I raise this issue because you might hear about it elsewhere; I want not only to present the facts for you, I would like to ask you to write letters to the editor, where appropriate, and otherwise explain to those who might be under a regrettable misimpression now with regard to the IDF.
What happened? “Testimonies” have been provided from a couple of our soldiers about “war atrocities” in Gaza committed against Palestinian civilians by IDF soldiers, when they were allegedly ordered by their commanders to shoot Palestinian civilians in cold blood. Haaretz (the extreme left paper) picked it up as a front page “expose.” From there it went who-knows-where.
Here I share the official IDF response, as well as information that sheds considerable light on the issue.
The response comes from Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who said:
“I don’t believe that IDF soldiers cold-bloodedly targeted Palestinian civilians. We will wait for the results of the investigation, but my impression is that the IDF behaved in a moral and ethical manner. If there were any incidents, there were isolated.
“We have opened an investigation into the statements published recently. I can say that the IDF is the most moral military in the world with high values. We must remember what region we were operating in — in a place in which Hamas turned residential neighborhoods into fighting zones and public facilities into warehouses for storing ammunition.
“I have known the IDF for many years. I accompanied the preparations for this operation. I was also in the field and I saw a moral and ethical army operating properly, according to my impressions.”
Commentator Melanie Phillips addressed this issue in her latest column, which appeared in the Spectator:
“There are precisely two charges of gratuitous killing of Palestinian civilians under allegedly explicit orders to do so. One is what even Haaretz made clear was an accidental killing, when two women misunderstood the evacuation route the Israeli soldiers had given them (emphasis in the Phillips material is hers) and walked into a sniper’s gunsights as a result. Moreover, the soldier who said this has subsequently admitted he didn’t see this incident – he wasn’t even in Gaza at the time – and had merely reported rumor and hearsay.
“The second charge is based on a supposedly real incident in which, when an elderly woman came close to an IDF unit, an officer ordered that they shoot her because she was approaching the line and might have been a suicide bomber. The soldier relating this story did not say whether or not the woman in this story actually was shot. Indeed, since he says ‘from the description of what happened’ it would appear this was merely hearsay once again. And his interpretation was disputed by another soldier who said:
“‘She wasn’t supposed to be there, because there were announcements and there were bombings. Logic says she shouldn’t be there. The way you describe it, as murder in cold blood, that isn’t right.’
“So two non-atrocity atrocities, then. What else?”
“Soldiers mouthing off — in conversations of near-impenetrable incoherence – that instructions to kill everyone who remained in buildings designated as terrorist targets after the IDF had warned everyone inside to get out amounted to instructions to murder in cold blood. There cannot be an army in the world which would not issue precisely such instructions in such circumstances, where Hamas had boasted it had booby-trapped the entire area.”
I note here the extraordinary lengths to which the IDF went during the war to warn civilians to get out of the way. Leaflets were dropped by the hundreds of thousands, advising civilians to leave one area or another.
Phone calls were made to 200,000 households. No, this is not a typo. This is what Ashkenazi said. That in particular astounded me. The most publicized phone call took place before the house of Hamas leader Nizar Rayan was bombed. His family was in the house with him and the IDF urged them by phone to leave; they chose not to.
Sometimes, as Phillips describes, a missile was dropped from a helicopter on the corner of the house to shake it up a bit and get people to leave. Who stays after all these warnings? The terrorists.
So in light of this fact, and the warnings that were delivered, what does it mean that a soldier said: “When we entered a house, we were supposed to bust down the door and start shooting inside and just go up story by story… I call that murder”?
These charges of “atrocities” were solicited and disseminated by one Dani Zamir, founder and instructor of a pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College. Zamir is clearly a far left ideologue with an agenda: he was once jailed for refusing to guard settlers. A month after the military operation in Gaza, he called together graduates of his course to discuss with them their experiences in Gaza and printed a transcript of this discussion in his programs bulletin. Haaretz ran excerpts from this transcript.
Phillips records the testimony — culled from amidst the accusations — of a platoon sergeant, who said his soldiers were in a house that belonged to Hamas people who were sent for questioning. At the end of their time in that house, “my platoon commander suggested that when we left… we should clean up all the stuff, pick up and collect all the garbage in bags, sweep and wash the floor, fold up the blankets we used, make a pile of the mattresses and put them back on the beds.”
Said Ashkenazi: “It is a great privilege to stand at the head of this army. “
The damage done to us by the likes of Zamir and Haaretz is shameful. It puts the lie to the true nature of Israel and provides fodder for those who would attack us.
Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement of Israel, was arrested today on charges that he tried to attack police at an illegal convention in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem that was part of the “Jerusalem, Capital of Arab Culture” event the police shut down.
Raed Salah — who was previously convicted of raising money for Hamas and regularly seeks to incite Israeli Arabs by spreading falsehoods about Israeli plans to destroy the Al Aksa Mosque — is really bad news.
A spokesman for the Islamic Movement commented:
“Salah’s arrest is another step toward ‘Judaizing’ Jerusalem. Nobody broke the law, there was merely an intention to establish a popular committee to deal with declaring Jerusalem the capital of Palestinian culture.”
I love the term “Judaizing Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is the ultimate Jewish city. It’s eastern part is heavily Arab only because King Hussein of Jordan had rendered it Judenrein for 19 years, banishing Jews and destroying synagogues. The fact of those dozens of synagogues, not to mention Har Habayit and the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, speaks eloquently for the Jewishness of eastern Jerusalem. And, in any event, note, please, that he didn’t say they were declaring “eastern” Jerusalem the capital of Palestinian culture. He said “Jerusalem.” It’s important to monitor their words carefully.
Besides which, what they did WAS against the law, as Palestinian Authority events are forbidden in Jerusalem.
Raed Salah was once mayor of Umm al-Fahm, an Arab city in the north of Israel that is the site of Islamic Movement headquarters. And it happens that this city has been in the news of late in a different context.
A march in the city by “extreme” right wing Jews bearing Israeli flags is due to take place tomorrow. I put “extreme” in quotes for a reason, although they would be widely described thus. For I have come to see a wisdom in their “extremism.” Umm al-Fahm is a place inside of Green Line Israel populated by Arab Israeli citizens, some of whom are not loyal to Israel. The Jews who are marching intend no violence, they simply want to establish a presence there to mark the fact that it IS Israel and Jews have a right to be there, as anywhere else in Israel.
That Arabs there view what is about to take place as a provocation cannot be reason to stop the march.
We have lost ground in so many places and we cannot afford to let this continue to happen if we are to keep this nation Jewish. I think in particular of the Arab day-to-day control of Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount). There has been such a passive willingness to permit Arab ascendancy, to look the other way in the name of being conciliatory.
It was back in September of last year that right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gavir sought permission for a march through the city bearing Israeli flags. He was denied the right to parade by the police because they believed it would lead to a confrontation that would endanger public order.
Ben Gavir, along with Baruch Marzel, then went to the courts asking that the police order be reversed. The High Court ultimately sided with the petitioners, saying that a claim that there was a hazard to public safety was not sufficient reason to block a march in a city which is under Israeli jurisdiction, particularly when the State permits left-wing activists to rally in the city of Hevron and the gay community to hold gay-pride parades in Jerusalem.
Arab residents of Umm al-Fahm were enraged with this ruling.
The police delayed the march several times, saying they were concerned for the lives of the marchers. Finally tomorrow’s date was set after the court rebuked them for the delays.
Justice Edmond Levi said, “The State of Israel has to demonstrate sovereignty within one of its cities.” He did not understand, he said, how “the State of Israel, that boasts an army and police officers, cannot secure such a meager demonstration.”
This is a point of great significance. Can it be that there is a place in Israel where the police will not let Jews march with Israeli flags? Where the police are controlled by the Arab populace?
In all there are expected to be about 100 right-wing activists marching in the city tomorrow. Joining them will be MK Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union Party. The march will not go through the main streets of the city and its route has been coordinated with the police.
Chairman of the Arab party Balad, Jamal Zahalka, who lives in the area, warned, “These people have a history of shooting at Palestinians and I warn that if they come tomorrow carrying weapons, they will start shooting and this could escalate into a major disaster.” The suggestion that the Jews may be coming to shoot at Arabs is ridiculous, and a form of incitement. (How much more likely is it that Arabs will come out bearing guns because this was said?)
MK Ben Ari observed that, “It’s provocation to say this is provocation. If waving Israeli flags is provocation – then this is the greater provocation.”
The Arabs of the city have said they will block the entrance of the Jews with their bodies.
Shas signed a coalition agreement with Likud last night. The party will be given the portfolios for Construction and Housing, and Religious Services. Shas will also have a minister-without-portfolio in the prime minister’s office and a deputy minister in the Finance Ministry.
Negotiations now move to UTJ and HaBayit HaYehudi (the Jewish Home, formerly NRP).
Also negotiating with Likud right now is a Labor team appointed by Barak, but not sanctioned by all of the party. Barak in fact is furious with members of Labor who sent Netanyahu a letter saying they wouldn’t abide by an agreement.
Barak is hoping that he will have an agreement to bring to the Central Committee tomorrow when the vote on joining the coalition is taken, but that seems most unlikely.
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, a member of Labor’s team, said:
“As someone who was close to the informal talks that were previously conducted, nothing has been agreed upon and it certainly could be the case that there is no partnership with the Likud.
“The difficulties aren’t simple, they are even harder than I expected…We too have our red lines.”
According to Haaretz, a senior PA source is saying that Hezbollah or other groups associated with Iran may be responsible for the attempted bombing in Haifa.
The PA claims to have intelligence that Hezbollah has been trying for some time to recruit members of Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad to carry out a massive attack, presumably to avenge the assassination of its mastermind terrorist, Imad Mughniyeh, in Damascus in February 2008, for which it blames Israel.
Haim Ramon, a member of the Ministerial Committee on Security Prisoners, told Israel Radio at the end of last week that Hamas did not negotiate on the issue of a prisoner release, they delivered an ultimatum for Israeli capitulation.
He emphasized the fact that of Hamas prisoners released in the past, two-thirds had returned to terrorism.
The Israeli government is currently saying that there will be no further negotiations unless Hamas comes in with a new proposal.