Sunday, March 22, 2009

A brouhaha of ‘ifs’ and one confirmed accident.

That is the best way to describe the hype that preceded Shelah & Druker video clip edited news piece on IDF ‘war crimes’ in Gaza during operation ‘Cast Lead’. (Aired on Israel’s channel 10 at 20.00 Friday the 20th of March).
“If there were civilians up there they had no chance…” quoted a soldier named Danny, “IF”. ‘If’ is a lot of things, mostly possibilities, war crimes are certainties – either there was or there wasn’t a war crime. And if the witness doesn’t even know if there were civilians there in the first place, then he is no witness.
Most of the accusations regarding unlawful deaths of civilians were quoted ‘ifs’. If the purpose of bringing them up was not to introduce them as war crimes, but to emphasize the leniency of the opening fire regulation, which they claim existed, then that is a separated discussion, related but separated. It is a long and complex discussion that starts with all the preemptive measures taken by the IDF to clear civilians from areas of operation and ends with the multiple life threatening situations a soldier on the field can find himself in.

The one case of confirmed killing of civilians by the IDF they did bring was an accident. An old women and a child misunderstood army instruction and instead of turning to the right, were it was safe; they went to left were a sniper was on the lookout for threats to soldiers in the area. The sniper shot them dead. The argument against him, he had a clear sight of them in his aiming scope.
Did he?
Could he look into their minds to see if they were there by accident or as Hamas spotters informing hiding Hamas gunmen where our soldiers are?
Could he have looked underneath their close for hidden explosives?
This accident happened because officers in charge of the civilian’s evacuation failed to inform him and him about these civilians who accidentally went the wrong way. And if Hamas hadn’t used civilians so scrupulously and systematically, this accident would not have happen in the first place.
This tragic incident tells another story: one of the arguments against the IDF treatment of civilians was that while on one hand civilians were evacuated from buildings were military activity took place, on the other hand, there were orders to shot at every movement in sight in the open areas. This suggested that the Israeli army was evacuating civilians into the kill zones it had created. But this tragic story tells us that there were safe zones to prevent such things. And therefore the implied accusation was unfounded.

But one grave matter of criminal activity by Israeli soldiers did come up, vandalism and disrespect of property. While such criminal activity is minuscule compared to the charges of “war crimes” and “wanton killing of civilians” it’s still a grave matter to us Israelis. An army of vandals is an army that cannot keep its troops in order. An army without order is no army at all, no army no defense.
While the subject of maintaining our armed forces morality got bad reputation due to hearsay accusations and hearsay journalism, it did not diminished the importance of our actual moral conduct in battle. Because if we neglect this matter a day will come and such accusations will not be hearsay or fantasies, it is a dreadful day when we will not only resemble our enemies in conduct and morality but in military performance as well. And we cannot afford any serious defeat.

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