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.