Soldiers Speak Out

A new website has been launched by IDF soldiers to redress the balance and speak out about the moral actions of Israeli soldiers.

See an interview on Jerusalem Post here

Visit the website here.

Listen to their stories. 

Make up your own mind.

Also, read this article in the Jerusalem Post.

Now tell me who is moral and who is immoral?

Israelis and Palestinians – surprising examples which challenge preconceptions

Two events happened recently in Israel which in their own strange way debunk some myths about how  Israelis treat Palestinians, especially Israeli Arab, and how Palestinians view Israelis.

First story in Ha’aretz: Violent settlers freed over ‘improper’ police conduct.

Apparently Israeli police in Kfar Sava have been using entrapment; not against Palestinians but against Israeli Jewish settlers.

The story does not show either the settlers or the police in a particularly good light.

The police posed as Palestinians in an illegal West Bank settlement. Note that it is designated illegal by Ha’aretz. Others would disagree. The police were pretending to fix a tyre. Now, if you remember, recently two policeman were killed by Palestinians they went to help who were pretending to fix a puncture. (This itself says something of the dangers of being ‘nice’ to Palestinians when a minority are prepared to kill you for it.) The settlers attacked the police who they thought were Palestinians and vandalised the (unmarked police) car. The police promptly arrested them.

The settlers were freed because of the provocation. The police were reprimanded by a judge for endangering life recklessly – their own.

Now although this is somewhat unsavoury the police were acting to protect Palestinians from extremist Jewish settlers by provoking them to expose themselves by this ruse. When do we hear about such things in the UK press? Most would find it unbelievable that Israeli police are trying to root out extremist Jews to protect Palestinians in the West Bank.

Police sources told Ha’aretz that the technique is established and effective when it comes to the arrest of settlers involved in attacking Palestinians.

says Ha’aretz. Sometimes, despite the attempts to characterise Israelis as ethnic cleansers, apartheid-mongers and worse, stories like this show us that things are not as black and white as you might think. Despite the dubious nature of the strategy it puts the police in a positive light, don’t you think?

Second an Associated Press story on yNetNews.com:

A Palestinian youth orchestra from Jenin travelled to Holon in Israel to sing and perform for Holocaust survivors. Just read that sentence again.

Strings for Peace, youth orchestra from Jenin refugee camp, gives touching musical performance for Holocaust survivors in Israeli town Holon as part of Good Deeds Day. Zeid, one of musicians in group: Only people who have been through suffering understand each other….

the youths had no idea they were performing for people who lived through Nazi genocide — or even what the Holocaust was.

One of the pupils expressed sympathy and was shocked at learning the story of the elderly survivors. Some had never met ordinary Israelis before. The Holocaust is not taught to Palestinians and Denial is commonplace.

The audience were shocked when they learned the youths were from Jenin but when it was announced they would sing for peace the audience burst into applause.

“I’m here to raise spirits,” Younis [the conductor] said. “These are poor, old people.”

If only there were more events like this to bring these two peoples together. It should be noted that this event was part of a programme organised by Shari Arison, a wealthy Israeli business woman as part of the annual Good Deeds Day events.

BBC appears surprised at IDF morality

On Friday the BBC published a news item on its website: Israel army punishes Gaza soldier

Straight away the headline tells a subtle lie. It uses the present tense. We might be fooled into thinking this was some reaction to recent (disproved) stories of misconduct. Maybe a fig leaf for greater crimes, a token gesture? But no, it happened during Operation Cast Lead. Yes, during, before the current round of unchecked and unproved allegations.

The BBC is quoting a Ha’aretz story; the same paper that released the story about alleged atrocities emanating from a pre-military academy.

An Israeli soldier was removed from the combat area after he shot a Gazan woman in the leg “by mistake” during the recent offensive, military sources say.

The soldiers were firing in the air and urging a group of Palestinians who looked “suspicious” at the time, the military said….

…A statement from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said there had been a warning of a suicide attacker in the area where the incident occurred.

The soldier was an infantryman from the Givati Brigades, and has been demoted and put on probation

The BBC report then goes on to rehash recent unproven accusations and drops its own little bomblet: “The Israeli forces’ conduct has been heavily criticised. ” Thus conflating criticism of general tactics with specific allegations of war crimes committed by individuals.

It goes on:

Several international rights experts and organisations have raised concerns that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants may have committed war crimes during the 22-day conflict.

This despite the fact that Hamas were, had and continue to fire rockets and mortars deliberately intended to kill civilians, a war crime as patent as it is cynical, and the BBC say “may have”. Hamas use schools, mosques, ambulances, innocent civilians’ homes, hospitals and media centers to stockpile weapons and use as firing positions, and the BBC say “may have”. The BBC tries to be even-handed in its treatment of the IDF and Hamas as if the latter were not a terrorist organisation that has no interest in observing ANY international laws and cynically exploits Israel’s attempts at observing those same laws.

Listen to what an IDF Colonel had to say:

He said the soldiers entered “thousands” of homes in Gaza. “Almost in every house we found rifles, grenades, RPGs (rocket propelled grenades),” he said.

They also saw Hamas militants moving from house to house carrying white flags to pose as civilians, he added.

He blamed Hamas for exposing civilians to danger by using civilian institutions for cover:

“When you find in a backpack, a blue backpack with logo of the UN on the backpack, an IED, (improvised explosive device) you understand how cynical, how far they go,” he said.

So Hamas use the white flag as a cover and the world wonders why, perhaps, some really innocent people carrying a white flag may have been shot. They use UN equipment to hide bombs, they place weapons in thousands of homes and the world wonders why innocents were killed, UN facilities damaged and Gazan residents’ homes damaged or demolished. When the enemy cynically exploits its opponents morality – yes, I said morality – a morality they clearly do not have, then it is not surprising mistakes happen – in fact it is amazing so few civilians were killed even if you accept the Palestinian figure and not the Israeli one.

As long as the West believes that asymmetric warfare can still be waged without some ‘loose rules of engagement’ then they will never win the War on Terror.

Nevertheless, and I have said this repeatedly in recent posts, Israel must not sink to the level of Hamas and its fellow travellers. Where there are inexcusable lapses which amount to patent crimes, the perpetrators must be brought to justice. So far no investigations into individual allegations have yielded any clear evidence. Hearsay and rumour are powerful weapons to diminish reputations when so many are willing to accept them prima facie without taking the care to wait for full investigations.

Some believe that Israel has given up caring what the world thinks. Understandable. But dangerous. If you don’t care what others think, that removes a powerful moral deterrent. It must not happen.

IDF smokescreen?

The IDF is now busy refuting claims of breaking international law by using white phosphorus in built-up areas of Gaza.

Channel 4 News last night was busy showing old footage of Gaza two days after the end of the conflict where the stuff was alleged to have been found in a schoolyard. Shocking images of people who apparently had been struck by white phosphorus hammered home the point and tried, as usual, to paint Israel has heartless monsters indiscriminately burning down a UN compound etc etc.

The IDF reports:

This particular investigation is dealing with the use of ammunition containing elements of phosphorous, including, amongst others, the 155mm smoke shells which were referred to in the Human Rights Watch report. This type of ammunition disperses in the atmosphere and creates an effective smoke screen. It is used by many Western armies.

The investigation is close to conclusion, and based on the findings at this stage, it is already possible to conclude that the IDF’s use of smoke shells was in accordance with international law. These shells were used for specific operational needs only and in accord with international humanitarian law. The claim that smoke shells were used indiscriminately, or to threaten the civilian population, is baseless.

It should be noted that contrary to the claims in the report, smoke shells are not an incendiary weapon. The third protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) - which defines particular limitations on incendiary weapons - makes it clear that weapons intended for screening are not classed as incendiary weapons. The State of Israel is not a signatory of the third protocol, however, in any, case, as noted this protocol does not ban the use of smoke shells for the purpose of screening.

The problem with this statement is that it avoids mentioning the affects of white phosphorus in built-up areas. It takes a line of stressing the legality whilst ignoring the moral aspects.

Furthermore, the statement that WP is not an incendiary weapon because it is not classed as one is, frankly, ridiculous. tell that to the people in the UN compound.

The Red Cross representative, Peter Herby backed up Israel’s claims of legality during the conflict as reported by the Associated Press (article no longer available on their website):

But it’s not very unusual to use phosphorus to create smoke or illuminate a target. We have no evidence to suggest it’s being used in any other way’. In response, the IDF said Tuesday that it ‘wishes to reiterate that it uses weapons in compliance with international law, while strictly observing that they be used in accordance with the type of combat and its characteristics.’ Herby said that using phosphorus to illuminate a target or create smoke is legitimate under international law, and that there was no evidence the Jewish state was intentionally using phosphorus in a questionable way, such as burning down buildings or knowingly putting civilians at risk. 

OK. All very well. I completely accept it wasn’t used deliberately to harm civilians. I’d like to see an investigation by the IDF to see whether there were any occasions when it was used in way which was reckless of life. Apparently other screening material is available, but I am not an expert.

The rider to all of this is that the IDF used WP to protect its soldiers in precisely the conditions where without its use they and probably civilians would be at risk in a fire fight between the IDF and Hamas. The IDF’s main objective was to minimise its own casualties; this is a primary obligation of ANY army. If you have a defensive material which will save lives judgements have to be made. Sometimes they are wrong. Do you defend your men or worry about the propaganda value given to the enemy.

Once again, the IDF by blandly putting the legal case does not address the image case and does not explain the conditions under which it used WP or any reluctance to do so in residential areas.

Neither do we know what machinations Hamas were up to. Did they plant WP in places that reporters would find it? We know they had it because they fired it indiscriminately at Israel as a weapon, not as a defensive measure. But no-one mentions that particular breach of international law. But as I have said before, Hamas are terrorists, so no-one expects them to observe the law.


Now the second IDF shooting atrocity is refuted

Arutz Sheva reports how CAMERA has published refutations of both the stories which came out of the Rabin pre-military academy alleging wanton killing of innocent Palestinian citizens during Operation Cast Lead. You can read the entire article here

Of course, it goes completely unreported in the news media. As do stories referred to in the Camera article of Israeli soldiers leaving money, letters of apology, refusing to steal, sleep in a bed, take food though hungry etc. etc.

One thing I would say. The soldiers’ story in the second case of a sniper killing an elderly woman lacks evidence and is a result of ‘rumour’ which the soldiers at the academy reported. More should be done to find out who spread those rumours or if they were complete fabrication.

Sudan, the convoy and who the real terrorist states are in the Middle East

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has dropped a very big hint that earlier this year, probably January, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) bombed a convoy of illegal arms on its way to Gaza from Tehran via Sudan and Egypt.

As with the alleged bombing of a Syrian nuclear plant the countries involved are reluctant to admit anything happened because it shows them up for what they are – terrorist states.

It seems there as a cosy little alliance of murderers and genocides (both actual and aspirational) consisting of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Sudan.

A Sudanese minister, Mabrook Mubarak Saleem told an Arabic news channel that many had been killed in the air strike. Arutz Sheva reports:

a Sudanese spokesman claimed that “more than 100 people” had been killed in the air raid, which he termed “a genocide, committed by U.S. forces.”

When asked how he knew the attackers were American, the spokesman said: “We don’t differentiate between the U.S. and Israel. They are all one.”

This man’s contempt for the word ‘genocide’ in whatever language he was using is an indication of the mentaliy of these atrocious people in the Sudanese government who make Mugabe look like a benevolent democrat.

Meanwhile his government is committing genocide in Darfur supported by the Iranian axis of evil.

Meanwhile Iran WANTS to commit genocide in Israel.

Meanwhile Hamas WANTS to commit genocide in Israel.

Meanwhile Hezbollah WANTS to commit genocide in Israel.

What an attractive little group of murdering, Jew-hating, fanatical, tyrannical,  warmongers they are.

Hey, maybe we can talk to them and persuade them to talk about peace and reconciliation.

Hey, maybe they are really quite nice people with a grievance.

Hey, maybe if we gave the Palestinians a homeland they’d all settle down and turn to stamp collecting.

Hey, maybe if we gave the Palestinians a homeland they would pursue democracy, peace, education, equality for all their citizens, including women; maybe they wouldn’t teach their children to hate, to glorify murder, to corrupt their own religion.

Hey, maybe if we gave the Palestinians a homeland they wouldn’t continue in their stated objective of destroying Israel.

Hey,  maybe Iran really is just developing a nuclear energy programme.

Hey, maybe they wouldn’t dream of threatening Israel and the West with a nuclear weapon.

Hey, maybe Israel isn’t a terrorist state after all.

Hey, maybe Israel is the front line against these these monsters.

Hey, maybe we can learn from Israel how to defend the free world.

Maybe.

The most honest assessment of Israel yet

I’m not even going to quote the article I am referring to – just read it – please, please read it.

Ami Isseroff writes the most honest, the most compelling, the most moving assessment I have yet read of what Israel has done wrong and what it needs to do to put it right.

Isseroff  enunciates far better and far more eloquently many of the points that I have falteringly been trying to make recently.

He  makes them from the viewpoint of an Israeli committed to Zionism.

He explores why Israel is losing the propaganda battle, he constructively criticises the culture of denial and calls for more openness.

Just go here, do yourself a favour Israeli war crimes allegations: Doing our patriotic duty and read it.

Gaza civilian shooting story shown to be false

The Jerusalem Post has reported here that a source has informed them that at least one of the civilian shooting incidents which was reported by Ha’aretz and seriously damaged Israel’s reputation around the world has been proved to be false.

The JP stresses that this is a leaked story as investigations are not complete.

During the conference, one soldier claimed a marksman opened fire on a mother and two of her children, after a squadron commander told them to walk into a no-entry zone.

“All of the soldiers who were involved in the conference were questioned – not as a punishment – but in order to understand whether they had witnessed these things. From all of the testimonies we collected, we can safely conclude that the soldiers who made the claims did not witness the events they describe,” the source said.

“All of it was based on rumors. In the incident of the alleged shooting of the mother and her children, what really happened was that a marksman fired a warning shot to let them know that they were entering a no-entry zone. The shot was not even fired in their general direction,” the source said.

“The marksman’s commander ran up the stairs of a Palestinian home, got up on the roof, and asked the marksman why he shot at the civilians. The marksman said he did not fire on the civilians. But the soldiers on the first floor of that house heard the commander’s question being shouted. And from that point, the rumor began to spread,” the source added.

“We can say with absolute certainty that the marksman did not fire on the woman and her children. Later, the company commander spoke with the marksman and his commander. We know with certainty that this incident never took place,” he said.

Now we all know, don’t we, that everyone will be calling “whitewash”, but that’s because they are predisposed to believing the worst about the IDF. They wrongly and completely misinterpreted the details of the original allegation and the circumstances of their publication. 

The JP report concludes:

 It is unlikely the damage to Israel’s image from the allegations can be repaired, irrespective of the results of the investigation

As ever, rush to judgement, don’t bother checking the facts or waiting for a full investigation. When I heard the original reports I was shocked because it seemed that if the IDF itself was ‘admitting’ atrocities, so maybe they are true. But at the same time I, at least, reserved judgement for a full enquiry. 

We await the full official report including the second incident from the Rabin Pre-military Academy allegations. If we are not to be guilty of the same rush to judgement we need to hear the full official report.

I am sure that innocents died during the conflict. It is not unlikely that there were some incidents where soldiers behaved badly and these should be investigated and any criminals brought to justice. Allegations still remain to be answered. The outcome may or may not be different. But let’s not rush to judgement. Let’s leave that to the hatemongers.

Ha’aretz and the officer who leaked the original story are very much to the left of Israeli politics and both have an interest in pointing fingers to further their own political agenda. To outsiders this seems improbable, but that’s because they don’t know Israeli politics or have an agenda of their own.

Unfortunately, unsubstantiated reports of this nature fly round the world, give fuel to the Jew-haters and anti-Zionists and sully Israel’s reputation needlessly. There are times when Israelis can be their own worst enemies when it comes to the propaganda war. And its worst enemies are winning that hands down. I am absolutely certain that the results of the investigation will be given little coverage and most commentators will be highly suspicious of the findings. I can already hear the “are you seriously suggesting”s and “this is a whitewash, isn’t it, Mr Regev”. That’s if they even bother to report it, let alone declare their original editorial line to have been in error.

But then we knew that all along.

Sri Lanka and the media’s double standards

While the world’s press focuses fanatically on what Israel did or did not do in Gaza, the Sri Lankan government largely avoids accusations, condemnations, the ICC and Human Rights organisations baying for blood. Why? No Muslims or Jews or Palestinians involved. So it’s a minor issue.

The Sunday Times did afford some column space under the headline “Artillery pounds wounded Tamils trapped on beach”.  Those Tamils were 1000 amputees hiding in trenches as the Sri Lankan army persecuted its war against the Tamil separatists.

The report states that more than 300 civilians were being killed or were dying due to “lack of medical care, food or water”. The only remaining hospital in  the area had to close after being bombed twice by the Sri Lankan army. The UN believes more than 2800, mostly civilians, killed since the beginning of the latest offensive.

Meanwhile the Tamil Tigers are actually asking for a ceasefire. None is forthcoming from the Sri Lankan army. They now want to negotiate with the government. No such negotiations have been offered. A Tamil commander characterises it as ” a genocidal war”. He goes on:

“Continuous denial of humanitarian access to the civilian population, and non-stop artillery and aerial attacks are creating an unbearable situation”

Tigers say that they would now “respect the outcome of an independent Tamil state.

Joan Ryan MP (Lab) has called for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Commonwealth. 

Yet all this hardly receives any coverage on any news channel. If Israel is being called to account for supposed crimes where is the worldwide clamour against Sri Lanka?

Why were right-wingers allowed to march through Umm al-Fahm?

My parents used to tell me about the Battle of Cable Street when Oswald Mosley tried to march through the East End of London with his Fascist black-shirts in direct provocation to the Jewish residents.

Jews and Communists and other outraged citizens blocked the way. Many were injured or arrested (including ny father and grandmother). But the blackshirt’s march did not succeed in passing through the Jewish East End.

What difference then in Umm al-Fahm when right-wing Jews want to march through an Arab-Israeli town stirring up hatred and provoking a riot? These Jews demanded Arab loyalty to the State of Israel after many Arabs have voiced support of Hamas and called for the destruction of the state. But is this provocation an answer? Can this do anything other than push loyal Israeli Arabs who want to live in peace into the arms of Hamas, Hizbollah and the rest?

The police did not want the march but it was judged to be a legal protest. Maybe legal, just as the National Front can march through Bradford if they wish. But advisable in the current tense atmosphere in the region? Advisable when Israel’s reputation is on the line around the world? 

This is one of the few occasions when I have some sympathy for Israeli Arabs demonstrating against Jews. This was their East End and the right-wing Jews were their blackshirts. 

But look. No one was killed. The police fired tear gas not bullets. Say this was Jews protesting in Tehran or in Yemen. That’s the difference which makes Israel a free and democratic society. It also means that some of its citizens are free to behave outrageously. Just as Arab Israelis and Jews behaved outrageously in Akko (Acre) recently rioting against each other as a result of polarised views on the Gaza conflict. And this in a town which is still an exemplar of Arab-Jewish co-existence in Israel.

The far right in Israel is literally on the march buoyed up by election successes. It is a worrying trend in Israel.