The voice of an Israeli activist
My name is Shaul Tcherikover, and I was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. Both of my parents were born in Palestine. My mother was born in Tel Aviv, and my father in Jerusalem, and both were subjects of the British Mandate in Palestine until 1948. Obviously I was raised on the bedrock of Zionism, ready to do my part to protect the homeland from enemies, foreign and domestic, and when it was my time, I joined the military and became a commissioned officer. I served a little short of five years in the military, during which the October 73 war broke out, then gave my share in the reserve forces.
The cracks in my shield started to be visible during my multiple deployments to occupied Lebanon, but the event that really broke the camel's back occurred several years later, during the first Palestinian uprising, the first Intifada. This event exposed the way the system works in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and introduced me to the lies, the cover up, the disrespect for Palestinian lives and the way the system protects itself. And it happened like this:
The OMI (Office of Military investigations, or Metzah in Hebrew) agent who was in charge of the military investigation into the event that occurred a day earlier, asked me to describe the event, and I told him about a Lieutenant Colonel who popped out from nowhere, shot and severely wounded a Palestinian kid, and then tried to interfere in providing the kid with medical aid. How old was the boy? Ten years old, give or take. Are you sure it was the Colonel who shot the kid? Yes, I was standing next to him. And what was your role? I was the commanding officer in charge of the event. Was the boy holding something in his hands? No. Are you sure it was the Colonel who shot the boy? You already asked me, and I have already given you an answer. The boy was alone? Yes. There where no other terrorists with him? No, and he was not a terrorist. Then why was he running? How should I know, maybe he got scared, after all he was just a young boy. OK, so you are absolutely sure that it was the Colonel who shot him, right? Yes. He then scribbled something on the investigation form and asked me to sign. I refused, since it read that the driver of the Lieutenant Colonel was the one who shot the boy. The OMI agent tore up the investigation form and thanked me for my cooperation.
A couple of weeks later I made a follow up inquiry into the status of an investigation regarding a ten years old kid who was shot by a Lieutenant Colonel during an uprising event in the occupied Jordan Valley. An officer with the OMI assured me that no such investigation existed at all, and when I insisted she told me that I was shell shocked, and suggested that I seek help.
Since that event, I almost completely stopped replying to reserve duty calls. We spent 3 years, between 1995 and 1998 in Madison, Wisconsin, on behalf of an Israeli tech corporation, and in the year 2000 we left for the US again and stayed there, and later on in Europe, until our return in 2019. I am a proud father of three sons who never served a day in the military. After our return I joined the Balfour protest, which paved the way to my activism today.
I strongly believe that ethnic cleansing is a crime, that access to food and water is a basic universal right and that preventing occupied subjects from accessing food and water for the purpose of pushing them out of their lands, is considered ethnic cleansing. But the IDF and the illegal settlers in the west bank, with the help of both the Military and the Civil Justice Systems, go out of their way to prevent food and water from the Palestinians who depend on livestock and agriculture for survival.
They do that in various “creative” ways, such as declaring lands of agriculture and grazing as Nature Reserves or Military Training Zones. Civilians are forbidden from accessing military training zones during weekdays, and agriculture is forbidden in Nature Reserves. Both prohibitions are being enforced on the Palestinians, but never on settlers who freely build illegal settlements in Nature Reserves and military training zones. During weekends, the settlers take the place of the IDF soldiers and enforce the No Zone on the Palestinians. This is where my friends at “Looking the occupation in the eye” and myself come in.
At the shepherd’s community of Kaboon, located east of Mughayir (Ramallah) village people are being harassed daily by the illegal settlers of “Malachey Hashalom” (Angles of Peace) . These Angles of Violence vandalize water hoses and agricultural equipment and violently prevent the locals from filling their water pits with fresh water during summer. These terrorists attack the modest residences of the locals, protected by a group of elite IDF soldiers, positioned just a couple of hundred yards from the illegal settlement. This military unit makes sure that the shepherds do not fill their water pits or work the land during weekdays, because most of the land was confiscated for the purpose of military training.
Every week we come together with the people of Kaboon to make sure that their tractors can safely haul the water tanks through the rough hilly trails to the water pits located in the grazing lands. We provided them with a camera (contributed by B'tselem) so they can document and collect evidence when they are being attacked in their homes by the illegal settlers, and we stand with them in protest against occupation and injustice.
This is what my friends and myself at “Looking the occupation in the eye” do, because we believe that if we don’t stand against occupation, apartheid, terrorism and violence, then we abandon the only hope for normal and decent life between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.