This week, during the filming of Deutsche Welle’s “The New Arab Debates,” Corporal Shachar Berrin, a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spoke out about the actions of his fellow officers. During a discussion about the military situation in Israel, Berrin stood up to address the panel about how members of the Israeli military would treat Palestinian people like animals. He also expressed that this is a systematic problem that exists pretty much across the board in the IDF.
My name is Shachar Berrin and my question is for Dani Dayan. It was mentioned that Israel is the 11th happiest country in the world. Other organizations and institutions put it at the mid-30s or different statistics, but it doesn’t matter. I propose that what makes a country good isn’t whether it is happy or not, it’s about the ethics and morality of the country.
When soldiers, when we, are conditioned and persuaded on a daily basis to subjugate and humiliate people and consider other human beings as less than human, I think that seeps in, and I think the soldiers, when they go home … they bring that back with them.
Next, moderator Tim Sebastian asked if Berrin was speaking from personal experience. Berrin then told the panel and the audience that:
Sure. Definitely. Just the other week, when some border police soldiers were rough with some Christian tourists, another soldier of mine, a colleague, said she couldn’t believe what they were doing: “Come on, they are people, not Palestinians.” And that, I think, resonates throughout much of the soldiers in the occupied territories.
I personally serve in the Jordan Valley, and we can see it every day how soldiers talk about what they’re doing, how they act, how they look at these people not as other human beings, not as someone who is equal, but as someone who is less than them.
And to think that, oh no, we can just leave that racism there, we can leave that xenophobia, they will only be racist, they will only humiliate Palestinians, of course not. What this motion [“The occupation is destroying Israel”] is is how it will affect Israel. They will bring it back to Israel.
A few weeks ago there was a border police soldier who was caught on camera beating up an Ethiopian Israeli in uniform. To say that we can just leave this all behind, is nonsense I think. I think that once you are conditioned to think something, you bring it back with you and that it deeply affects Israeli society and causes it, as our president says, to be more racist.
Immediately after the incident, Berrin was court marshalled and sentenced to a week in military prison.
John Vibes writes for True Activist and is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war.