6 thoughts on “Israeli soldiers on Gaza abuses

  1. Political Zionism will use every avenue, every trick, every defense, every excuse, every rationalization to further its cause – much the same as did communism or any other ‘ism’. That what political movements do. They claim either moral or religious justification to kill. In this case they tell you that a few hundred women and children are not very important in the grand scheme of things. Of course, these women and children were not their women and children. Not IDF women and children or even women and children of US families related to the IDF. No! They were merely Palestinian women and children.

  2. Hi bluecanary, I do not think in this case the abuses happened because of communism, or even because of political Zionism in itself, or because of political movements in general. I would say, more specifically, because of militarism; militarism in a capitalist society where rulers try to distract attention from internal class contradictions (in the Gaza case, from election issues other than war) by attacking external “enemies”, including civilians. I would not say that the political movement “anti-militarism” is as bad as “militarism”.

  3. Uri Avnery
    18.07.09

    The Johnny Procedure

    LIKE THE ghost of Hamlet’s father, the evil spirit of the Gaza War refuses to leave us in peace. This week it came back to disturb the tranquility of the chiefs of the state and the army.

    “Breaking the Silence”, a group of courageous former combat soldiers, published a report comprising the testimonies of 30 Gaza War fighters. A hard-hitting report about actions that may be considered war crimes.

    The generals went automatically into denial mode. Why don’t the soldiers disclose their identity, they asked innocently. Why do they obscure their faces in the video testimonies? Why do they hide their names and units?

    How can we be sure that they are not actors reading a text prepared for them by the enemies of Israel? How do we know that this organization is not manipulated by foreigners, who finance their actions? And anyhow, how do we know that they are not lying out of spite?

    One can answer with a Hebrew adage: “It has the feel of Truth”. Anyone who has ever been a combat soldier in war, whatever war, recognizes at once the truth in these reports. Each of them has met a soldier who is not ready to return home without an X on his gun showing that he killed at least one enemy. (One such person appears in my book “The Other Side of the Coin”, which was written 60 years ago and published in English last year as the second part of “1948: A soldier’s Tale”.) We have been there.

    The testimonies about the use of phosphorus, about massive bombardment of buildings, about “the neighbor procedure” (using civilians as human shields), about killing “everything that moves”, about the use of all methods to avoid casualties on our side – all these corroborate earlier testimonies about the Gaza War, there can be no reasonable doubt about their authenticity. I learned from the report that the “neighbor procedure” is now called “Johnny procedure”, God knows why Johnny and not Ahmad.

    The height of hypocrisy is reached by the generals with their demand that the soldiers come forward and lodge their complaints with their commanders, so that the army can investigate them through the proper channels.

    First of all, we have already seen the farce of the army investigating itself.

    Second, and this is the main point: only a person intent on becoming a martyr would do so. A solder in a combat unit is a part of a tightly knit group whose highest principle is loyalty to comrades and whose commandment is “Thou shalt not squeal!” If he discloses questionable acts he has witnessed, he will be considered a traitor and ostracized. His life will become hell. He knows that all his superiors, from squad leader right up to division commander, will persecute him.

    This call to go through “official channels” is a vile method of the generals – members of the General Staff, Army Spokesmen, Army Lawyers – to divert the discussion from the accusations themselves to the identity of the witnesses. No less despicable are the tin soldiers called “military correspondents”, who collaborate with them.

    BUT BEFORE accusing the soldiers who committed the acts described in the testimonies, one has to ask whether the decision to start the war did not itself lead inevitably to the crimes.

    Professor Assa Kasher, the father of the army “Code of Ethics” and one of the most ardent supporters of the Gaza War, asserted in an essay on this subject that a state has the right to go to war only in self defense, and only if the war constitutes “a last resort”. “All alternative courses” to attain the rightful aim “must have been exhausted”.

    The official cause of the war was the launching from the Gaza Strip of rockets against Southern Israeli towns and villages. It goes without saying that it is the duty of the state to defend its citizens against missiles. But had all the means to achieve this aim without war really been exhausted? Kasher answers with a resounding “yes”. His key argument is that “there is no justification for demanding that Israel negotiate directly with a terrorist organization that does not recognize it and denies its very right to exist.”

    This does not pass the test of logic. The aim of the negotiations was not supposed to be the recognition by Hamas of the State of Israel and its right to exist (who needs this anyway?) but getting them to stop launching missiles at Israeli citizens. In such negotiations, the other side would understandably have demanded the lifting of the blockade against the population of the Gaza Strip and the opening of the supply passages. It is reasonable to assume that it was possible to reach – with Egyptian help – an agreement that would also have included the exchange of prisoners.

    No only was this course not exhausted – it was not even tried. The Israeli government has consistently refused to negotiate with a “terrorist organization” and even with the Palestinian Unity Government that was in existence for some time and in which Hamas was represented.

    Therefore, the decision to start the War on Gaza, with a civilian population of a million and a half, was unjustified even according to the criteria of Kasher himself. “All the alternative courses” had not been exhausted, or even attempted.

    But we all know that, apart from the official reason, there was also an unofficial one: to topple the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. In the course of the war, official spokesmen stated that there was a need to attach a “price tag” – in other words, to cause death and destruction not in order to hurt the “terrorists” themselves (which would have been almost impossible) but to turn the life of the civilian population into hell, so they would rise up and overthrow Hamas.

    The immorality of this strategy is matched by its inefficacy: our own experience has taught us that such methods only serve to harden the resolve of the population and unite them around their courageous leadership.

    WAS IT at all possible to conduct this war without committing war crimes? When a government decides to hurl its regular armed forces at a guerrilla organization, which by its very nature fights from within the civilian population, it is perfectly clear that terrible suffering will be caused to that population. The argument that the harm caused to the population, and the killing of over a thousand men, women and children was inevitable should, by itself, have led to the conclusion that the decision to start this was a terrible act right from the beginning.

    The Defense Establishment takes the easy way out. The ministers and generals simply assert that they do not believe the Palestinian and international reports about the death and destruction, stating that they are, again in Kasher’s words, “mistaken and false”. Just to be sure, they decided to boycott the UN commission that is currently investigating the war, headed by a respected South African judge who is both a Jew and a Zionist.

    Assa Kasher is adopting a similar attitude when he says: “Somebody who does not know all the details of an action cannot assess it in a serious, professional and responsible way, and therefore should not do so, in spite of all emotional or political temptations.” He demands that we wait until the Israeli army completes its investigations, before we even discuss the matter.

    Really? Every organization that investigates itself lacks credibility, not to mention a hierarchical body like the army. Moreover, the army does not – and cannot – obtain testimony from the main eye-witnesses: the inhabitants of Gaza. An investigation based only on the testimony of the perpetrators, but not of the victims, is ridiculous. Now even the testimonies of the soldiers of Breaking the Silence are discounted, because they cannot disclose their identity.

    IN A war between a mighty army, equipped with the most sophisticated weaponry in the world, and a guerrilla organization, some basic ethical questions arise. How should the soldiers behave when faced with a structure in which there are not only enemy fighters, which they are “allowed” to hit, but also unarmed civilians, which they are “forbidden” to hit?

    Kasher cites several such situations. For example: a building in which there are both “terrorists” and non-fighters. Should it be hit by aircraft or artillery fire that will kill everybody, or should soldiers be sent in who will risk their lives and kill only the fighters? His answer: there is no justification for the risking of the lives of our soldiers in order to save the lives of enemy civilians. An aerial or artillery attack must be preferred.

    That does not answer the question about the use of the Air Force to destroy hundreds of houses far enough from our soldiers that there was no danger emanating from them, nor about the killing of scores of recruits of the Palestinian civilian police on parade, nor about the killing of UN personnel in food supply convoys. Nor about the illegal use of white phosphorus against civilians, as described in the soldiers’ testimonies gathered by Breaking the Silence, and the use of depleted uranium and other carcinogenic substances.

    The entire country experienced on live TV how a shell hit the apartment of a doctor and wiped out almost all of his family. According to the testimony of Palestinian civilians and international observers, many such incidents took place.

    The Israeli army took great pride in its method of warning the inhabitants by means of leaflets, phone calls and such, so as to induce them to flee. But everyone – and first of all the warners themselves – knew that the civilians had nowhere secure to escape to and that there were no clear and safe escape routes. Indeed, many civilians were shot while trying to flee.

    WE SHALL not evade the hardest moral question of all: is it permissible to risk the lives of our soldiers in order to save the old people, women and children of the “enemy”? The answer of Assa Kasher, the ideologue of the “Most Moral Army in the World”, is unequivocal: it is absolutely forbidden to risk the lives of the soldiers. The most telling sentence in his entire essay is: “Therefore…the state must give preference to the lives of its soldiers above the lives of the (unarmed) neighbors of a terrorist.”

    These words should be read twice and three times, in order to grasp their full implications. What is actually being said here is: if necessary to avoid casualties among our soldiers, it is better to kill enemy civilians without any limit.

    In retrospect, one can only be glad that the British soldiers, who fought against the Irgun and the Stern Group, did not have an ethical guide like Kasher.

    This is the principle that guided the Israeli army in the Gaza War, and, as far as I know, this is a new doctrine: in order to avoid the loss of one single soldier of ours, it is permissible to kill 10, 100 and even 1000 enemy civilians. War without casualties on our side. The numerical result bears witness: more than 1000 people killed in Gaza, a third or two thirds of them (depending on who you ask) civilians, women and children, as against 6 (six) Israeli soldiers killed by enemy fire. (Four more were killed by “friendly” fire.)

    Kasher states explicitly that it is justified to kill a Palestinian child who is in the company of a hundred “terrorists”, because the “terrorists” might kill children in Sderot. But in reality, it was a case of killing a hundred children who were in the company of one “terrorist”.

    If we strip this doctrine of all ornaments, what remains is a simple principle: the state must protect the lives of its soldiers at any price, without any limit or law. A war of zero casualties. That leads necessarily to a tactic of killing every person and destroying every building that could represent a danger to the soldiers, creating an empty space in front of the advancing troops.

    Only one conclusion can be drawn from this: from now on, any Israeli decision to start a war in a built-up area is a war crime, and the soldiers who rise up against this crime should be honored. May they be blessed.

    permlink: http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1247930861

    data & Daily updated occupation related reading

    http://www.kibush.co.il

    http://www.btselem.org

    http://www.ochaopt.org

  4. Uri Avnery
    19.09.09

    UM-Shmum, UM-Boom

    IS THERE no limit to the wiles of those dastardly anti-Semites?

    Now they have decided to slander the Jews with another blood libel. Not the old accusation of slaughtering Christian children to use their blood for baking Passover matzoth, as in the past, but of the mass slaughter of women and children in Gaza.

    And who did they put at the head of the commission which was charged with this task? Neither a British Holocaust-denier nor a German neo-Nazi, nor even an Iranian fanatic, but of all people a Jewish judge who bears the very Jewish name of Goldstone (originally Goldstein, of course). And not just a Jew with a Jewish name, but a Zionist, whose daughter, Nicole, is an enthusiastic Zionist who once “made Aliyah” and speaks fluent Hebrew. And not just a Jewish Zionist, but a South African who opposed apartheid and was appointed to the country?s Constitutional Court when that system was abolished.

    All this in order to defame the most moral army in the world, fresh from waging the most just war in history!

    Richard Goldstone is not the only Jew manipulated by the world-wide anti-Semitic conspiracy. Throughout the three weeks of the Gaza War, more than 10 thousand Israelis demonstrated against it again and again. They were photographed carrying signs saying “End the massacre in Gaza”, “Stop the war crimes”? “Israel commits war crimes”, “Bombing civilians is a war crime”. They chanted in unison: “Olmert, Olmert, it is true ? They?re waiting in The Hague for you!”

    Who would have believed that there are so many anti-Semites in Israel?!

    THE OFFICIAL Israeli reaction to the Goldstone report would have been amusing, if the matter had not been so grave.

    Except for the “usual suspects” (Gideon Levy, Amira Hass and their ilk), the condemnation of the report was unanimous, total and extreme, from Shimon Peres, that advocate of every abomination, down to the last scribbler in the newspapers.

    Nobody, but nobody, dealt with the subject itself. Nobody examined the detailed conclusions. With such an anti-Semitic smear, there is no need for that. Actually, there is no need to read the report at all.

    The public, in all its diversity, stood up like one person, in order to rebuff the plot, as it has learned to do in the thousand years of pogroms, Spanish inquisition and Holocaust. A siege mentality, the ghetto mentality.

    The instinctive reaction in such a situation is denial. It?s just not true. It never happened. It?s all a pack of lies.

    By itself, that is a natural reaction. When a human being is faced with a situation which he cannot handle, denial is the first refuge. If things did not happen, there is no need to cope. Basically, there is no difference between the deniers of the Armenian genocide, the deniers of the annihilation of the Native Americans and the deniers of the atrocities of all wars.

    From this point of view, it can be said that denial is almost “normal”. But with us it has been developed into an art form.

    WE HAVE a special method: when something happens that we don?t want to confront, we direct the spotlight to one specific detail, something completely marginal, and begin to insist on it, debate it, examine it from all angles as if it were a matter of life and death.

    Take the Yom Kippur war. It broke out because for six years, beginning with the 1967 war, Israel had cruised like a Ship of Fools, intoxicated with victory songs, victory albums and the belief in the invincibility of the Israeli army. Golda Meir treated the Arab world with open contempt and rebuffed the peace overtures of Anwar Sadat. The result: more than 2000 young Israelis killed, and who knows how many Egyptians and Syrians.

    And what was furiously debated? The “Omission”. “Why were the reserves not called up in time? Why were the tanks not moved in advance?” Menachem Begin thundered in the Knesset, and about this, books and articles galore were written and a blue-ribbon judicial board of inquiry deliberated.

    The First Lebanon War was a political blunder and a military failure. It lasted 18 years, gave birth to Hizbullah and established it as a regional force. And what was discussed? Whether Ariel Sharon had deceived Begin and was responsible for his illness and eventual death.

    The Second Lebanon War was a disgrace from beginning to end, a superfluous war that caused massive destruction, wholesale slaughter and the flight of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians from their homes, without achieving an Israeli victory. And what was our debate about? For what was a commission of inquiry appointed? About the way the decision to start the war was taken. Was there an appropriate process of decision making? Was there orderly staff work?

    About the Gaza War, there was no debate at all, because everything was perfectly alright. A brilliant campaign. Marvelous political and military leadership. True, we did not convince the Gaza Strip population to overthrow their leaders; true, we did not succeed in freeing the captured soldier Gilad Shalit; true, the whole world condemned us ? but we killed a lot of Arabs, destroyed their environment and taught them a lesson they will not forget.

    Now, a profound debate on the Goldstone report is going on. Not about its content, God forbid. What?s there to discus? But about the one point that is really important: was our government right in deciding to boycott the commission? Perhaps it would have been better to take part in the deliberations? Did our Foreign Office act as foolishly as it usually does? (Our Ministry of Defense, of course, never behaves foolishly.) Tens of thousands of words about this world-shaking question were poured out from the newspapers, the radio and TV, with every self-respecting commentator weighing in.

    SO WHY did the Israeli government boycott the commission? The real answer is quite simple: they knew full well that the commission, any commission, would have to reach the conclusions it did reach.

    In fact, the commission did not say anything new. Almost all the facts were already known: the bombing of civilian neighborhoods, the use of flechette rounds and white phosphorus against civilian targets, the bombing of mosques and schools, the blocking of rescue parties from reaching the wounded, the killing of fleeing civilians carrying white flags, the use of human shields, and more. The Israeli army did not allow journalists near the action, but the war was amply documented by the international media in all its details, the entire world saw it in real time on the TV screens. The testimonies are so many and so consistent, that any reasonable person can draw their own conclusions.

    If the officers and soldiers of the Israeli army had given testimony before the commission, it would perhaps have been impressed by their angle, too ? the fear, the confusion, the lack of orientation ? and the conclusions could have been somewhat less severe. But the main thrust would not have changed. After all, the whole operation was based on the assumption that it was possible to overthrow the Hamas government in Gaza by causing intolerable suffering to the civilian population. The damage to civilians was not “collateral”, whether avoidable or unavoidable, but a central feature of the operation itself.

    Moreover, the rules of engagement were designed to achieve “zero losses” to our forces ? avoiding losses at any price. That was the conclusion our army ? led by Gabi Ashkenazi ? drew from the Second Lebanon War. The results speak for themselves: 200 dead Palestinians for every Israeli soldier killed by the other side ? 1400:6.

    Every real investigation must inevitably lead to the same conclusions as those of the Goldstone commission. Therefore, there was no Israeli wish for a real inquiry. The “investigations” that did take place were a farce. The person responsible, the Military Advocate General, kippa-wearing brigadier Avichai Mendelblit, was in charge of this task. He was promoted this week to the rank of major general. The promotion and its timing speak a clear language.

    SO IT is clear that there is no chance of the Israeli government belatedly opening a real investigation, as demanded by Israeli peace activists.

    In order to be credible, such an investigation would have to have the status of a State Commission of Inquiry as defined by Israeli law, headed by a Supreme Court justice. It would have to conduct its investigations publicly, in full view of the Israeli and international media. It would have to invite the victims, Gaza inhabitants, to testify together with the soldiers who took part in the war. It would have to investigate in detail each of the accusations that appear in the Goldstone report. It would have to check out the orders issued and decisions made, from the Chief of Staff down to the squad level. It would have to study the briefings of Air Force pilots and drone operators.

    This list suffices to make it clear why such an investigation will not and cannot take place. Instead, the world-wide Israeli propaganda machine will continue to defame the Jewish judge and the people who appointed him.

    Not all the Israeli accusations against the UN are groundless. For example: why does the organization investigate the war crimes in Gaza (and in former Yugoslavia and Darfur, investigations in which Goldstone took part as chief prosecutor) and not the actions of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Russians in Chechnya?

    But the main argument of the Israeli government is that the UN is an anti-Semitic organization, and its Human Rights Commission is doubly anti-Semitic.

    ISRAEL?S RELATIONS with the UN are very complex. The state was founded on the basis of a UN resolution, and it is doubtful whether it would have come into being at precisely that time and those circumstance had there been no such resolution. Our Declaration of Independence is largely based on this resolution. A year later, Israel was accepted as a UN member in spite of the fact that it had not allowed the (then) 750 thousand Palestinian refugees to return.

    But this honeymoon soured quickly. David Ben-Gurion spoke with contempt about UM-Shmum (“Um” is the Hebrew for “UN”, the prefix “shm” signifies contempt). >From then on to this very day, Israel has systematically violated almost every single UN resolution that concerned it, complaining that there was an “automatic majority” of Arab and communist countries stacked against it. This attitude was reinforced when, on the eve of the 1967 war, the UN troops in Sinai where precipitously withdrawn on the demand of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser. And, of course, by the UN resolution (later annulled) equating Zionism with racism.

    Now this argument is raising its head again. The UN, it is being said, is anti-Israeli, which means (of course) anti-Semitic. Everyone who acts in the name of the UN is an Israel-hater. To hell with the UN. To hell with the Goldstone report.

    That is, however, a woefully short-sighted policy. The general public throughout the world is hearing about the report and remembering the pictures they saw on their TV screens during the Gaza war. The UN enjoys much respect. In the wake of the “Molten Lead” operation, Israel?s standing in the world has been steadily going down, and this report will send it down even further. This will have practical consequences ? political, military, economic and cultural. Only a fool ? or an Avigdor Lieberman ? can ignore that.

    If there is no credible Israeli investigation, there will be demands for the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Barack Obama would have to decide whether to veto such a resolution ? a move that would cause grave harm to the US, and for which he would demand a high price from Israel.

    As has been said before: UM-Shmum may turn into UM-Boom.

    permlink: http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1253361627/

  5. Pingback: Israeli elections today | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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