A delegation of U.S. military veterans plans to protest U.S. aid to Israel at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv at 9 am, Friday, November 22. The group, members of Veterans For Peace (VFP), has been touring the West Bank observing conditions and meeting with leaders of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation.
“What we saw was appalling,” said Tarak Kauff, former U.S. paratrooper and a member of the VFP board of directors. “The level of cruelty on a daily basis, the oppression, the violence—we don’t want our tax money going to support the Israeli military in any way.
The group visited the villages of Bil’in, Nabi Salih, and Al-Masra, three areas where there have been nonviolent protests against the encroachment of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. In Al-Masra and Bil’in the so-called “separation barrier,” has been a focal point of regular Friday protests, which the group took part in. In Al-Masra, the veterans stood face to face with IDF soldiers and spoke to them of their own experiences in realizing that war was immoral. “We were also soldiers, we understand following orders, but it’s also important to be human, to think about those orders,” Kauff told the IDF troops. “I’m a Jew, and what you are doing here is damaging Jews around the world.”
In Bil’in on Nov. 17, the veterans experienced tear gas made in their own country.
“The demonstration was slowly and nonviolently approaching the IDF soldiers when, with no provocation, they released multiple tear-gas canisters,” reported Ellen Barfield, a sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1977 to 1981. “For at least the next hour, there were running interactions between Palestinian youths and the IDF, and the tear gas attacks moved closer to the home where we staying. Several times, we observed them shooting tear gas straight at the Palestinian ambulances.”
Photojournalist Mike Hastie, an army medic in 1969-1971, was reminded of his combat experiences during the Vietnam War. “The IDF were firing all kinds of tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets at us, and things were flying overhead. If someone near me had gotten injured, I would have dropped my camera and gone to their aid, because that’s what I was trained to do.”
“The oppression of the Palestinians could not be continued without the political and economic support of the U.S. government,” said U.S. Marine Corps Major Ken Mayers. “As individuals, and as representatives of Veterans For Peace, a veterans organization with 100 chapters, we vigorously oppose that support. We encourage anyone opposed to the Israeli occupation to join us in expressing our outrage at U.S. government support for occupation and apartheid.”