Israeli troops talk of killing civilians in Gaza

March 19, 2009

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IDF combat soldiers and officers from the Gaza operation are now beginning to confirm what our enemies have been saying for months. They tell us that, contrary to our own beliefs and expectations, combat norms in Gaza exhibited a blatant disregard for Palestinian civilians. Their comments were not a left-wing leak, but emerged from a frank discussion at pre-army training institute. As Amos Harel writes: “The soldiers are not lying, for the simple reason they have no reason to.” Though others have different opinions about the soldiers’ reports, the investigations have begun.

It is a truism we repeat to ourselves, that war is horrific. We are also clear that a war against terrorists who hide among civilians, and who delight in random attacks on Israeli civilian population centers, is never going to be clean. Yet we still must ask ourselves: When Jews around the world literally endangered themselves marching in solidarity rallies in January this year, was this what they had in mind? Were Jewish communities and individuals, and of course the vast majority of the Israeli public, were we all in favor of a lax attitude to civilian casualties? Or did not we all take comfort in the IDF’s high moral standards?

Searching for cold comfort, we can nevertheless pride ourselves on the vibrant, dynamic, and brutally honest democracy of Israel. It is unlikely that issues such as these are exposed or ever debated in the countries of Israel’s enemies. But perhaps some comfort is so cold it is no comfort at all.

Irrespective of what we might now tell the world, what do we tell ourselves of our soldiers’ accounts of fighting in Gaza?

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