"He is no longer his own person."
July 24, 2012 7:32 AM   Subscribe

The Checkpoint. An essay which looks inside the conflicted mind of an Israeli soldier, stationed at a West Bank checkpoint. By Oded Na'aman, currently a student in the Philosophy PhD program at Harvard University, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces from November 2000 to October 2003. Mr. Na'aman is also a member of Breaking the Silence, a website that gathers and publishes anonymous testimonials from IDF soldiers -- combat veterans -- about their experiences and the realities of life in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
posted by zarq (6 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
That essay is great, no matter which side of this conflict you stand on.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:00 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Related, I think: Friend a Soldier: "Regardless of your background or political beliefs, we invite you to come talk to us about any topic, no holds barred. Those who begin a correspondence will receive an answer straight to their email inbox." There are also published answers.
posted by beisny at 10:03 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

"So the family smiles obediently, their smiles of fear and distress; the soldiers smile mindlessly, their smiles of those who have given up on what they once knew to be themselves."

The essay is clear, sad, somewhat frightening. It's evocative--disturbing--and it resonates.

Manning the checkpoints is not a purposeless job. It teaches young people--soldiers in this case--to marginalize others and subvert their reflexive humanity in favor of policy. You may use the word "dehumanize" here. Everyone should already understand the function of military stuff: the guns are there for a reason. This has nothing to do with which culture is justified in it's responses to the other. This sort of mind-fuck also would be true of Palestinian children who are encouraged by their elders to throw rocks at Israeli tanks.

You actively compartmentalize your empathy, include only your family, squad, religion, nationality, or whatever. Exclude all others, but then you have to justify the exclusion: child-rapers, murderers, Catholics, Jews, Arabs, men, women, them little brown fuckers over there. Pick any of the above as you will, make up your own list, or, more commonly, let someone choose for you. One size fits all, and you protect it with emotions, not logic: fear, on account of how them little brown fuckers often try to kill me. Hate, on account of how hate is energizing and fear is paralyzing. Logic can't damage your walls of hate and fear, you see. You don't need to talk it over with your mates, just exchange looks. Your reactions are covered under the rules of engagement, whatever they may be, and most excesses will be excused on behalf of he "ooops" clause. I usually won't have to account for what I do to anybody on the other end of my weapon.

Of course this is the road to paranoia, yet they really are out to get you, and you just can't understand why. I guess it's important to realize that paranoia has its place in the grand scheme. By now your priorities have been reshuffled: You are grateful for ammo. You can understand how killing them will save lives.

This is a good thing to know. Make sure your children understand.
posted by mule98J at 10:11 AM on July 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

Very thoughtful, thanks for posting.
posted by carter at 8:27 PM on July 24, 2012

This is the best thing I've ever read on the occupation.
posted by legospaceman at 7:54 PM on July 26, 2012

> This is the best thing I've ever read on the occupation.

I think I can say the same, though I've read more than I really wanted to about that depressing subject. Many thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 8:14 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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