-Excerpts from an article by Jonathan Ofir in Mondoweiss, Based on an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. Submitted by Mark Hage, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine 

Soccer players in Gaza: Victims of Israeli Snipers

On Friday [March 8], a piece came out in [the Israeli newspaper] Haaretz by Hilo Glazer, featuring stories from five anonymous snipers who told how they gunned down unarmed protesters at the March of Return near the Gaza perimeter fence.

These are not shamed confessions: the snipers appear to be boasting about their “hits”, in competition over the number of knees they can claim to have shot to pieces. And Israeli officials often say that their army is the “most moral army in the world.”

Let’s start with the knees. 

Knees are a hard thing to rack up.

“I kept the casing of every round I fired,” says one of them. “I have them in my room. So I don’t have to make an estimate – I know: 52 definite hits.”

Where do you stand in comparison to others who served in your battalion?

“From the point of view of hits, I have the most. In my battalion they would say: ‘Look, here comes the killer.’ When I came back from the field, they would ask, ‘Well, how many today?’ You have to understand that before we showed up, knees were the hardest thing to rack up. There was a story about one sniper who had 11 knees all told, and people thought no one could outdo him. And then I brought in seven-eight knees in one day. Within a few hours, I almost broke his record.”

By normal laws and ethics, a person has to be mortally threatening you for you to target them with lethal ammunition. But here it’s all reversed. They need to be standing still, not even “walking around calmly” – because what’s important is not to waste those bullets when shooting what they call “ducks”. Never mind those legs, those lives, those “ducks” – just don’t waste bullets.

Pornography of violence

“On that day [May 14th 2018, when the US Embassy in Jerusalem was inaugurated] our pair had the largest number of hits, 42 in all. My locator wasn’t supposed to shoot, but I gave him a break, because we were getting close to the end of our stint, and he didn’t have knees. In the end you want to leave with the feeling that you did something, that you weren’t a sniper during exercises only. So, after I had a few hits, I suggested to him that we switch. He got around 28 knees there, I’d say.”

There are also big expectations to fulfil.

“Standing above me is the battalion commander, to my left is his deputy, to the right the company commander – soldiers all around me, the whole world and their wife are watching me in my first go. Very stressful. I remember the view of the knee in the crosshairs, bursting open.”

And it seems they can’t get enough of this: “Can I add another knee for this afternoon?,” they sometimes ask the commander.

One of the soldiers tells about asking if he could blow the head of kid open:

“After some time…  in a debriefing, I said: ‘Let me just once take down a kid of 16, even 14, but not with a bullet in the leg – let me blow his head open in front of his whole family and his whole village. Let him spurt blood. And then maybe for a month I won’t have to take off another 20 knees.’ That is shocking mathematics on the brink of the unimaginable….