| ||Breaking the Silence, an Israeli campaign group, has today released a report on the conduct of Israeli soldiers in Gaza, during Israel’s savage bombardment of the region earlier this year. It catalogues practices that concur with Amnesty International’s claims that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza. The report is available in full at The Independent, here. |
From the report introduction:
‘For lack of basic facts, we are forced to accept unconditionally the positions of the official bodies, which assure us that in spite of any doubts, the IDF’s conduct was faultless and public accountability uncalled for. This publication includes the testimonies of around thirty combatants who took part in the operation in early 2009. The testimonies that appear here were gathered over the past few months from soldiers who served in all sectors of the operation. The majority of the soldiers who spoke with us are still serving in their regular military units and turned to us in deep distress at the moral deterioration of the IDF. Although this publication does not claim to provide a broad, comprehensive review of all the soldiers and the units who carried out the operation, these narratives are enough to bring into question the credibility of the official IDF versions.'
‘…These testimonies describe use of the ‘Neighbor Procedure’ [use of human shields] and and of white phosphorus ammunition in densely inhabited neighbourhoods, massive destruction of buildings unrelated to any direct threat to the Israeli forces, and permissive rules of engagement that led to the killing of innocents. We also hear from the soldiers about the general atmosphere that accompanied the fighting, and of harsh statements made by junior and senior officers that attest to the ongoing moral deterioration of the society and the army. During the operation, the military rabbinate made its own contribution to these expressions when it introduced controversial religious and political interpretation under the auspices of the IDF and with its blessing.
‘In the past few months, the IDF spokesperson has gone to great lengths to prove that if there were any moral problems with the war at all, they were merely on the kevel of the ‘delinquent soldier’, rather than a widespread , systemic issue. The stories of this publication prove that we are not dealing with the failures of individual soldiers and attest instead to failures in the application of values primarily on a systemic level…The testimonies of the soldiers in this collection expose that the massive and unprecedented blow to the infrastructure and civilians of the Gaza strip were a direct result of IDF policy, and especially of the rules of engagement, and a cultivation of the notion among soldiers that the reality of war requires them to shoot and not to ask questions.
‘Those who break their silence in this publication describe in their testimonies how actions defined as anomalous yesterday become the norms of tomorrow, and how the emissaries of Israeli society continue, along with the entire military system, to slide together down the moral slippery slope. This is an urgent call to Israeli society and its leaders to sober up and investigate anew the results of our actions’.
The report moves on to testimonies detailing the crimes committed and the military culture and permissive rules of engagement that made them possible.
Beyond the call to Israeli society and its leaders to face up to the abuses by members of its armed forces, might the call also be extended to those, like the British army commander, Colonel Kemp, who have spoken in favour of the Israeli army’s allegedly unblemished conduct in Gaza? His claim that, 'the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other Army in the history of warfare', looks decidedly naive and suspect in light of this courageous report by Breaking the Silence.
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