Hafez Rajabi was marked for life by his encounter with the men of the Israeli army’s Kfir Brigade five years ago this week. Sitting beneath the photograph of his late father, the slightly built 21-year-old in jeans and trainers points to the scar above his right eye where he was hit with the magazine of a soldier’s assault rifle after the patrol came for him at his grandmother’s house before 6am on 28 August 2007.
He lifts his black Boss T-shirt to show another scar running some three inches down his back from the left shoulder when he says he was violently pushed – twice – against a sharp point of the cast-iron balustrade beside the steps leading up to the front door. And all that before he says he was dragged 300m to another house by a unit commander who threatened to kill him if he did not confess to throwing stones at troops, had started to beat him again, and at one point held a gun to his head. “He was so angry,” says Hafez. “I was certain that he was going to kill me.”
This is just one young man’s story, of course. Except that – remarkably – it is corroborated by one of the soldiers who came looking for him that morning. One of 50 testimonies on the military’s treatment of children – published today by the veterans’ organisation Breaking the Silence – describes the same episode, if anything more luridly than Hafez does. “We had a commander, never mind his name, who was a bit on the edge,” the soldier, a first sergeant, testifies. “He beat the boy to a pulp, really knocked him around. He said: ‘Just wait, now we’re taking you.’ Showed him all kinds of potholes on the way, asked him: ‘Want to die? Want to die right here?’ and the kid goes: ‘No, no…’ He was taken into a building under construction. The commander took a stick, broke it on him, boom boom. That commander had no mercy. Anyway the kid could no longer stand on his feet and was already crying. He couldn’t take it any more. He cried. The commander shouted: ‘Stand up!’ Tried to make him stand, but from so much beating he just couldn’t. The commander goes: ‘Don’t put on a show,’ and kicks him some more.” (Read more)