Two central incidents that came up in the testimony, which Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy presented to Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi, focus on one infantry brigade. The brigade’s commander today will present to Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the Gaza division, the findings of his personal investigation about the matter which he undertook in the last few days, and after approval, he will present his findings to the head of the Southern Command, Major General Yoav Gallant. Regarding the incident in which it was claimed that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the brigade commander’s investigation cites the sniper: “I saw the woman and her daughters and I shot warning shots. The section commander came up to the roof and shouted at me, 'Why did you shoot at them?’ I explained that I did not shoot at them, but I fired warning shots.” Officers from the brigade surmise that fighters that stayed in the bottom floor of the Palestinian house thought that he hit them, and from here the rumor that a sniper killed a mother and her two daughters spread.I admit, this is not particularly surprising. It is not easy to figure out the facts of a simple killing in a civilian setting, as any police officer will tell you; peering backwards through the fog of war is even harder. Not impossible, mind you; the shelves with history books that do it are long and laden; but rushing to prove the bestiality of IDF troops is often a fool's errand, motivated more by the determination to convict Israel of immorality than by painstaking respect of facts.
Regarding the second incident, in which it was claimed that soldiers went up to the roof to entertain themselves with firing and killed an elderly Palestinian woman, the brigade commander investigation found that there was no such incident.
As I wrote a few days ago, Israelis routinely and publicly examine their actions at war, as it should be; in this case, the full investigation tells the opposite story from the first one: The Palestinian family had been held in a house alongside the IDF troops, and now they were being directed out of harm's way. A woman with two children didn't follow the directions given her. A sniper indeed identified a woman and two children in a place they shouldn't have been in; he fired warning shots meant to frighten, not harm. His officer shouted at him for firing in the direction of civilians, since even the officer thought he was shooting at them. The sniper - the only person in this story who was looking through the sights and doing the shooting - reassured his commander he wasn't about to harm anyone. Other soldiers, within sound range but not eye contact, thought the sniper had killed civilians, and were so disturbed by the incident that it eventually reached Haaretz, triggering an investigation that unraveled the facts of the case and refuted the allegations.
Sounds like a moral army to me, and a moral citizenry too. Commendable, wouldn't you say? Conduct to be proud of.
But don't expect anyone to do any commending. The initial allegations were quoted - very literally - worldwide. Their refutation won't be. There are banal reasons for this, having to do with the profound unseriousness of the business of media and news as entertainment. Yet that is not a satisfactory explanation. The act of slandering Jews is one of the most fundamental in Western society, and has been for millennia, often with lethal results. When educated and respected stalwarts of their societies engage in the pastime, they bear full moral responsibility for their acts. They may or may not be antisemites (shorthand: the Guardian is, the NYT isn't), but their actions are.
How about Haaretz? Had they published the allegations in Hebrew alone, thus enabling the crucial internal discussion without translating it for the rest of the world to gloat over, would that have been better? Anshel Pfeffer, one of their columnists, agonizes over the issue. I tend to agree with him. The Israelis need to have their discussions; the observers will disseminate the incriminating parts no matter what, and won't disseminate the exoneration no matter what; Haaretz bears some responsibility for this dynamic, but not much.
The opprobrium belongs fully to those engaged in antisemitic acts.