Under the hashtag #my_truth in Hebrew, the soldiers, many of whom faced heavy fire from Hamas and other terrorist groups during the 50-day Operation Protective Edge, have begun posting stories of cases showing how they went to great lengths to avoid harming Palestinians. They also mentioned cases in which civilians took part in terrorist activity.
The initiative counters anonymous testimonies by other troops published by the NGO Breaking the Silence, known for publicizing stories of alleged IDF mistreatment of Palestinians.
Breaking the Silence touts itself as an organization of ex-soldiers who collect testimonies from troops who served in Palestinian areas since the start of the Second Intifada.
The organization's stated goal is to "raise awareness over the everyday reality of serving in the occupied territories and to create a discussion about the cost of military control over a civilian population for so many years," but the NGO refuses to post the names of the soldiers who testify. Despite the seriousness of the claims, Breaking the Silence hasn't filed official reports with the IDF for investigation.
The latest counter-initiative to the NGO report began after Israeli left-wing Meretz MK Zehava Galon posted one such anonymous testimony last Tuesday on her Facebook page.
In the allegation that she posted from Breaking the Silence, Galon quoted the following: "the unit identified two figures walking in an orchard around 900 meters from where we were posted. The figures were two girls. The observation post could not see them well, so the commander sent a UAV. The UAV marked them as dangerous. The unit directed an aircraft who fired on the girls, killing them. When the bodies were checked they had no weapons on them," the allegation said.
Such accounts have prompted numerous counter claims from other IDF soldiers, who have attempted to portray a more positive view of IDF activities during the foray.
After reading the Breaking the Silence pamphlet, former IDF soldier Matan Katzman wrote on his Facebook page last Thursday that "during Operation Summer Rains in Beit Hanoun (in the northern Gaze Strip in 2006), we entered a house with a couple living in it. We asked them if they’re involved with Hamas, they said "no, not at all." We asked them if they have weapons in the house, they said "no, not at all". We stayed in the house for a couple of hours. When we left, we moved the couch and discovered an IED."
The informal pro-IDF campaign by former Israeli soldiers also cited examples of humane and respectful behavior towards non-combatants during operations in the West Bank.
Avishai Shorsham recalled in a testimony that he wrote of his service on his Facebook page on Wednesday, that "During an operation in the Nablus Kasbah, while we are in the middle of a stakeout, an old man who lived in the house felt sharp pain in his chest. Without accordance with our orders, we evacuated him in the middle of the night while endangering ourselves."
According to the organization's website, the recent Breaking the Silence pamphlet was produced with the "generous support" of such foreign organizations as Christian Aid, Dan Church Aid, Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, Secretariat and Open Society Foundations founded by George Soros.
Reprinted with permission from the Tazpit News Agency.