Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Israeli army: realities versue hype

Richard Falk's important report on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian territories. The report is noteworthy for its attention to war crimes allegations in connection with Israel's assault on Gaza, December 27, 2009-January 18, 2009. Many of these issues have been addressed here in various postings.

Also worth pondering is Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's widely quoted claim in connection with revelations from Israeli soldiers about the intention murder of Palestinian civilians in Gaza:

"I still say we have the most moral army in the world. Of course there may be exceptions but I have absolutely no doubt this will be inspected on a case-by-case basis," he said.

By "most moral" Barak means the "most ethical" army in the world.

My own view, which reflects my observations of the Israeli army in action in Lebanon and in the occupied territories, as well as my studies and review of primary and secondary materials on the IDF in action, is that the Israeli army frequently operates with rules of engagement that do not respect the immunities of protected persons, i.e., non-combatants, and that permit the wanton destruction of private property (the Gaza campaign is the most recent illustration). Moreover, Israeli soldiers who engage in looting, who abuse prisoners and who use disproportionate or indiscriminate firepower are seldom seriously punished, if they are punished at all. Therefore, I would argue that Barak's claim is not accurate, although it may have PR value.

Does this mean the other side behave like angels? Not at all; but it is past time to understand that the Israeli army is hardly the most ethical or moral army in the world.

I would add that Israeli military actions have often made more enemies for Israel, while solidififying anti-Israeli solidarity. I first wrote about this many years in my early articles on Lebanon, as well as in my book Amal and the Shi'a, and especially the chapter on "Making Enemies in Lebanon".

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