"While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk."

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A Bad Time for Israel

The last couple of weeks have not been good ones for Israel or its image. First, we had (in my opinion, dressed up) reports that IDF soldiers had testified to shooting civilians out of hand during the Gaza ground conflict. Then, there was a scandal surrounding some tasteless T-shirts worn by IDF soldiers. Yesterday, the BBC and other Left-leaning media outlets revelled in the march of Israeli 'Right-wingers', 'extremists' and 'hardliners' through the large Arab town of Umm el-Fahm.

I consider myself a friend of Israel, and in terms of its existence and absolute right to defend itself and its citizens from attack, it has my unequivocal support.

However, this support is not blind and does not stretch to situations when the Israeli Government or military is genuinely in the wrong.

Given the craven nature of our media, it's often hard to tell when that is, in reality. Let us first take yesterday's march in the town of Umm el-Fahm.

From what I could gather it was an organised march, perfectly legal and legitimate. However, the vast majority of the Arab population did not agree with it and weren't happy, so they decided to express their dissatisfaction in the way they seem to like best - wanton violence, including stone-throwing and attacking the police:

At least 16 people were injured. Now, whatever the circumstances of the march, if the government and high court have allowed it there is no reason to attack it violently.

The T-shirt issue is slightly more complex, but on this one I'm generally on the side of decency; I think the most controversial designs (including a pregnant woman in gunsights with the slogan '1 shot 2 kills') were incredibly tasteless, and the IDF soldiers who wore them and posed for photographs did themselves and the image of their country no favours at all. Indeed, the moral implications aside they should be disciplined simply for bringing the IDF into disrepute.

Israel has enough to contend with in the arena of biased public opinion, without its own soldiers handing ammunition to its enemies.

Slightly more serious are the recent allegations emerging that Israeli soldiers killed innocent civilians in Gaza.

I would personally like to wait until the outcome of the IDF's own investigation before passing judgment; I don't think it is useful for such allegations to be made public before they are fully investigated, but as they have been they are worthy of some comment.

You can read a good, fact-based rebuttal to Richard Falk's accusations of 'categorical war crimes' here.

As far as I can tell, the accusations so far are based purely on hearsay and conjecture. They also take a number of incidents out of context. I will reproduce here Melanie Phillips' excellent article on the accusations, and write my own response to whatever the IDF's investigation finds.

'...So what are these

pretty appalling looking reports


absolutely appalling stories?

There are precisely two charges of gratuitous killing of Palestinian civilians under allegedly explicit orders to do so. One is what even Ha’aretz made clear was an accidental killing, when two women misunderstood the evacuation route the Israeli soldiers had given them 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 rumour 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.
Gloating graffiti left in the houses of presumed terrorists.
Tasteless T-shirts emblazoned with motifs crowing about killing, condemned immediately by the IDF.

Rabbis distributing to soldiers psalms and religious opinions about the conflict.

That’s it. Not one single verifiable actual incident of intentional killing of civilians. No evidence whatever of any such rogue incidents -- let alone any order by the IDF to tear up its actual rules of engagement which forbade the deliberate targeting of civilians. Talk by one soldier about the IAF having killed a lot of people before the soldiers went in contradicted by another who said:
They dropped leaflets over Gaza and would sometimes fire a missile from a helicopter into the corner of some house, just to shake up the house a bit so everyone inside would flee. These things worked. The families came out, and really people [i.e., soldiers] did enter houses that were pretty empty, at least of innocent civilians. [my emphasis]

Funny sort of unethical military behaviour, that goes to some lengths to empty houses of civilians before storming them. Indeed, the soldiers’ discussion contains more such material totally contradicting the impression of gross violations of ethics. Such as this:

‘I am a platoon sergeant in an operations company of the Paratroops Brigade. We were in a house and discovered a family inside that wasn't supposed to be there. We assembled them all in the basement, posted two guards at all times and made sure they didn't make any trouble. Gradually, the emotional distance between us broke down - we had cigarettes with them, we drank coffee with them, we talked about the meaning of life and the fighting in Gaza. After very many conversations the owner of the house, a man of 70-plus, was saying it's good we are in Gaza and it's good that the IDF is doing what it is doing.

The next day we sent the owner of the house and his son, a man of 40 or 50, for questioning. The day after that, we received an answer: We found out that both are political activists in Hamas. That was a little annoying - that they tell you how fine it is that you're here and good for you and blah-blah-blah, and then you find out that they were lying to your face the whole time.
What annoyed me was that in the end, after we understood that the members of this family weren't exactly our good friends and they pretty much deserved to be forcibly ejected from there, my platoon commander suggested that when we left the house, 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.

... ‘There was one day when a Katyusha, a Grad, landed in Be'er Sheva and a mother and her baby were moderately to seriously injured. They were neighbors of one of my soldiers. We heard the whole story on the radio, and he didn't take it lightly - that his neighbors were seriously hurt. So the guy was a bit antsy, and you can understand him. To tell a person like that, 'Come on, let's wash the floor of the house of a political activist in Hamas, who has just fired a Katyusha at your neighbors that has amputated one of their legs’ - this isn't easy to do, especially if you don't agree with it at all. When my platoon commander said, 'Okay, tell everyone to fold up blankets and pile up mattresses,’ it wasn't easy for me to take. There was lot of shouting. In the end I was convinced and realized it really was the right thing to do. Today I appreciate and even admire him, the platoon commander, for what happened there. In the end I don't think that any army, the Syrian army, the Afghani army, would wash the floor of its enemy’s houses, and it certainly wouldn't fold blankets and put them back in the closets.’

This is what instructor Danny Zamir described as
‘contempt for, and forcefulness against, the Palestinians.’

No mention of any of that in the world’s media, is there? Do you think Andrew Marr or William Hague read those bits? Do me the proverbial. All they’ve picked up and run with is the lazy and malicious boilerplate carefully spun by Ha’aretz: rumour and hearsay about two incidents related by two soldiers (one of whom wasn’t even in Gaza) -- one an accidental killing, the other maybe not a killing at all -- plus some wild mouthing-off by soldiers, some unpleasant graffiti, ditto T-shirts, plus some leaflets by unidentified rabbis making statements that carry no weight with the IDF or reflect Israeli policy whatsoever.

On that basis, however, it’s proof positive for the likes of Andrew Marr, William Hague, the New York Times, Guardian, Independent, BBC and Uncle Tom Israelbasher and all, that yes!! Israel is now shown (unless specifically disproved -- and how do you disprove something for which no evidence is offered whatever?) to have been committing atrocities after all in Gaza; and so has now forfeit what remains of its moral authority, which was already hanging by a thread as a result of all the previous blood libels, and almost certainly its right to exist at all.
This is not just bigotry. It is medieval witch-hunt territory. And it’s global. '

And a witch-hunt it is. Check the comments at the end of this Daily Mail article on the allegations. They can be pretty much be summed up as 'well, we knew what those b******s were up to anyway, but this just confirms it!!!'

Well, it confirms nothing; there are no concrete conclusions about anything yet. In my opinion the IDF is a moral army, and at the very least it gets credit for actually investigating these claims.

If wrong-doing occurred, I'm in no doubt that appropriate action will be taken. But at the moment, that looks like a very big 'if'.


raz said...

the march - they already declared they will make this march several months ago. they said that if an arab can walk freely in israel why cant a jew go freely in om el pachem (which by the way still belong to israel).

the T shirts - you need to remmember they still kids from age 18 to 21. kids who were forced to be warriors and fight for the freedom of israel. i dont defend on this bad act but i think, its got out of proporsions. they did more damage to israel than to anything else.

the war crimes - as for now it seems it all got out of proposions by the media, the man who talked about that incident said he just heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend. he doesn't even know if its true. the media just try to spice things up.

anyway the main thing i think is wrong in all of this situation is that - no one speaking about hamas.
its like we all know they are criminials and terrorists so its ok for them to shoot on civilians or shield by children. its like when you see a movie and there is the bad guy and the good guy, so you don't care when the bad guy does anything wrong couse "he can do whatever he likes"... thats wrong man. they need to investigate hamas too or at least accept israel defending itself. why don't i see anything about hamas shooting from the UN schools? why dont i see anything about the incident where israel was blamed in killing 50 people on the UN school that later the truth was exposes and it was found that 12 people died not 50 and all of them by hamas OUTSIDE the school from close range?

the media first shout israel is blame! and only after it you can see in a sidenote "oh sorry our mistake it was hamas and it was much brutal than what we thought that happened". our reputation in israel is very bad because of that. no one knows about the lies the palastiens are using. just write palihood, on youtube and you see how they act wounded and fake deaths just so israel be to blame.


The Venerable 1st Earl of Cromer said...

Hello Raz, thanks for stopping by.

Regarding the march, I largely agree with you. I think there are appalling double standards here in the West regarding the treatment of Arabs by Israelis and vice versa.

The march was legal, the protesters were the ones in the wrong.

The T-shirts - I can see your point. These men see things people like me can't imagine, and they have a special camaraderie and sense of humour.

My only point was that the T-shirts gave a lot of ammunition to Israel's enemies here in the West.

The war crimes - again, it seems we largely agree. As far as I could tell the articles were based on a few conversations overheard by a very Left-wing instructor who had been jailed in the past for refusing certain duties.

Some of the accusations didn't make much sense either - surely shooting people in a house AFTER you've ordered them out and they've failed to comply is a legitimate part of war?

Hamas have used civilians in attacks before.

I am very familiar with 'Pallywood' and the faked photographs and incidents used to give Israel a bad name.

For what it's worth, I think every mainstream journalist who is complicit should be completely ashamed of themselves.

At some point I plan a post about this - but I've got a lot on at them moment, so it might not be just yet.

Warmest regards from England and stay safe,

Earl Cromer.