Thursday, January 14, 2016

Avner Gvaryahu is the public face of Breaking the Silence, writing articles in Western media about how immoral the Israeli army is, and relating it to his own army experiences.

Now his fellow soldiers wrote a letter saying that he is full of it.

From My Truth:
Hey Avner,

It’s us, your friends from the army, from the Orev unit. We have also decided to break our silence. Want to stop reading? Don’t.
We were there no less than he was, and now the time has come for you to hear our truth also.

He shouts in every possible forum that he needs to be heard, now the time has come that he listen to us, too. We were ready to take a bullet for him once, we were with him there on the missions that he speaks of (in which we saved many lives and prevented countless terror attacks in the heart of Israel). In fact, when he says that war crimes were committed, he’s referring to each and every one of us. In every court case both sides are heard, no?

Let’s start. This post is written together by many members of the unit. Avner served together with us in the "Orev" Paratroopers (Anti-tank) unit from November 2004 until March 2007. Some of us served in the same crew, others in a parallel crew or in the unit at the same time. We decided to describe part of his testimonies which accuse us of things which never happened, or which were utterly distorted and whose connection to reality is totally coincidental, and each testimony needs to be told truthfully. To prove that you don’t have a sister is not an easy task, so be patient, you too Avner, give the minimum of respect and read until the end.

Before we begin to try to restore our name, we have one personal question for you: If we did all that you describe, you were a part of it; you were the March 2006 sniper team sergeant (by the way, this team by definition didn’t do arrests, refer to your own testimony, No. 58601 from 2011, in which you described other things), commander! What was done was your responsibility; so why did you run from responsibility? You turned a blind eye! You led soldiers behind you; don’t say that you received orders – you gave them! If there was truth in your words, then today you should be the one facing trial.

Let’s start from the last ones, the ones from the patrol in Hebron:

You claimed that there was a position with a “machine gun” which kills with a radius of 50 meters(!) and the operator would play a kind of video game and shoot innocent people and cars, and more than this, you claimed that there would be screams of encouragement on the radio, and so he would shoot.

We were in Hebron as a team of recruits who hadn’t yet finished training, for a period of about two weeks. Which machine guns did we use? With a killing radius of precisely 50 meters? Even a grenade launcher doesn’t kill at that kind of radius. Did you even fire so much as a single live bullet anywhere other than in the direction of a cardboard target in the course of your training? We didn’t. Since when are there cries of “come on, come on, shoot!” on the radio? The normal command on the radio is that “fire is permitted”. Nobody screams at anyone, and nobody permits live fire in the direction of innocent civilians or random vehicles.

You spoke about a big football game which occurs every four years (you meant the World Cup final?) and the soldiers are frustrated that they cannot see the game, so they enter a house with a satellite dish, tie up the people there, and sit down to watch the football game (at the time of training, remember?). The only World Cup final which took place while were in the army was in 2006 in June/July – just before the beginning of the Second Lebanon War. We performed a military mission in the Nablus area and from there we proceeded northwards. We weren’t in the Hebron area at all; we were 120km away from there, in fact. In Nablus nobody went into any houses to see a football game or selected a house because of its satellite dish.

On one thing you do speak the truth, and as usual, the rest is devoid of context and distorted. The team from the unit was indeed on a mission at the time of the World Cup final. As with every mission undertaken in the unit, the house was selected according to operational parameters alone, by officers who we were blessed to be under their command. You worked closely with them, Avner, so you certainly know this. And yes, in every house like this of ‘uninvolved people’, there is indeed a family (for the most part) whose routine is disturbed. But we can attest to the fact that when we were forced to do this, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times all of us always extended as courteous as possible an attitude to the family, while keeping in mind the operational target for which we were sent out on the mission.

The protocol for houses of ‘uninvolved people’ was that the occupants of the house would be required to go into one room, and they would generally go to sleep there while one soldier stands guard outside the room. In the case above, since the mission was longer than usual, the family watched the game in their lounge. Needless to say, nobody was tied up. Nobody is ever tied up unless they are arrested. So it’s true, the soldier who watched over the family also glanced at the television which was already on. We won’t deny this. But it’s a far cry from the picture you tried to paint of a unit of sadistic soldiers whose first interest is to mistreat the civilian population.

You present us as a barbaric bunch who kill people who are only holding a cell phone.

To remind you: In every single company discussion the general protocols for opening fire, the protocol was mentioned in the unit, and it was that before opening fire, it’s vital to verify that it’s known which weapon the suspect is carrying in hand, whether it’s a Kalashnikov, a (burning) Molotov cocktail, or an M16, and if we are unable to say which weapon he’s holding, then apparently we’re not sure that it’s a weapon at all, and we don’t fire. Should we remind you about the hospital in Jenin? From where they shot at us almost every time we passed by, including from a PK sub-machine gun, and the commands were to not return fire, and so it was.

Can you give the name of your friend who shot indiscriminately?

You tarnish the name of the unit and make claims about a lack of values in a place where if a soldier so much as sat down on a bed in the parents’ room in a house in Jenin, he would be sentenced to court martial by the unit commander for disrespect of property, and his punishment would be a month on base. These were the values, from first day of training, of the soldiers who fought with you.

[Our] War isn’t an ideal but a necessity, exceptional cases such as they are do not represent the education or the values of your friends in the unit specifically or of Israeli soldiers in general.

This biased and one-sided show which you presented in front of the UN creates a false image which fuels hatred of Israel around the world and doesn’t contribute in any way to making the army “more moral”.

Furthermore, it doesn’t match the ten commandments which the organization you represent is based upon, and more’s the pity.

We demand you to immediately cease bearing false witness about your military service and to stop demonizing your friends in the unit and crew who gave their all, and continue to give their all, in order to safeguard the security of the people of Israel.

-Members of the Paratrooper Orev unit

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