Saturday, March 21, 2009

IDF No Longer the 'Most Moral' (if Ever)

IDF has long ceased being 'most moral army in the world'

By Gideon Levy

Ha'aretz [Israel; 22 March 2009]

What shock, what consternation. Haaretz revealed grave accounts by officers and soldiers describing the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians during the war in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman was quick to respond that the IDF had no prior or supporting information about the events in question, the defense minister was quick to respond that "the IDF is the most moral army in the world," and the military advocate general said the IDF would investigate.

All these propagandistic and ridiculous responses are meant not only to deceive the public, but also to offer shameless lies. The IDF knew very well what its soldiers did in Gaza. It has long ceased to be the most moral army in the world. Far from it - it will not seriously investigate anything.

The testimonies from the graduates of the Oranim pre-military course were a bolt from the blue - accounts of soldiers butchering a woman and two of her children, shooting and killing an elderly Palestinian woman, how they felt when they murdered in cold blood, how they destroyed property and how there was not even fighting in this war that was not a war.

The sister and brother above are mourning their two brothers and uncle, who were killed in an Israeli military assault. [Associated Press]

But this is neither a bolt nor blue skies. Everything has long been known by those who wanted to know, those who, for example, read Amira Hass's dispatches from Gaza in this paper. Everything started long before the assault on Gaza.

The soldiers' transgressions are an inevitable result of the orders given during this brutal operation, and they are the natural continuation of the last nine years, when soldiers killed nearly 5,000 Palestinians, at least half of them innocent civilians, nearly 1,000 of them children and teenagers.

Everything the soldiers described from Gaza, everything, occurred during these blood-soaked years as if they were routine events. It was the context, not the principle, that was different. An army whose armored corps has yet to encounter an enemy tank and whose pilots have yet to face an enemy combat jet in 36 years has been trained to think that the only function of a tank is to crush civilian cars and that a pilot's job is to bomb residential neighborhoods.

In this Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 file photo, Palestinian boys kneel over the bodies of Issa, left, Ahmad, center, and Muhammad Samouni, right, who according to Palestinian medical sources were killed in an Israeli strike, during their funeral in Gaza City.

To do this without any unnecessary moral qualms we have trained our soldiers to think that the lives and property of Palestinians have no value whatsoever. It is part of a process of dehumanization that has endured for dozens of years, the fruits of the occupation.

"That's what is so nice, as it were, about Gaza: You see a person on a road ... and you can just shoot him." This "nice" thing has been around for 40 years. Another soldier talked about a thirst for blood. This thirst has been with us for years. Ask the family of Yasser Tamaizi, a 35-year-old laborer from Idna who was killed by soldiers while bound, and Mahdi Abu Ayash, a 16-year-old boy from Beit Umar who was found in a vegetative state, another victim of recent days, far from the war in Gaza.

Most of the soldiers who took part in the assault on Gaza are youths with morals. Some of them will volunteer for any mission. They will escort an old woman across the street or rescue earthquake victims. But in Gaza, when faced with the inhuman Palestinians, the package will always be suspicious, the brainwashing will be stupefying and the core principles will change. That is the only way they can kill and engage in wanton destruction without deliberating or wrestling with their consciences, not even telling their friends or girlfriends what they did.
The United Nations headquarters in the occupied Gaza Strip under Israeli military shelling.

Regarding the statement of one soldier, who said "As much as we talk about the IDF being an army of values, let's just say this is not the situation on the ground, not on the battalion level," the IDF has long ceased to be an army of "values," not on the ground, not in the battalion, not in the senior command. When an army does not investigate thousands of cases of killing over many years, the message to the soldiers is clear, and it comes from the top.

Our Teflon chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, cannot wash his hands of this affair. They are bloody. What the soldiers of the preparatory academy described were war crimes, for which they should be tried. This will not happen, save for the grotesque spectacle of "principled probes" in an army that killed 1,300 people in 25 days and left 100,000 homeless. Military police investigations will not lead to anything.

Israeli white phosphorous shells being used over civilian areas in the Gaza Strip

The IDF is incapable of investigating the crimes of its soldiers and commanders, and it is ridiculous to expect it to do so. These are not instances of "errant fire," but of deliberate fire resulting from an order. These are not "a few bad apples," but rather the spirit of the commander, and this spirit has been bad and corrupt for quite some time.

A United Nations school in the Gaza Strip is shelled by the Israeli military. Many analysts claim that white phosphorous was used in this attack.

Change will not come without a major change in mindset. Until we recognize the Palestinians as human beings, just as we are, nothing will change. But then, the occupation would collapse, God forbid. In the meantime, prepare for the next war and the horrific testimonies about the most moral army in the world.

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