Monday, October 31, 2011

Stern - Liars, Just Liars

Paula R. Stern
A Soldier's Mother
28 October '11

I talk to my sons - Elie and Shmulik - about their time in the army and stories come out. This week, both Elie and Shmulik shared stories I had never heard. One made me laugh - one made me angry.

Here's the one that made me angry. Elie was accused of deliberately tripping a 10-year-old Arab girl at the checkpoint. According to the accusation, Elie pulled a wire that causes spikes to move across the road. The intention of the spikes is to immediately disable a car that crosses the checkpoint without permission. I suppose if a child were walking and crossing the path of the spikes as it was pulled by a soldier, she could trip and fall. I suppose because I have never seen it, never heard of it happening.

The truth is that earlier that morning, Elie stopped an Arab who was try to cross without permission and was caught smuggling items into Israel. Elie took the permit away; the Arab was not allowed to cross the checkpoint. Within minutes, the Arab called the army and the media, complained that Elie had abused an Arab child.

Several levels up, the complaint made an impact as the media began calling to inquire about the poor abused little girl. Up the complaint went...and then down. Elie's superiors were notified. YNET and others had the story and it was about to be printed - what a great story, sure to garner international condemnation, and human rights organizations would decry the abuse. No matter that it never happened - the story was the point. Mean Israeli soldier abuses poor Palestinian child.

Except there was no child and the soldier did nothing wrong.

Elie's commanding officer called Elie and asked him what happened. Elie heard the story, listened, looked at the line to pull the spike and immediately asked his commanding officer to come down to the checkpoint. He would touch nothing (and even if he did, it wouldn't have changed anything). Within a very short time, Elie's commanding officer came down and Elie showed him the pull-line for the spikes.

It was embedded in the ground. It had rained in the last few days and cars had driven over it. The ground was firmly packed and there was no way Elie could have reconstructed the effect time, rain, and thousands of cars had created. Elie's commanding officer looked, was easily convinced.

"Liars," K. said to Elie, "just liars."

I'm often asked to explain the death of this one, the beating of that one. A 10-year old Palestinian girl that was tripped intentionally by a soldier - it would have made the media, but for the quick mind of the soldier who stood against the lie. The Palestinian girl doesn't exist...or if she does, she never crossed Elie's checkpoint that day (or if she did, she did not fall, was not tripped). And a soldier who was on the checkpoint was falsely accused, slandered, maligned. Or could have been - if his commanding officer didn't believe him and confirm.

That soldier was my son - the story never reported because Elie took one look at the embedded chain that had not been used in many days and had the intelligence to prove himself innocent to a world ready to believe his guilt.

Liars, just liars.

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