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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Panic at the Rabin pre-military academy?

I am sure you all recall the now-discredited 'testimonies' of Israeli soldiers regarding 'atrocities' committed during Operation Cast Lead. The testimonies were given by graduates of the Yitzchak Rabin pre-military academy in Kiryat Tivon, the only non-religious pre-military academy in the country. The dean of the academy is Danny Zamir, who was once arrested and jailed for refusing to participate in IDF activities over the 'green line' (the pre-1967 border). Now, a group of reservists has called on Attorney General Manny Mazuz to investigate the Haaretz newspaper for having published the testimonies without first investigating their truthfulness.
The letter, signed by 65 reservists who served in Operation Cast Lead, sent the letter to Mazuz on Monday and asked that he launch an investigation against Haaretz on charges of slander for reporting on the testimonies as if they were fact and not hearsay.

"It appears to us that Haaretz did not do the minimum of checking before reporting false accusations," the letter read.

"We are fed up with being called murderers and war criminals," said Amit Barak [no relation of which I am aware to either Defense Minister Ehud Barak or former Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak. CiJ], who initiated the letter. "We will not tolerate being treated this way after as reservists we contribute to the state and come to serve in the IDF. We expect the state to stand up for us, its soldiers."

Barak said that some reservists were considering requesting that an investigation also be launched against head of the Rabin Pre-Military Academy Danny Zamir, who they claimed was instrumental in promoting the false accusations by leaking them to the press.
Zamir, who may fear that his academy will be shut down as a result of its role in blackening Israel's and the IDF's names in the international media (the IDF has the power to shut down a pre-military academy) is blaming the media.
It was as if the media were altogether so eager to find reason to criticize the IDF that they pounced on one discussion by nine soldiers who met after returning from the battlefield to share their experiences and subjective feelings with each other, using that one episode to draw conclusions that felt more like an indictment. Dogma replaced balance and led to a dangerous misunderstanding of the depth and complexity of Israeli reality. The individual accounts were never intended to serve as a basis for broad generalizations and summary conclusions by the media; they were published internally, intended for program graduates and their parents as a tool to be used in the process of educating and guiding the next generation.

I chose as well to submit the soldiers' accounts to the highest levels of the IDF, directly to the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, out of my deep faith in the solid moral foundations of IDF policy and in complete confidence that the accounts would receive serious and thorough attention, including both investigation and corrective measures, if and when necessary. This faith was and is based on my personal experience of more than two decades - as a combat solider, a major in the IDF and as mentor for hundreds of the Rabin Mechina's graduates who are soldiers serving in combat units (active and reserve).

There are, to be sure, important political differences between myself as a social-democratic Zionist and Zionists of other political opinions. But there exists among us a very broad consensus regarding the moral character of combat - a moral character to which the IDF is committed and educates its soldiers, a character positively influenced by religious mechinot and by the special personal qualities of my colleague Rabbi Ronsky.
Sorry, but having heard Zamir's original interview with Keren Neubach on Israel Radio last month, and his working in concert with Breaking the Silence, an organization whose credibility is questionable at best, I don't buy it. If Zamir's intentions were as pure as he now makes them out to be, he would not have given the interview he gave Neubach in the first place. He gave the interview to Neubach because he believed that the hearsay that was reported to him was true, and that the IDF was not investigating it quickly enough for him. All the media did was report on a story that Zamir and his friends at Breaking the Silence promoted. And you can bet that when Haaretz made an uproar over the brochures given by Rabbi Ronsky to IDF combat soldiers on their way into Gaza, Zamir wasn't talking about the "special personal qualities of my colleague Rabbi Ronsky," nor about the moral character of combat being "positively influenced by religious mechinot" (pre-military academies). But in an interview with the JPost on Tuesday, Zamir is suddenly admitting that 'isolated acts of vandalism' do not constitute war crimes.
Operation Cast Lead was completely justified, isolated acts of vandalism do not make the IDF an army of war criminals, and religious graduates of the military preparatory programs add to the morality of the IDF, Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin Pre-Military Academy in Kiryat Tivon, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Zamir's comments came after the Post obtained a copy of an article he wrote for circulation abroad, in which he tried to put into context the brouhaha that resulted from publication of a discussion among nine graduates of his program after Operation Cast Lead. The discussion included allegations of two instances in which soldiers deliberately shot and killed innocent Palestinians, and of wanton vandalism.

"The whole story spun out of control," Zamir said. "From an internal discussion where soldiers talked about what was difficult and painful in the war, and which I took to the army because I expected them to deal with the issues raised, the international media turned the IDF into war criminals."

The transcript of the soldiers' comments, which appeared in an internal newsletter that was posted on the Internet, led to a media sensation, with numerous articles using the soldiers' comments to substantiate allegations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
Zamir goes on to say that he was surprised to find an account of his refusal to serve in Samaria in 1990 (he refused to guard a Torah dedication ceremony at Joseph's tomb in Shchem (Nablus)) has been published, and that he believes that since the Oslo Accords were signed beginning in 1993, there is no justification not to serve in Judea and Samaria.

I don't buy Zamir's story. Anything posted on the Internet is in the public domain - including this article once I hit "publish post." Zamir now fears that the IDF will shut down his pre-military academy - the only one serving Israel's secular population - or insist on his replacement, because the IDF now understands that the academy's dean is encouraging soldiers to tattle on their comrades and to act as a fifth column within the IDF's combat units. The IDF now understands that Zamir does not see his academy as a secular counterpart to hesder but as a counterweight to what the academy and Israel's Left believe to be 'overzealousness' displayed by the hesder soldiers. The IDF recognizes that the 'overzealousness' is what makes the hesder soldiers excel to the point where they make up 40% of the soldiers in the elite combat units. They don't need a counterweight. They need counterparts in the secular population.

For once, the media are only partially to blame. Should they have investigated before publishing? Absolutely. But to blame the entire story on the media is disingenuous.


At 8:17 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Slander, lies and libel should be dealt with through appropriate measures no matter who utters them and who spreads them because of the damage they inflict. To say it is justified to damage Israel's good name on the basis of wicked lies and half-truths is to do truth and justice a grave disservice. Sure, Haaretz should be held accountable for distributing reports that blackened Israel's good name before the entire world. Danny Zamir and the Rabin pre-military academy should not escape its main responsibility for facilitating the media in its role - that is disingenuous indeed.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Kae Gregory said...

It's one thing to provide a 'slant' to the news to support an agenda. It's another thing altogether to attempt to destroy lives and reputations and ultimately advance an enemies cause in concocting this slant. If Haaretz participated in this, they as well as the Rabin pre-military academy should be penalized to the maximum extent.


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