IDF being smeared over Cast Lead shootings?Thursday morning, there was a disturbing interview on Israel Radio with the head of the pre-military academy in Tivon and the head of an organization called 'Breaking the Silence.' The academy head described a post-mortem that he conducted with his former students after Operation Cast Lead in which the students claimed that there were cases of indiscriminate shooting of 'Palestinian civilians' in Gaza during the operation.
Some of the alleged testimonies have already been written up in two articles in Haaretz here and here. This is from the first article (picked up by Memeorandum here):
During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive.It gets worse from there.
The soldiers are graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon. Some of their statements made on Feb. 13 will appear Thursday and Friday in Haaretz. Dozens of graduates of the course who took part in the discussion fought in the Gaza operation.
The speakers included combat pilots and infantry soldiers. Their testimony runs counter to the Israel Defense Forces' claims that Israeli troops observed a high level of moral behavior during the operation. The session's transcript was published this week in the newsletter for the course's graduates.
The testimonies include a description by an infantry squad leader of an incident where an IDF sharpshooter mistakenly shot a Palestinian mother and her two children. "There was a house with a family inside .... We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof," the soldier said.
"The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay, and he should hold his fire and he ... he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders."
In the second article, the Haaretz reporter grants the soldiers telling the stories 100% reliability.
It seems that what soldiers have to say is actually the way things happened in the field, most of the time. And as usual, reality is completely different from the gentler version provided by the military commanders to the public and media during the operation and after.Oh really? Let's go back to the first article for a minute:
The soldiers are not lying, for the simple reason that they have no reason to. If you read the transcript that will appear in Haaretz Friday, you will not find any judgment or boasting. This is what the soldiers, from their point of view, saw in Gaza. There is a continuity of testimony from different sectors that reflects a disturbing and depressing picture.
"I don't think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he did his job according to the orders he was given. And the atmosphere in general, from what I understood from most of my men who I talked to ... I don't know how to describe it .... The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way," he said.Not judgmental at all, eh?
But it gets worse. Jameel in the Muqhata reports the following:
Channel 2 TV Army correspondent Roni Daniel stated at 6:30 PM this evening, that he personally tracked down one of the soldiers interviewed for the Haaretz article. Apparently the soldier's testimony to Haaretz wasn't based on anything he personally saw or witnessed, rather based on rumors and hearsay he heard (and the soldier wasn't even in Gaza!)Where have we seen this before? Here's a hint: 'Breaking the Silence.'
Of course, this story is now all over the world's media as uncontested fact (Jameel has a longer list). But when has that ever bothered Haaretz before? (For the record, I waited until after I heard the simulcast of Channel 1's news magazine on the radio before writing this post, and there was no mention of Daniel's finding in their report on this issue).
The IDF will investigate these stories and will likely find in some instances that 'Palestinians' were accidentally shot just like - as the head of another pre-military academy points out - there were some IDF troops accidentally shot. Those things happen in war. When they find widespread verified instances in which IDF troops shoot unarmed 'Palestinian' civilians (real civilians - not just people dressed in civilian clothes as the terrorists are wont to do), call me. Until then, the IDF is the most moral army in the World. Period.
By the way, the photo at the top is of IDF soldiers rescuing a smuggler from a tunnel.
UPDATE 10:24 PM
Andrew Sullivan picks up this story and sums it up with the following one-liner:
It profiteth not a man to gain the whole world if he lose his own soul. But for Gaza?This war was not about Gaza. If it were, 91% of Israelis would not have supported it. This war was about Israel's southern flank. Most Israelis understood that there was no alternative to the war itself - we
Try living in Sderot for a month, Andrew. Then you'll understand why we went to war.