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Noam Chayut is no ordinary Israeli soldier. Since leaving the Israeli Defense force, he’s joined Breaking the Silence – an organisation of former combat veterans that talk about how they treated Palestinians as part of a brutal occupation that violated ethical norms.
Noam Chayut was born 31 years after the foundation of the modern state of Israel and 12 years after the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
As a child he remembers his father taking part in military action against the Palestinian people who lived in these areas.
“When I was 10, my father and his comrades in a reserve duty unit forced innocent Palestinians out of their homes and shops and, as a form of collective punishment, sent them to clean the streets of graffiti and placards that were calling for resistance to Israeli rule as part of the first Palestinian uprising,” he recalls.
Collective punishment was something which Noam was to become familiar with during his own time in the Israeli army, which coincided with the second Palestinian uprising.
“In one month of mass riots we killed 100 Palestinians and many more were wounded by live ammunition,” he says. “One of our main missions was to ‘demonstrate our presence’ in Palestinian villages and cities. This usually meant entering residential areas during either the day or night and throwing stun grenades, shooting in the air or at water tanks or wherever, throwing tear gas grenades, and simply creating noise and fear.”
The policy of creating fear led to homes being destroyed, people being killed and curfews being imposed.
Since 2004, Noam has been involved with Breaking the Silence, an organisation which collects testimonies from former Israeli soldiers. To date they have over 700 such testimonies, which they use to inform the Israeli public of the realities of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
The organisation aims to “stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life.”
Noam is in Ireland this week to take part in a series of meetings organised by Trócaire and Christian Aid, as we both support Breaking the Silence’s work. He will take part in a series of public events in Belfast, Derry and Dublin to which all members of the public are invited.
Tuesday 20 September – see Noam in Belfast & Derry:
Ulster Hall, Bedford Street, Belfast, 1:00pm – 2:00pm.
Book launch and panel event in Verbal Arts Centre, Derry. 7.30pm
Thursday 22 September – see Noam in Dublin:
Public talk, Tailors’ Hall, Back Lane, Dublin 8. 6.30pm (Chaired by Proinsias de Rossa).
PHOTO AT TOP: By Mark Condren. An Israeli Jewish soldier praying in front of the Wailing Wall – a holy Jewish shrine.