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Monday, August 25, 2014

British expert: Israel choosing not to win in Gaza

No, the expert is not Richard Kemp. Barak Seener, an Associate fellow at Britain's Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies, says that Israel is choosing not to win the war in Gaza.
“In general,” he explained, “modern warfare is not geared towards protracted conflict, and thus Israel should have initially gone in harder. This was prevented by a lack of extensive sound intelligence of tunnels and the whereabouts of Hamas operatives. Israel's diplomatic standing will decline as Europe does not anymore understand the power of ideologies, let alone a genocidal, zero sum game Islamist and suicidal ideology.”
Is Israel's hasbarah effort regarding the effort to avoid civilian casualties doing any good?
“There is so much that has been reported in Israeli news outlets but has not been reported in European outlets. This includes Hamas executing Fatah members, children digging tunnels, concrete being redirected to building tunnels rather than hospitals and schools, the affluence of Hamas's leadership who divert funding to the Palestinians to their own personal accounts, even pictures of tunnels were reported by the Washington Post a few weeks earlier than Reuters.
“The main issue is that Israel should take exactly the same initiatives (not more) as Allied forces have done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. While it is natural that Israel should seek to avoid civilian casualties, its priority is to its own civilians and soldiers. Israel has failed as there is a current stalemate of its civilians under attack, Hamas perpetuating its firing of rockets with Israel's economy having been hurt as a result.
“If Israel chooses not to win a war against Hamas decisively then it will continue to conduct reprisal attacks while emphasizing its avoidance of civilian casualties. If it seeks to win decisively then Israel will not cede the initiative and strategic surprise to Hamas by announcing beforehand where it plans to strike. This serves to embolden Islamism and provokes them to continue their practices of human shields and firing of rockets.
“Paradoxically, the only way to win decisively is by reclassifying human shields as combatants and demonstrating that Israel will not abort strikes or hand Hamas the initiative by announcing beforehand Israel's plans. It is tragic that civilians unwittingly find themselves as combatants, but this may be the only way to demonstrate to Hamas the futility of their current strategy of human shields, which has already caused their popularity to plummet in Gaza and the broader arab world.
“Imagine, had US forces announced to ISIS its strike plans and in turn handed to them the strategic initiative. It would be considered absurd! Israel has nothing to be proud of with such a morally dubious approach of letting Hamas know where and when it plans to strike. Israel should be consistent. If it resents being subjected to double standards, then it should not subject itself to norms and procedures that no military of any western liberal democracy would ever consider.”
He also has some scathing criticism for former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Read the whole thing

The problem is that we are so afraid of our own Supreme Court in this country that we have developed a standard of 'ethics' for the IDF that is merciful to the cruel and cruel to the merciful, and in which our first priority is protecting Gazan human shields and our last priorities are protecting our own soldiers and citizenry.

Here are some examples.
As I noted on Sunday, two IDF soldiers have been convicted for using something called the 'neighbor procedure.' The 'neighbor procedure' calls for using an Arab resident of a building being entered or searched to enter the building or to open suspicious objects. The theory behind it is that a terrorist in the building is less likely to shoot one of their neighbors than to shoot an IDF soldier, or that the neighbor is more likely to know whether a certain package is booby-trapped than the IDF soldiers who might otherwise open it.

The Supreme Court outlawed all use of the neighbor procedure five years ago. Kasher says that the Supreme Court is wrong, although the military court that convicted the two soldiers on Sunday was right.
“What those two soldiers did was wrong,” said Kasher in a telephone interview, endorsing the military court ruling. “But there are situations in which the use of the enemy’s civilian population to defuse a potentially explosive situation is not only ethically permissible, it also saves lives.”

In many instances of confrontation between IDF forces and a terror suspect who has barricaded him or herself inside a building, neighbors who are either family from the same clan or friends can peacefully and effectively neutralize the situation, Kasher explained.

Neighbors often have a vested interest in preventing the IDF from destroying the building where the suspect is hiding because they live in the same building; relatives or loved ones also have a desire to save the terrorist’s life, Kasher explained.

“If they volunteer to do so of their own free will they should be allowed to,” said Kasher.
Read the whole thing. I wonder if any other army in the world would give a though to not using the neighbor procedure.
Example 2:
Speaking at a conference on military ethics this week, Professor Asa Kasher, the main draftsman of the IDF Code of Ethics, said that officers were 'too concerned' with their soldiers' lives during this past summer's war in Lebanon.

Say what?
"Missions were not completed because commanders did not want to jeopardize their soldiers' lives," he said at a conference on military ethics Tuesday in Jerusalem.

"Concern about casualties is important," Kasher said. "Soldiers are not robots, they are human beings. But the commander must not underestimate the importance of his mission vis a vis the importance of his soldiers' lives.

"The Hizbullah were shooting hundreds of rockets at population centers in the North, thus endangering Israeli citizens' lives. So risking soldiers' lives to stop those rockets was perfectly justified."


The phenomenon of commanders being overly protective of their soldiers' lives was not a result of a general "softening" of the Israeli soldier, Kasher told The Jerusalem Post after his lecture. Rather it was a symptom of the atmosphere during the Second Lebanon War in which different and often contradictory orders were given by the high command within short periods of time.

"Commanders on the battle field did not want to risk their soldiers' lives to carry out an order that might be changed in the next hour," he said.
Seeing this article, the first thing I did was head for Kasher's resume, where I verified, as I suspected, that he was not a career army officer.

Yes, risking soldiers' lives to stop Hezbullah last summer was undoubtedly morally justified. But in recent years, the IDF has become too worried about 'civilian' casualties on the other side. They tend to ignore the part of the Geneva Convention (Article 28 of the 4th Geneva Convention) that says that the terrorists cannot immunize themselves to military operations by hiding among civilians. Look at the picture at the top of this post. Should we really be risking soldiers' lives to go in and get this crew on the ground to ensure that the 'civilians' among whom they hide are not hit? Our own soldiers are sons, fathers and brothers too. Don't they deserve to have their lives safeguarded at least as much as the 'civilians' who shield terrorists like those in that picture? Whose lives come first?

Under those circumstances, it may well be that officers refused to endanger their soldiers' lives. But those are the kind of officers I would want commanding my sons.
What the government and the IDF tend to forget is that sometimes, even the IDF's chief ethicist allows ignoring the presence of civilians. Here are two examples. Example 1.
Professor Asa Kasher, the man who wrote the IDF 'code of ethics,' that has us sending ground troops in to be killed instead of bombing from the air and killing (often willing) human shields, says that it MIGHT - note that MIGHT - be permissible to carpet bomb some terrorist strongholds under some circumstances. As if any other civilized country would dream of doing otherwise....
"I don't know what the truth is about the circumstances," Kasher stressed. "But assuming that we warned the civilians and gave them enough time to leave, and that the civilians who remained chose, themselves, not to leave, then there is no reason to jeopardize the lives of the troops," he told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Kasher's statements followed the deaths of nine soldiers on Wednesday, eight of whom were ambushed at Bint Jbail. Israel has been reluctant to use sufficient weaponry to flatten the Hizbullah "terrorist capital" of Bint Jbail, a policy that many have criticized as being overly sensitive toward the enemy and its civilians.

Moshe Keynan, the father of a soldier killed in another conflict, said he was angry with the IDF for jeopardizing soldiers' safety to protect civilians.

"We need to worry that our kids return to their parents and we need to worry about our family and sons and wives, not how we look on BBC," said Keynan.

Meir Indor, director-general of the Terror Victims Association, seconded Keynan's concerns.

"There is an argument which is dealing with the subject of how much danger soldiers can be exposed to in order to save civilians. I think the world already decided that you don't sacrifice your soldiers in order to save enemy civilians," said Indor, whose organization is lobbying the military and the government against putting soldiers in unnecessarily dangerous situations.
And if Hezbullah forces them to stay?
Kasher admitted that the decision to bomb a house or town was quite complicated, especially if there are citizens who wanted to leave but were prohibited from doing so by Hizbullah.

"We should take into consideration that people want to leave and aren't allowed to leave, and that changes the situation, but not on a grand scale," he said. "There you can justify certain infantry attacks... but only if it doesn't dramatically increase the jeopardy of our troops. Something which is a slightly higher level of risk is acceptable, but something drastically higher is not acceptable."
I would suggest that if 'civilians' allow rocket launchers to be installed in their homes (which is what is going on in southern Lebanon), whether they choose to stay or not is irrelevant.

I cannot think of any other country in the world that would worry so much about killing too many Hezbullah supporters. This is what we get for being led by people who have abandoned Judaism and adopted 'liberalism' as their religion.
Example 2.
And what do we do to minimize the harm done to the neighbors of the terrorists?

We can’t separate the terrorist from his neighbors. We can’t force the terrorists to move away, because they don’t want to move away. That’s their whole strategy: To be there. The Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, they want to work from within. The terrorists have erased the difference between combatants and non-combatants.

They live in residential areas. They operate from within residential areas. They attack civilians. And they won’t leave when I tell them to leave. No one has the power to move them from where they are without conquering the entire area, which requires special justifications.

But if we can’t force the terrorist out, we can make the effort to move his neighbors. He won’t move away from his neighbors, but maybe his neighbors will move away from him. And experience shows that this kind of effort succeeds. That is, very many non-dangerous neighbors do move away from terrorists if they are warned.

So Israel, the IDF, carries out very intensive warning operations. Unprecedented. There are those who don’t like the term, “the most moral army in the world.” I think it’s a very complex phrase, and one has to make all kinds of professional diagnoses. You can’t just blithely invoke it. But let’s look at that claim in this particular context.

Who tries harder than we do to warn the neighbors [to leave a conflict zone]? Who does it better than we do? I don’t know if the public realizes this, but we recently carried out precisely such an act of warning – by publishing a map of Hezbollah positions in south Lebanon. Israel released details of hundreds of villages where Hezbollah has a position deep inside the village. From there, they’ll fire on us if and when they want to, and we will have to protect ourselves. That means we’ll have to fire into the village.

The publication of this map is a warning: We know, it says, that Hezbollah is intertwining its terrorists with non-dangerous neighbors. Understand that to protect ourselves in this situation will mean endangering the populace. The populace has to know that it is in a dangerous situation.

What to do in this dangerous situation? We don’t know. We’re telling those non-dangerous neighbors to give it some thought. Try to kick out Hezbollah? That is apparently very difficult. Move away from the Hezbollah position? Perhaps that is possible. Get away when the time comes? That may sound theoretical at present, but when the time comes, who knows? The fact is, this is an advance warning.

Now let’s come to Operation Cast Lead in this context. We distributed leaflets [to Gaza civilians, telling them that they should leave a potential conflict zone]. It may be that we can do that better – distribute better leaflets, more detailed, with more precise guidance on how to get away. We broke into their radio and TV broadcasts to give them announcements, to warn them. That can be done still more effectively.

We made phone calls to 160,000 phone numbers. No one in the world has ever done anything like that, ever. And it’s clear why that is effective. It’s not a piece of paper that was dropped in my neighborhood. The phone rang in my own pocket! Yes, it was a recorded message, because it’s impossible to make personal calls on that scale. But still, this was my number they dialed. It was a warning directed personally to me, not some kind of general warning.

And finally, we had the “tap on the roof” approach. The IDF used nonlethal weaponry, fired onto the roofs [of buildings being used by terrorists]. That weaponry makes a lot of noise. It constituted a very strong, noisy hint: We’re close, but you still have the chance to get out.

What we don’t use is nohal shachen (the “neighbor protocol”). I recently read comments by a British general, a commander in Afghanistan...

Gen. Richard Kemp?

No, this was someone else, saying at a press conference, how moral his forces are. And then he described their policy, which was nohal shachen, as the symbol of the morality of British soldiers.

What did he say, specifically, that they do?

He said that when they are facing a terrorist hiding out in a building with non-dangerous neighbors, they make one of the neighbors telephone or speak through a loudspeaker to the Taliban terrorist who is in this building, and say that rather than killing him and the neighbors and destroying the house, he should surrender and that he’ll be taken away with various guarantees. This British commander was very proud of this ostensibly humane procedure – a procedure that the courts here forbid us to do. We don’t do it.

We issue warnings in an unprecedented way – not one warning, but many. We make enormous efforts to get the neighbors away from the terrorists.

Now there’s one more thing that maybe we could do, and there’s an argument surrounding it: send soldiers into the building. Send in soldiers to check that maybe someone has stayed. I am against this. Very against this.

So there’s a difference between what we did in Jenin [during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, where 13 soldiers were killed in an ambush] and what we did in Gaza?

Yes, we changed our approach. The approach is more appropriate now. I think what we did in Jenin was a mistake. There was a primitive conception that “it’s all right to endanger soldiers.” Every time there was a dilemma like this – soldiers here and non-soldiers on the other side – the soldiers were endangered.

Why was that wrong?

You need, to a certain limit, to warn the people to get out. At a certain point, the warnings are over and there are two possibilities. That people have stayed because they don’t want to leave or because they can’t leave. If they can’t leave, despite all the warnings, despite the possibilities to get them out, even to send ambulances to get them out, that’s interesting to me, and we’ll come back to that.

But if a neighbor doesn’t want to leave, he turns himself into the human shield of the terrorist. He has become part of the war. And I’m sorry, but I may have to harm him when I try to stop the terrorist. I’ll do my best not to. But it may be that in the absence of all other alternatives, I may hurt him. I certainly don’t see a good reason to endanger the lives of soldiers in a case like that.

Sometimes people don’t understand this. They think of soldiers as, well, instruments. They think that soldiers are there to be put into danger, that soldiers are there to take risks, that this is their world, this is their profession. But that is so far from the reality in Israel, where most of the soldiers are in the IDF because service is mandatory and reserve service is mandatory. Even with a standing army, you have to take moral considerations into account. But that is obviously the case when service is compulsory: I, the state, sent them into battle. I, the state, took them out of their homes. Instead of him going to university or going to work, I put a uniform on him, I trained him, and I dispatched him. If I am going to endanger him, I owe him a very, very good answer as to why. After all, as I said, this is a democratic state that is obligated to protect its citizens. How dare I endanger him?


Well, they ask that Israel not be disproportionate, that it not be too heavy-handed.

It’s good that you mentioned that. The world in general doesn’t have a clue what proportionality is. Proportionality, first of all, is not about numbers. The question of proportionality, according to international law, is whether the military benefit justifies the collateral damage. And secondly, also according to international law, it is a consideration for the commander in the field, because only the commander in the field can make the judgment: What does he gain from what he’s about to do and what is the collateral damage he is likely to cause? With Israel, we fire and two minutes later, the UN secretary- general is already accusing us of using disproportionate force. On what basis does he make that assumption? How can he possibly know?

And, finally, this whole concept of proportionality exists in international law only in situations where you know that you’re going to harm non-dangerous people. It’s not relevant in other circumstances. This is designed for situations where noncombatants will be hurt and in those circumstances the commander in the field must weigh the benefits and the damage. The questions of proportionality are clear only at the extremes. Between those extremes, only the commander in the field can weigh the balance. It’s very hard to give him a formula.


So, coming back to Cast Lead, this was certainly not our invasion and their defense. When facing the armies of the United States and the Soviet Union in World War II, did the Germans have the moral right to self-defense because those armies invaded their country? The entire invasion of the allies into Germany was self-defense against Nazi Germany. To claim that, in Gaza, they are defending themselves against our invasion is really a not-serious objection.

Now, as to the matter of kill ratio. That’s not the point. It’s not a sporting contest. You ask yourself, “What is he doing to me?” – not in terms of the damage but in terms of the danger.

Look at what happened with the recent attack on the school bus. Only one child was killed. “Only one.” One too many. But if the terrorist had fired five minutes earlier, there would have been dozens of children killed. The fact is that there’s a danger to the lives of children traveling in a school bus on the roads of Israel. That [most of the children] were lucky this time, that one child was killed and the rest not, does not enter the equation.

Let’s say I have the ultimate Iron Dome system and nobody is being killed from their attacks. Am I therefore barred from attacking those who are firing on me? Of course not. I have to be concerned for a dangerous situation in which Iron Dome doesn’t work, or doesn’t work properly, or I don’t have enough Iron Dome batteries in service. I need to silence the source of the danger and therefore I am permitted to attack it.

As for the numbers of those killed on the other side, that needs to be examined without any connection to how many were killed on our side. Hamas today admits to having lost very high numbers of people who were directly connected to Hamas. All those “policemen” [killed in IAF attacks at the start of Cast Lead] were not policemen in the Western sense of the word. Those weren’t people employed to give speeding tickets. Information published soon after Cast Lead detailed their combat deployment, the role each of them was to play when the IDF came in. This was a support force for the Hamas army. We hit them legitimately.
There are many more posts that I have done about this issue if you search "Asa Kasher" or "IDF ethics." but the bottom line is that the time has come to reevaluate our approach. We are fighting an enemy for whom it is a zero sum game. The enemy is not moved by the deaths of its own civilians - even children - and neither apparently are many of the enemy's civilians. We are fighting wars on our borders and not in far off lands like the United States or Britain. While I'm not suggesting targeting civilians, I am suggesting that we ought to bring our practices in line with those of western countries. In the long run, not getting the job done in Gaza is just prolonging the war and leading to more casualties, albeit at a slower rate. Hamas is not going to give up regardless of how many of its civilians are killed. And we cannot give up because we would - God Forbid - all be killed. 

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