Monday, September 25, 2006

The Definition of Torture: Bush Version

You gotta love the Signs of the Times Forum. Where else would you find these kinds of posts? Nothing like a lively, informative, WELL-MANNERED discussion between intelligent individuals. The post below is the start of one such thread. If this sounds like your kind of place, drop in. You'll feel right at home.

Blue Ibis


Control the Dictionary, Control the World

By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
September 19, 2006

Clinton tried to fudge the truth when he claimed he'd "never had sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," but he felt he could get away with that language because, in his mind, he defined "sexual relations" as referring to vaginal intercourse.

Bush, with a straight face, tells us that he has never authorized torture, and he thinks he can get away with that lie because the public is mostly unaware that his administration has totally altered the definition of "torture."

According to the infamous 2002 torture memos, which effectively set the policy, torture no longer means what we all understand that term to mean (physical beatings, shoving suspects under water to "drown" them unless they give up secrets, electric shocks to the genitals, unbearable stress, sexual abuse and humiliation, etc.). No, those internationally-understood definitions have become, under Bush&Co., "quaint" remnants from an earlier era.

Under the leadership of Alberto Gonzales and other lawyers -- mainly from the White House, Rumsfeld's office, and Cheney's office -- the Bush Administration went through all sorts of moral gyrations and emerged with new definitions of what constituted torture. Basically, it's not torture if it doesn't kill you or if the excruciating pain and injuries don't lead to organ failure.

You think I'm exaggerating? Check it out for yourself. The Justice Department's August 1, 2002, legal memo concluded that "the ban on torture is limited to only the most extreme forms of physical and mental harm," which the memo defined as akin to "death or organ failure." (See also "Bush's Torture Deceit: What 'Is' Is," and "Gonzales Grilled on Role in Torture at Confirmation Hearing").

So when Bush says the U.S. doesn't torture and he would never authorize torture, in a sense he believes himself to be telling the truth, since he totally transformed the meaning of "torture" to give it a totally different, exceedingly narrow, interpretation. The Administration apparently believes that as a result of interrogations under what Bush calls its "alternative set of procedures," only if the detainees die or are the victims of organ failure could officials rightfully be accused of authorizing torture. (Actually, it's estimated that perhaps as many as 100 detainees have died while in U.S. custody, scores of them directly from torture.)


Furthermore, Bush is asserting that U.S. laws against torture, and Congressional oversight of such activity, should only apply to interrogations that take place on American soil. If the CIA uses the "alternative procedures" in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or in the secret CIA prisons abroad, those don't count. Plus, the Administration has moved to shield those who authorized and carry out "harsh" interrogations from national and international laws against mistreatment of prisoners. Meanwhile, of course, a few lower-level, enlisted "bad apples" have been tried, convicted, and sent to prison.

Likewise, according to the Bush Administration, the "extraordinary rendition" of especially recalcitrant prisoners to friendly countries abroad that are notorious for extreme physical torture does not count as the U.S. cooperating in the administration of torture. The Bush crew play variations on: "They were tortured there? Really? We are shocked, shocked! We don't approve of torture and had no idea it was used on prisoners entrusted to their care." Yeah, sure.

But recently, in making the case to Congress that it should pass the Administration's draconian laws permitting such "alternative procedures," Bush let the cat out of the bag and admitted that several al-Qaida suspects gave up a good deal of valuable information while being interrogated in those secret CIA prisons abroad. But he still denies that his administration carried out "torture" there. Does he think we're stupid?

Do you see how it works? And the ramifications of how it works? In short, Bush&Co. have simply rewritten the dictionary to remove their legal liability for such crimes, and in the process have re-written the rules under which they, and their subordinates, act. When reality doesn't meet their needs, they don't consider making alterations to their policies; they just change the definition of what's "real."


In a sign of how desperate Bush is to maintain complete control of the torture definition -- and thus keep himself and other top U.S. officials out of the war-crimes court in The Hague -- Bush took a rare visit to Congress last week to try to forestall defeat of his torture/military tribunals bill. It was a definition struggle again.

The Geneva Convention on the treatment of captured prisoners is quite clear and specific; no country is permitted to use "cruel" treatment or "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment" on prisoners in its care. Too "vague," says Bush. Instead, he suggests, CIA interrogators need "latitude" (euphemism: "clarity") in interrogating and torturing suspects so that they won't be nervously looking over their shoulders at war-crimes charges.

The Pentagon's senior lawyers think Geneva's definitions are quite clear and openly disagreed with the hardline Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld interpretation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. Even Colin Powell bestirred his calcified conscience to point out that by trying to do an end-around Geneva, the U.S. risked losing the moral high ground internationally. Also, as Sen. John McCain (who was tortured as a POW in Hanoi) and others have pointed out, the U.S. would put its captured troops in great jeopardy of "cruel and degrading" treatment -- in other words, torture -- similar to what the CIA was meting out in its secret prisons abroad.

Republican "moderate" senators McCain, Graham, Snowe, Warner and others have been demanding that the U.S. remain consistent with the Geneva protections and also provide some legal safeguards to suspects on trial in military tribunals. But time and time again, these so-called "moderates," under extreme Roveian pressure, have caved and given Bush what he wants. As I write this, it's unclear whether they have the courage to stick to their guns this time. We shall see. In the meantime, get this: Bush threatened to close down the CIA's questioning of terrorist suspects unless Congress approves his bill. Talk about cutting off your nation's nose to spite your personal face! Blackmail as a pre-emptive veto.


Let's move to another definition, at another level. Bush's National Security Strategy asserts that the U.S. can "pre-emptively" attack another country when it determines that country might possibly be thinking of attacking America or grossly harming our interests. In the "old days" -- that is, pre-Bush -- the definition of "pre-emption" meant that a country, in some circumstances, was permitted under international law to act first when faced with an imminent threat of attack.

In Bushspeak, it doesn't matter that the countries in question might be 10 or 15 years out from being a viable threat, or that while they might be antagonistic to U.S. policies they have no intent of ever actually attacking America. No, according to the Bush Doctrine, you destroy possible or potential enemies first, long before they have the chance to even think of doing the U.S. harm.

That's one of the Administration's ex-post-facto justifications for having invaded and occupied Iraq. Once the early rationales for attacking were shown to be false -- those big lies including that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD, and was allied with al-Qaida in the run-up to the 9/11 attacks -- then the Administration went back to its "pre-emption" rationalization, in effect asserting: "We had to attack before Saddam got close to reconstituting his weapons programs; even though U.S./U.K. intel was confirming that Iraq was well-contained and that it could be 10 years before they would be a believable threat to anybody, we had to act now, to abort that development in its blastocyst stage before that potentially dangerous fetus could grow and do us harm as an adult."

Transfer that rationalization theory to a trial for murder: "Your honor, I cannot be convicted of murdering the victim by shooting him six times. I fully believed he was thinking of doing me harm, maybe next year or the year after that, and so I took him out pre-emptively. It was a clear case of early self-defense." That explanation should satisfy a Bush Administration jury.


Perhaps the most reprehensible aspect of the Administration's desperation to avoid indictment for authorizing torture is a tactic they've used in other areas as well: Trying to eliminate judicial review of their actions. In taking this tack, they are making an open assault on the Constitution and several centuries of governmental precedent.

Despite the fact that Bush&Co. have packed the Supreme Court and the various appellate courts with their ideological brethren, they still don't have total control of the legal system, and therefore want to avoid judicial review whenever possible. They know how weak their Constitutional cases are. So they have had their flunkies in Congress introduce a variety of bills to prohibit court review of certain Administration policies and laws -- as if the Supreme Court would ever OK having its judicial prerogatives revoked.

But in the Administration's military-tribunals bill currently before Congress, Bush&Co. also have inserted an in-your-face clause that would prevent civilian courts from intervening in, or reviewing the legality of, the proposed military tribunals. This would totally violate America's historic checks-and-balances system of governance, and would amount to the Executive Branch effectively controlling the Legislative and Judicial branches of government. In short, a budding dictatorship.

As noted previously, the Administration has created what they consider to be an airtight legal justification for Bush to act outside the law whenever he claims to be doing so as "commander-in-chief" during "wartime." Since his "war on terrorism," by definition, is a never-ending war, this means his actions "in defense of the homeland" permanently cannot be challenged. Sounds like the ingredients for dictatorship.


No wonder Bush is leery of courts ever getting near the justifications for his imperial presidency. The two times when the Supreme Court did review his behavior toward detainees in U.S. care, he was reprimanded mightily, in no uncertain language.

In the 2004 case of Mr. Hamdi, a U.S. citizen, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the Court: "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens. ... Even the war power [of the President] does not remove constitutional limitations safeguarding essential liberties."

In the recent case of Mr. Hamdan, a foreign suspect, the court slapped down Bush's I-am-the-Law approach again. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority: "[I]n undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction."


The power to nominate new Supreme Court justices is just one of many reasons w hy the momentum of this outlaw administration must be broken as quickly as possible. Which brings us to the midterm elections in November.

The imminence of that election explains why Bush is trying to create a rushed, "crisis" atmosphere to get his bill passed; after all, his Administration could have brought these suspects to trial anytime within the past five years. "We're running out of time," Bush says, by which he really means: "We've got to get this issue neutralized now, before the election, or else we can't smear the Democrats as pro-terrorist for blocking my bill, since it will be Republicans, with military credentials, who also are doing the obstructing."

Even if the GOP rebels hold their ground this one time, but especially if they don't, the American people -- left, right and center -- must speak with one enormous groundswell of revulsion against the ruling Republican Party in the Congress that has rubber-stamped virtually everything Bush&Co. have asked for. A convincing GOP defeat in the House would do great damage to the Administration's momentum of lawlessness.

The current fracturing of the Republican Party in Congress is a testament to the revolt of the moderate middle in America against the Bush Administration's catastrophic bungling in Iraq, its demonstrated incompetence in the Katrina debacle, its lies and deceits, its slimy denunciations of those who oppose CheneyBush Iraq policy (which means about two-thirds of the American people) as terrorist-supporting traitors, etc., etc.

If the GOP can be roundly trounced two months from now at the polls, its defeat will be due in no small part to those honest, traditional conservatives who, appalled by the hijacking of their once-great party by extremists from the Far Right, are thoroughly fed up and have had enough of misrule on a grand scale. (Note: This election, given Rove's previous history, will require extreme vigilance, and probably court suits, to keep the voting honest and honestly-counted.)

Let us all -- Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, progressives -- join with these moderate Republicans, and start the process of moving our country back to common decency, earned respect, and a sane foreign and domestic policy based on reality and the true needs of the American people. Can I hear an Amen?

Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for 19 years, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers ( To comment: .

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Meaning Behind the Map

A map is only as good as the legend or key that goes with it. Otherwise it's just an arrangement of pretty colors and shapes. Keep the map in the previous post in mind while reading the following. It may cure you of believing some of the propagada of USIsreal.

Blue Ibis

The Right To Return, a Basic Right Still Denied

Palestinian Right To Return Coalition

- Palestinian refugees represent the longest suffering and largest refugee population in the world today.

- In 2005, there were approximately 7.2 million Palestinian refugees, equivalent to 74% of the entire Palestinian population which is estimated at 9.7 million worldwide.

- The breakdown of the refugee population is as follows:
1. During the creation of the Zionist state in 1948, approximately three quarters of a million Palestinians were forced to become refugees. Together with their descendants, more than 4.3 million of these refugees are today registered with the United Nations
while over 1.7 million are not. According to The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), one-third of the registered refugees live in 59 U.N.-run camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The majority of the rest live in and around cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and of neighboring countries.

2. Approximately 32,000 Palestinians became internally displaced in 1948. Today, these refugees number approximately 355,000 persons. Despite the fact that they were issued Israeli citizenship, the Zionist state has also denied these refugees their right to return to their homes or villages.
When the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied in 1967, the U.N. reported that approximately 200,000 Palestinians fled their homes. These 1967 refugees and their descendants today number about 834,000 persons.

3. As a result of home demolitions, revocation of residency rights and construction of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian owned-land, at least 57,000 Palestinians have become displaced in the occupied West Bank. This number includes 15,000 persons so far displaced by the construction of Israel's Annexation/Apartheid Wall.
- The Right to Return has a solid legal basis:

1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 13 affirms: "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country."

2. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [Article 5 (d)(ii)], states: "State parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination on all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, color, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of ... the right to leave any country, including one's own, and to return to one's country."

3. The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights [Article 12(4)], states: "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country."

Moreover, the Principle of Self Determination guarantees, inter alia, the right of ownership and domicile in one's own country. The UN adopted this principle in 1947. In 1969 and thereafter, it was explicitly applied to the Palestinian People, including "the legality of the Peoples' struggle for Self-Determination and Liberation", (GAOR 2535 (xxiv), 2628 (xxv), 2672 (xxv), 2792 (xxvi)). International law demands that neither occupation nor sovereignty diminish the rights of ownership. When the Ottomans surrendered in 1920, Palestinian ownership of the land was maintained. The land and property of the refugees remains their own and they are entitled to return to it.

- In 1948, the international community felt a deep sense of responsibility for the mass dispossession, ethnic cleansing and the Zionist transfer policy that began then. United Nations Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte, who was later assassinated by a Zionist terrorist hit squad, stated: "It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes, while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine" (UN Doc Al 648, 1948). This remains true today as any Jew, regardless of national origin, can gain automatic citizenship while Palestinian Arabs are denied their right to return to their own homeland.

- Consistent with International Law, The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 194 on December 11, 1948. Paragraph 11 states: "the [Palestinian] refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."

- UN General Assembly Resolution 194 has been has been affirmed by the UN over 130 times since its introduction in 1948 with universal consensus except for Israel and the U.S. This resolution was further clarified by UN General Assembly Resolution 3236 which reaffirms in Subsection 2: "the inalienable right of Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return."

- Israel's admission to the UN was conditional on its acceptance of UN resolutions including 194. Denying the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands is a war crime and an act of aggression which deserves action by the international community. The international community can apply sanctions on Israel until it complies with international law.

- The right of refugees to return is not only sacred and legal but also possible. Demographic studies show that 80% of Israelis live in 15 percent of the land and that the remaining 20% live on 85% of the land that belongs to the refugees. Further, of the 20%, 18% live in Palestinian cities while the remaining 2% live in kibbutzim and moshavs. By contrast, more than 6,000 refugees live per square kilometer in the Gaza Strip, while over the barbed wire their lands are practically empty. Ninety seven percent of the entire refugee population currently lives within 100 km of their homes. Fifty percent live within 40 km. While many live within sight of their homes.

- The inalienable rights of refugees are not negotiable. International law considers agreements between an occupier and the occupied to be null and void if they deprive civilians of recognized human rights including the rights to repatriation and restitution.

- The US is bound by its laws not to fund regimes that violate human rights and basic freedoms. There is no more elemental right than one's right to his/her home and to live in his/her land. The US could use the leverage of the massive financial support it gives to the State of Israel to press for this right.


Dr. Salman Abu Sitta
Palestine Land Society
Badil Resource Center for Refugee Rights
Shaml - The Palestinian Diaspora and Refugee Center
United Nations Relief and Works Agency

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why Palestinians Fight (Wouldn't YOU?)

The Israeli government has consistently broken treaties and agreements since it's illegal installment in the Palestine region. The proof is in the reality, not the pretty words that delude the West about the "only democracy in the Middle East" or the "most moral armed forces in the world".

See for yourself:

A Pathocrat Speaks His Mind

Signs of the Times for Wed, 13 Sep 2006

A Pathocrat Speaks His Mind

Henry See
13 September 2006
Signs of the Times

It is our hypothesis, backed by the work of Andrew Lobaczewski and our own research, that the people in power on our planet have plans to kill off a large portion of the world's population. The psychopaths, those human-looking predators without conscience, have no love for the rest of humanity. It is a life and death struggle between them and us because they know that if the true nature of their existence as humanity's natural predator ever come to light, they would lose everything.

Every once in awhile, their real aims slip through the filters and appear in the media. It may be because the media itself has been subjected to the process of ponerization for so long that statements such as those below no longer register to the journalists and editors who manage the news as the vile, hateful words that they are.

In this case, CNN had the kindness to report on some honest, but no less frightening for that, words spoken by US Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne:
Air Force chief: Test weapons on testy U.S. mobs

POSTED: 7:56 p.m. EDT, September 12, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.

The object is basically public relations. Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions from others about possible safety considerations, said Secretary Michael Wynne.

"If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation," said Wynne. "(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press."

The Air Force has paid for research into nonlethal weapons, but he said the service is unlikely to spend more money on development until injury problems are reviewed by medical experts and resolved.

Nonlethal weapons generally can weaken people if they are hit with the beam. Some of the weapons can emit short, intense energy pulses that also can be effective in disabling some electronic devices.
The cold-blooded, ruthless, and arrogant nature of our rulers is beautifully captured in his words. Especially the phrase, "If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation".

Following Wynne's logic, one might also conclude that the interrogation techniques practised in the secret, and not-so-secret, US detention centres around the globe are also worthy of use in the United States and on citizens of the United States. But did you have any doubts on that score? Remember, you are either "with us or against us", you either support the phoney "war on terror" or you support the "terrorists".

It isn't a joke.

Your lives, as well as the world your children will inherit, depend upon how you react to such brazen violence and hatred as shown in Wynne's comments, and as is demonstrated in the war on ordinary people waged against us every day.

Comment on this article at the SOTT Forum

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

From the (IDF) Horse's Mouth

It gives a strange sense of hope, however infinitisimal, that the spark of humanity can survive even in the most psychopathic of environments. Please help fan that spark. Read the Signs of the Times and other truth telling sites like WING-TV, and books like Political Ponerology. Blog, state your opinions on forums and discussion boards. Avoid flame wars, but observe them. It is your petty psychopath in action. Learn from them, but THINK FOR YOURSELF. We need you.

Blue Ibis

"You don't see, you don't feel, and you don't look"

Daniel Sturm

An Israeli Combat Soldier Breaks the Silence:

"We all want to think that we are immune, that we can perform an "enlightened" and civilized occupation of Palestine. We want to believe that we are the most moral army in the world. But the truth is, every time you have a case in the press about Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinians, the example is treated as if, "that's a rotten apple." If you were to send every Israeli soldier who has abused a Palestinian during his service to jail, every soldier who has served in the Occupied Territories would have to stand in line. Because you can't serve there without acting like an occupier."

The midday news showed Israeli tanks shelling the Gaza Strip. In a Jerusalem coffee shop, 23-year-old former combat soldier, Yehuda Saul, told me he had made it his personal mission to speak out against the Israeli army when its actions were immoral. The Canadian American-Israeli veteran said that his "arch-conservative family" had slated him for a career in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). But during his third year of service the young platoon sergeant witnessed a scene of looting and killing at a combat mission in Hebron that had troubled him so much that he decided to leave the army. In June 2004 Saul founded "Breaking the Silence" (Shovrim Shtrika in Hebrew), an organization whose 350 members are all former Israeli combat soldiers who can share similar experiences. "Breaking the Silence" is currently preparing a world speaking tour and photo exhibition, offering a critical look at the Israel military's occupation of Palestine.

Daniel Sturm: You criticize Israel's army, yet you served as a soldier in the defense forces yourself. Isn't this hypocritical?

Yehuda Shaul: I think that I and every member of "Breaking the Silence" deserve the attention of the public. From the first diaper that my mom changed, it was obvious that I was going to be an officer. It's not as if I woke up one day, when I was 18, and said, "Hey, let's go and have fun in the Occupied Territories." In a way, we are all ex-soldiers. When I was in the Occupied Territories, you could have said that I was an American soldier. After all, I owned an M-16 that wasn't produced in Israel. I shot grenades that weren't produced with Israeli money, but by American money. Everyone, and especially Americans, have a responsibility to know what's going on in the world. And since I am from here, I am talking about here.

Daniel Sturm: When did you first realize that "occupation corrupts," as you say?

Yehuda Shaul: I grew up in a very right-winged family in Jerusalem. I went to high school in a settlement near Ramallah. When I was 18, there was no question of whether or not I would join the IDF. The only question was how high I would climb. Would I be in an elite commander unit, or just a regular infantry combat soldier? That was the mind-set I joined the army with. But what I took part in and witnessed in the Occupied Territories opened my eyes.

Daniel Sturm: Could you explain?

Yehuda Shaul: In Hebron settlers put a poster on the wall that called for soldiers to refuse to evacuate the settlements [as had been agreed upon in the treaty]. The poster said something like, "Soldier, commander, you must distinguish between good and evil, between enemy and beloved." In the Israeli army we learned that one must deport the enemies, meaning the Palestinians, but never those who were beloved, meaning the settlers. When I joined I had a black and white vision of right and wrong. Later I learned that everything is gray.

Daniel Sturm: What happened in Hebron?

Yehuda Shaul: Hebron is the second largest city in the Palestinian West Bank, with 150,000 Palestinians. Around 600 Jewish settlers live in the heart of the city, and 450 combat soldiers guard them. Under the Oslo agreement of 1997 Hebron was divided into two parts, with 120,000 Palestinians left under Palestinian authority and 30,000 Palestinians left under Israeli authority. At the beginning of the Intifada, from 2000 until mid-2002, the Palestinians began shooting at night, from the mountains down to the settlements. My company officer told us that if they shoot, we have to shoot back. We had three well-positioned posts in Palestinian neighborhoods. We posted snipers and grenade guns. My post was at a former Palestinian school in Hebron. Our mission was to target Palestinian houses. I remember being shocked when I heard this. "You mean we should shoot into the neighborhoods, where people live?" I thought about the safety rules I had learned during training. In order to shoot live grenades, no one should be within a distance of one mile on each side of the target. And now I was supposed to shoot into a neighborhood where people lived. The grenade gun is not an accurate weapon. One grenade kills everyone within the radius of eight meters, and injures everyone within the radius of 16 meters. At night, after the Palestinians shot, we received the order to pull the trigger. On the first day, during the four to five seconds before the grenades hit, you prayed that you didn't hurt anyone innocent. On the second day you are less tense, and on the third day even less. And after a week, it's a game.

Daniel Sturm: Was this when you became critical of the army's mission?

Yehuda Shaul: Not really. I first began to fully understand the corruption after I was discharged. When you are a combat soldier in the Occupied Territories, you can't see Palestinians as equal human beings. Because then you couldn't hop through a roof in the middle of the night, wake up a family, force the women into one corner and the men into another, and tear apart the place. At least when you stand at a checkpoint you see the shape of human beings: One head, two hands, and two legs. But when I was shooting live grenades into neighborhoods where people lived every night - why, that was a computer game!

Daniel Sturm: Weren't your actions justified, considering the violence the Palestinians were using?

Yehuda Shaul: You can't ignore that the Palestinians were using violence. But what is our moral and legal boundary, as a society or a nation? Can we really condone shooting grenades into neighborhoods, as a way of getting back? When we realized we were unable to prevent the Palestinians from shooting back at us, we started a strategy called "making our presence felt." We conducted silent patrols. We walked through streets, shooting onto houses, and shoot off grenades in parks.

Daniel Sturm: At what point did you begin to sympathize with the victims of this war?

Yehuda Shaul: The terminology of "victim" doesn't apply when you're in the field. When in combat you don't see, you don't feel, and you don't look. The name "Breaking the Silence" therefore refers to two levels of silence. The first is the personal level, where we realize what is really going on around us. The second level refers to the silence of society. As I was sitting in Hebron, firing grenades, my parents were just across the street in Jerusalem, hearing on the radio the sentence that every Israeli knows by heart: "IDF forces returned fire to the sources of fire." Of course, there were no sources of fire! We shot without ever finding any specific sources. But this is how Israeli society and human beings around the world receive information.

Daniel Sturm: How have people responded to your criticism?

Yehuda Shaul: Very ambivalent. Some people understand me, some don't. In the beginning, the IDF military police investigators broke into our exhibition, confiscated some items and brought us into interrogation. The idea was to frighten us and to declare us as an extreme case of "rotten apples." For me, it's no longer a question. I can't see myself acting any other way.

Daniel Sturm: Does the military occupation make any sense at all?

Yehuda Shaul: We all want to think that we are immune, that we can perform an "enlightened" and civilized occupation of Palestine. We want to believe that we are the most moral army in the world. But the truth is, every time you have a case in the press about Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinians, the example is treated as if, "that's a rotten apple." If you were to send every Israeli soldier who has abused a Palestinian during his service to jail, every soldier who has served in the Occupied Territories would have to stand in line. Because you can't serve there without acting like an occupier.