (The New York Review of Books) The very name of the Israel Defense Forces—which many Israelis speak of as "the most moral army in the world"—suggests that its primary mission is the defense of the country's territory. Indeed, both internationally and within Israel, support for the occupation of Palestinian territory rests on the belief that the army's actions and presence in the West Bank and Gaza are essentially defensive and responsive, aimed at protecting the country from terror.But Israeli soldiers themselves tell a profoundly different story. In this landmark work, which includes hundreds of soldiers' testimonies collected over a decade, what emerges is a broad policy that is anything but defensive. In their own words, the soldiers reveal in human and vivid detail how the key planks of the army's ostensibly protective program—"prevention of terror," "separation of populations," "preservation of the fabric of life," and "law enforcement"—have in fact served to accelerate acquisition of Palestinian land, cripple all normal political and social life, and ultimately thwart the possibility of independence. The many soldiers who have spoken out have taken aim at a silence of complicity, both within Israel and in the wider world, that perpetuates the justification for occupation. In the process, they have created a gripping and immediate record of oppression. Powerful and incontrovertible, Our Harsh Logic is a supremely significant contribution to one of the world's most vexed conflicts.

30 review for Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories, 2000-2010

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stewart

    While I'm admittedly not extremely versed on Palestinian-Israeli relations or the occupation, I was interested in this book because I thought it might give some light to the side of the story we don't often hear. To be fair, I suppose the book is exactly what it claims to be - testimonies of Israeli soldiers who provide "shocking" information about the things that are actually going on in the occupied territories. Violence and discrimination and abuses of power galore. The problem is that none o While I'm admittedly not extremely versed on Palestinian-Israeli relations or the occupation, I was interested in this book because I thought it might give some light to the side of the story we don't often hear. To be fair, I suppose the book is exactly what it claims to be - testimonies of Israeli soldiers who provide "shocking" information about the things that are actually going on in the occupied territories. Violence and discrimination and abuses of power galore. The problem is that none of this information is extremely revealing or shocking. Quite honestly it is the same types of stories you'd imagine hearing from any soldiers gloating about their warring in any war that has ever existed. In fact we hear these types of stories in America when soldiers make the mistake of getting caught such as those at Guantanamo Bay. Beating up people who probably didn't deserve it, intimidating the "enemy" civilians, etc. While surely it is sad and disgusting, it provides nothing more than a superficial complaint about the state of war, not the conspiratorial expose that I was expecting. No one will get a better insight into the war by reading this book. After reading not even half, I was bored and done. It was depressing but not at all inspiring or thought-provoking. It's a shame that Breaking the Silence didn't put this information into a format that inspired action.

  2. 5 out of 5

    William Bentrim

    Our Harsh Logic Compiled by Breaking the Silence When I was asked if I would review this book, I said, “It doesn’t sound like a book I want to read but it does sound like a book I should read”. This book is a compilation of testimonies by Israeli Soldiers from the occupied territories 2000-2010. I’m still not sure of the motivation of the organization Breaking the Silence. This book details many incidents that portray the Israeli army, police and settlers in a decidedly negative manner. The Pales Our Harsh Logic Compiled by Breaking the Silence When I was asked if I would review this book, I said, “It doesn’t sound like a book I want to read but it does sound like a book I should read”. This book is a compilation of testimonies by Israeli Soldiers from the occupied territories 2000-2010. I’m still not sure of the motivation of the organization Breaking the Silence. This book details many incidents that portray the Israeli army, police and settlers in a decidedly negative manner. The Palestinians are portrayed as victims. The bias of the book is definitively against the Israeli government. The government is portrayed as fractured and confused. The army gets conflicting directions form different governmental bodies. The testimonies are moving and often sad. The young people of Israel found themselves in situations they felt they were ill equipped to handle. Many of the testimonies reflected the immaturity of the soldiers and their reflections from the perspective of later years where they second guess their prior behavior. I can’t recall one incident in the book where Palestinians were seen as the cause of the soldiers’ behavior. In my opinion the book ignored why the issues of security were mandated in the first place. From this book’s point of view a pattern of behavior by the Israeli army, settlers and government is creating a culture of hatred in the Palestinians. The term ghetto was used several times in the book as was reference to Nazi behavior. Harsh is aptly used in the title of the book. I suspect that many of the stories in the book could be ascribed to American troops in their battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Conflicting rationales for their missions has to been depredating to the morale and general well being of the troops regardless of nationality. Considering the overwhelming support for Israel in the United States, this book provides a thoughtful counterpoint. However is does seem decidedly skewed in viewpoint. Read it but read it with care.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ishraq

    To be honest, I was not chocked with these testimonies from soldiers in the IDF during Operation Cast Lead 2008-2009. What caught my attention was really some testimonies and incidents happened during that massacre and the Arab media and journals did not mention. (To be honest again, this is so typical of them.) I would like to share some of these testimonies but what you would basically know from these testimonies is that at the beginning, not all the soldiers knew why they would go to Gaza and To be honest, I was not chocked with these testimonies from soldiers in the IDF during Operation Cast Lead 2008-2009. What caught my attention was really some testimonies and incidents happened during that massacre and the Arab media and journals did not mention. (To be honest again, this is so typical of them.) I would like to share some of these testimonies but what you would basically know from these testimonies is that at the beginning, not all the soldiers knew why they would go to Gaza and what is the exact mission to have on the first day of the attack. They always had some Rabbi soldiers to talk about the Great War for the Promised Land and how everything is justified and no regret. The Rules of engagement were clear, to get in and out with no soldiers’ kills, injuries, kidnapping... the live of a soldier is very precious and when you shoot, shoot to kill. Do not let feelings and regrets control you, once these Palestinians (innocent or not) when cross certain lines should be shoot to kill. House demolitions was a common act to do, a whole neighborhood would be taken down if a suspected house for launching Qassam rockets is happened to be there. Demolish everything, houses, trees, orchards, everything that a tunnel is expected to be under... Testimony 1 - Human Shield "… Sometimes the force would enter while placing rifle barrels on a civilian's shoulder, advancing into a house and using him as a human shield. Commanders said these were the instructions and we had to do it…" Testimony 4 - Rules Of Engagement & Home Occupation "Missiles, tank fire, machine gun fire into the house, grenades. Shoot as we enter a room. The idea was that when we enter a house, no one there could fire at us. Naturally by combat reasoning we would not take a house that the Hamas would expect us to take, for it would be highly likely for the Hamas to booby-trap it." Testimony 21 - Briefings & Rules Of Engagement "There are two phases: there's the primary phase of taking objectives. There, whatever is suspect is targeted for fire, and there are houses on the road, like in an ambush. As soon as someone passes them – you shoot. The 'red line' procedure is to report, request permission to open fire." "Men, women and children. This was our first objective in the operation plan. We walked in, reached the neighborhood and began the offensive advance. While you're attacking you shoot a lot even while encountering no one. You make sure you're not being surprised. Say we entered a hothouse and are securing it: you cut a hole and enter the hothouse, shooting at the plant rows. You're not on automatic fire, but you do give a few bursts to make sure you won't be surprised." "He (the battalion commander) also spoke about having to remain alert and not be afraid, he stressed that this was not a limited confrontation such as in Hebron, and not to hesitate to shoot if we suspect someone, nor feel bad about destruction because it is all done for the safety of our own soldiers. “ "... He said that whatever was destroyed can be rebuilt, but the life of a soldier once killed cannot be restored..." Testimony 35 - Vandalism "… He (one of the soldiers) was in the room, I was in the position, and looked through the window, sitting. He opened a child's bag. The family was not there, they had run away. He took out notebooks and text books and ripped them. One guy smashed cupboards for kicks, out of boredom..." Testimony 39 - Vandalism "The guys would simply break stuff. Some were out to destroy and trash the whole time. They drew a disgusting drawing on the wall. They threw out sofas. They took down a picture from the wall just to shatter it. They really couldn't see why they shouldn't."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Foxglove

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Cards on the table, I'm biased. I have many cousins and friends who have served or are serving in the Israeli army and I'm someone who has been involved in advocacy for Israel. I just came back from there a month ago, where I visited Hebron and participated on a Breaking the Silence Tour. Yesterday, my librarian suggested it to me as a book on Israel. (Yes, I read fast) So, overall? Read it with reservation, context and a lot of soul searching about why you're reading it. If you're reading this Cards on the table, I'm biased. I have many cousins and friends who have served or are serving in the Israeli army and I'm someone who has been involved in advocacy for Israel. I just came back from there a month ago, where I visited Hebron and participated on a Breaking the Silence Tour. Yesterday, my librarian suggested it to me as a book on Israel. (Yes, I read fast) So, overall? Read it with reservation, context and a lot of soul searching about why you're reading it. If you're reading this book to prove why Israel is an evil country, you're wasting your time and making the situation worse. If you're reading this as one source of information in a nuanced discussion, then continue on. Firstly, the book is hard to read. Unfortunately, a lot of the information being presented and it's often hard for someone who isn't familiar with military procedures to follow it. The book would have been a lot more powerful had it been more than a series of interviews, which can be repetitive and provides very little context which would only work in Israel where the average person is more familiar with the jargon. As someone who is mildly familiar with Israel, I found myself lost. I understand that the choice was just to allow the words to speak for themselves, but I think that makes it really hard to understand. A better system of organization might have worked better. And not all the interviews needed to be included, longer interviews and less of them would be more effective than just to divide it into four sections. In fact, it does come across rather dry after a while. In many ways, I'd suggest skipping the book and watching the videos on the Breaking the Silence site, which are a lot better, give more information and are not anonymous. Although quite a few of the testifiers have come forward, the fact that many of the testimonies are anonymous will hurt the book's credibility. Second, this book is heart breaking on a personal level. It's upsetting to hear about abuse of any civilian but it's painful as well to see the trauma of the soldiers themselves. I think a proper reading of this book should remind us that everyone is suffering here, even if it can seem like brainwashing the reader against Israel. And boy, does it seem like Israel is the worst country when you read it, even though as other reviewers note, it's likely par for the course for how most wars are run. There aren't many ways to have a moral war, one can just attempt to reduce how immoral it is. It has a decided agenda, and it pretty much states it out. Third, context. So much context is needed, and I would have loved more discussion of the terrorism and dangers faced by the soldiers to explain why they are so terrified. Discuss the soldiers who were horrifically murdered by guerilla warfare, where anyone can turn against the solders. The massacres of the two reservists Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami are touched on, but that's a story that takes places contemporaneously with the events and would be enough to make anyone trigger happy. Therefore, I would suggest it be paired with the book "A Psalm for Jenin" by Brett Goldberg which is the same kind of agenda for the other side, and try to realize both stories are true. I have had the privilege of meeting soldiers in Israel who are among the finest, most moral and ethical men and women to walk this planet. I would trust them with my life. But unfortunately, not everyone is able to withstand the ethical pressure and people crack under the weight of being 18 and having to make life and death choices in a morally gray world. But as a (left wing) Israeli friend noted "I would have preferred this be a discussion among warriors, and kept within the army to fix, because it's our responsibility." I can understand a lot of anger among Israelis for this kind of discussion, it's going to be a painful conversation in a lot of homes. This kind of discussion will never be welcome among the more mainstream Jewish community, especially among the older people. One of the major problems Breaking the Silence has is that Israelis are a lot less passive aggressive than Americans. Americans are often extremely careful to remind their audience, "we love our country, we just think..." ad infinitum. There's none of that here, because to many in the book, it goes without saying. To quote another Israeli friend who served, "I don't need to prove to anyone how much I love my country." So the book comes across horrifically anti-Israel when I think many of the people who testified are people who would die for their country. I can understand why this book would be condemned. It's one sided, making the Palestinians out as victims and provides little context for why Israelis are in the territories. Yes, it's being used against the country by those who would use any excuse to hate the country, and that's even more painful. Israelis should be able to critique their own governments' policies without outside forces using such critique as a weapon against the country. It shuts down proper debate and makes change even more impossible. Again, don't let this be your only source of knowledge on the conflict. It's nuanced, complicated and it's not a zero sum game. The only productive thing you can do is support Israelis and Palestinians to come together, make a lasting and sustainable peace and show support to the moderates on both sides.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Lawson

    There’s nothing flashy about this little book, but it does contain important first hand accounts from Israeli soldiers about conditions on the ground in Palestine. If nothing else, it will shake any illusions you might have (assuming you are a western reader) about the righteous character of the Israeli occupation.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    This is an incredibly important book because its accounts have been historically verified and because it forms part of a wider project called Breaking the Silence to create a physical, intellectual and emotional space to reflect on what serving in a system that dehumanises people does to them its soldiers on an individual and societal level. I think every unit in the IDF is represented in these testimonies. It is incredibly upsetting to read, but it helped me understand the mechanics of occupati This is an incredibly important book because its accounts have been historically verified and because it forms part of a wider project called Breaking the Silence to create a physical, intellectual and emotional space to reflect on what serving in a system that dehumanises people does to them its soldiers on an individual and societal level. I think every unit in the IDF is represented in these testimonies. It is incredibly upsetting to read, but it helped me understand the mechanics of occupation, the mechanism of humiliation and frightening people on the ground, the disruption of a way of life and the powerlessness of the soldiers too in the system and chains of command. It seems like a kind of hell and a kind of nightmare neither side has a strategy or plan to escape from. The work of Breaking the Silence in forming humane and friendly links with the Palestinian community and talking to the world about the reality of IDF service is extremely brave, as we know part of healing from trauma are the acts of testimony and witness and integration of these events into a coherent self. Reminded me of the wonderful Rabbi Jonathan Sacks talking on Holocaust Day about the need for friendliness to counteract brutality in the world. This needs to happen on an individual and societal level. The actual testimonies are well written, put in the context of the political framework and form a useful reference in general for those working with military and/or trauma, or wanting to understand the very human experience that lies beneath the news headlines. Know that in reading this book and bearing witness, you too have become part of that healing process for this embattled part of the world. I do wish there had been some follow up of the people that contributed to the testimonies, how their experiences impacted their lives outside of military service and them as people outside of their experiences of serving....How did these experiences change them and their attitudes? Do they dissociate from these memories or use their experiences in life? I wanted more of a context I guess.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vi

    A hard, painful read - but required reading for an in-depth first hand account as told by the soldiers on the ground.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Garryvivianne

    Wow! Very interesting, very sad. the Israel Defense Forces—which many Israelis speak of as "the most moral army in the world", They are supposedly trained to protect their territory & be a big presence in the West Bank and Gaza area, trained to be defensive & responsive. This book tells quite a different story. This is told through the eyes of the soldiers. Most of these soldiers are NOT "trained". This book is bits & pieces told by different soldiers. Most do what they want, some superiors know Wow! Very interesting, very sad. the Israel Defense Forces—which many Israelis speak of as "the most moral army in the world", They are supposedly trained to protect their territory & be a big presence in the West Bank and Gaza area, trained to be defensive & responsive. This book tells quite a different story. This is told through the eyes of the soldiers. Most of these soldiers are NOT "trained". This book is bits & pieces told by different soldiers. Most do what they want, some superiors know what is being done & do nothing about it. A lot of them are very young & frightened that they are even there. Most don't understand why they have to "take over" someone's house under the guise of "staking out a possible terrorist". They sometimes trash the houses, some just sit around & watch tv, it's not what I would think is a military procedure. They pull people out of their homes & make them take bombs out of places, they talk about shooting at people, some get excited when something terrible DOES happen, they feel like they are doing their jobs, like something HAS to happen. Some don't like doing what they do, some feel very guilty. Through the many soldiers' who have spoken out, they have created a fiercly terrifying record of oppression. As they say, they are "showing a presence" wherever they are. Most are probably just as scared as the people they are up against. Through their "law enforcement"—they have broken any chances of normalcy in political & social areas. And with that goes the possibility of independence. Seems like the conflict will always be there. Seems so hopeless, even for these soldiers.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Maryc

    This book is based on a collection of over 100 interviews (out of more than 700) conducted by Israeli NGO "Breaking the Silence" which exposes the realities of Israeli Military Occupation of Palestine. It also exposes the racist violent and criminal culture of "settlers" who in concert with the defense ministry, take more and more land from the Palestinians who are powerless to resist. Some of the soldiers' testimony: "... I understood that anything that goes on there, that innocent kids, fourtee This book is based on a collection of over 100 interviews (out of more than 700) conducted by Israeli NGO "Breaking the Silence" which exposes the realities of Israeli Military Occupation of Palestine. It also exposes the racist violent and criminal culture of "settlers" who in concert with the defense ministry, take more and more land from the Palestinians who are powerless to resist. Some of the soldiers' testimony: "... I understood that anything that goes on there, that innocent kids, fourteen years old, eight years old, die there for no reason, that settlers go into their houses and shoot at them and settlers go crazy in the streets and break store windows and beat up soldiers and throw eggs at soldiers and lynch the elderly--all these things that don't make it to the media...the [settlers] do whatever they want the soldiers are forced to protect them. The settlers are the biggest Jewish Nazis I've ever met. And it's here in the state of Israel and no one knows about it and no one wants to know..." "Here is one example of something that happened right near me: Yeah this very cute kid who'd regularly visit our post ... took a brick and threw it at this [six year old Palestinian] girl's head, her whole head a gaping wound. [Settler] kids do whatever they want. No one cares. The parents there encourage their children to behave like that."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Petra

    This was in many ways a fascinating, but also terrible book, that far many more people should read. All my respect to this fantastic organization, Breaking The Silence and its presenteation of a numbr of difficulties in the lives of the Palestinians, and also of the thoughts and situation that Soldiers in the territories are dealing with. Most of the facts in the book is far from unknown I'd say, at least if one honesty and seriously has been Reading about the conflict before, but it still prese This was in many ways a fascinating, but also terrible book, that far many more people should read. All my respect to this fantastic organization, Breaking The Silence and its presenteation of a numbr of difficulties in the lives of the Palestinians, and also of the thoughts and situation that Soldiers in the territories are dealing with. Most of the facts in the book is far from unknown I'd say, at least if one honesty and seriously has been Reading about the conflict before, but it still presented some both important and "humbling" information, no matter what side your on. I really liked it, and it's so important!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Eva

    Dit boek is meer een dossier dan een boek. Het belooft ook niet meer te zijn: 'getuigenissen van Israëlische soldaten in de bezette gebieden'. De uitstekende, verhelderende inleiding schetst de principes van de Israëlische politiek ten opzichte van de Palestijnen en de bezette gebieden; de afschuwelijke getuigenissen ondersteunen deze analyse. Het belang van dit boek mag niet onderschat worden, maar het hele concept ondergraaft de leesbaarheid van het boek, en daarmee ook de kans dat mensen die Dit boek is meer een dossier dan een boek. Het belooft ook niet meer te zijn: 'getuigenissen van Israëlische soldaten in de bezette gebieden'. De uitstekende, verhelderende inleiding schetst de principes van de Israëlische politiek ten opzichte van de Palestijnen en de bezette gebieden; de afschuwelijke getuigenissen ondersteunen deze analyse. Het belang van dit boek mag niet onderschat worden, maar het hele concept ondergraaft de leesbaarheid van het boek, en daarmee ook de kans dat mensen die niet heel erg gemotiveerd zijn dit boek doorploegen.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    wow, so i still have mixed feelings about this book. It is written in an interview format, which I disliked greatly. It also has been translated from Hebrew to English and is in desperate need of a better translator and editor. That being said the actual context of the book is thought provoking. It contains about 50 different interviews with Israeli soldiers describing the atrocities and human rights violations they saw happen against the Palestinian population.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Honestly, I know absolutely nothing about this topic and can't be a fair judge of the book based on accuracy or fairness. The collection of stories seem thorough (which unfortunately makes it a bit of an uninteresting read), but I appreciate that stories like these are documented and kept in one place. [I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.] Honestly, I know absolutely nothing about this topic and can't be a fair judge of the book based on accuracy or fairness. The collection of stories seem thorough (which unfortunately makes it a bit of an uninteresting read), but I appreciate that stories like these are documented and kept in one place. [I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.]

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Smith

    Decent book but more from the standpoint that a lot of the testimonies had the same theme: lack of consistency in how the law is applied. I also found it both interesting & irresponsible to place 18 & 19 year olds in such positions of authority.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jani-Petri

    Shocking. While the effect of the occupation is obviously terrible for Palestinians, I was also wondering,on the corrosive effect on the Israeli society. It must be like a terminal cancer in a democracy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marwa Abdallah

    The minimum I can say about this book is it is disturbing and depressing. It makes you feel useless and angry at the world and its silence.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Philip Jonsson

    Lengthy and detailed recounts from the occupation, prefaced by an apt introduction and contextualization. Only recommended for those truly interested however.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David

    Such an important book for one of the most significant conflicts of our time. The truth, no matter whose side we prefer, deserves to be known.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Wordsword

    It's hard to realize how the most blamed and tortured nation has unlearned the most important lection history gave them... There's always a victim who suffers, no matter if it's fair or not. It's hard to realize how the most blamed and tortured nation has unlearned the most important lection history gave them... There's always a victim who suffers, no matter if it's fair or not.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Greta Berlin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Connor

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lara Lab

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sierra Sweeney

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sunil Sharma

  26. 5 out of 5

    Craig Thompson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Haha

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  30. 4 out of 5

    Muhammad Ahmed

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