Wednesday, July 30, 2008

IDF Violence in Context

As a general statement, critics of Israel can be divided into two groups: those who see the flaws and criticize so they'll be corrected, and those who see the flaws and deduce they're so serious Israel's sovereignty must be curtailed or worse. The very large second group can likewise be divided roughly into two groups: the ones who don't know what they're talking about, and the ones who willfully look away from what they know. That second group is made up mostly of Israelis themselves, because in order to know what's going on you need to know Hebrew, and you need to see the full context, and those two are hard to do from far away - so we're talking about the Amira Hasses and the Gideon Levys and a large chunk of the so-called "human rights" mafia. The first group is everybody else, and as we all know, it's a very large group.

Here's an example of what context means.

Yesterday a Palestinian child, 11-year-old Ahmen Moussa, was killed by a shot to the head. The IDF concedes that the shot came from our side, so this isn't one of those cases where responsibility for the death is contested. The full circumstances are not clear, and could range anywhere from the intentional and cold-blooded shooting of a child to a stray bullet accidentally shot from an IDF weapon as its bearer was ducking Palestinian projectiles (one of which took out the eye of one of the IDF troops at the same event yesterday).

So far so bad. Even once the immediate context is clarified, however, there's still the broader context. For example, the fact that this article appeared on the front page of Haaretz this morning: Amos Harel (a serious and knowledgeable reporter), "Israeli security forces losing control in the West Bank".
Recent protests around the village of Na'alin in opposition to the separation fence seem to show a loss of control... However, a series of events - the shooting of a bound Palestinian protester; two Military Police probes; and as of Tuesday the suspension of a battalion commander - show a worrying and dangerous downward spiral. The fact that these happenings are taking place under increased scrutiny by the international media encourages the opponents of the fence to ratchet up the conflict. Apparently, it also increases pressure on IDF officers, who are having difficulty keeping events in check.
No mincing words there. The situation is bad, and seems to be getting worse. And indeed, at the end of the article Harel calls for changes to be made:
The situation in Na'alin is the kind of problem that requires the personal attention of Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as of GOC Central Command Gad Shamni. In an interview in 2004, Ashkenazi, then deputy chief of staff, said: "My greatest concern is that the IDF will lose its humanity because of the continued fighting." That has not happened to the extent Ashkenazi feared, but neither does the chief of staff's campaign to restore discipline to the IDF after the Second Lebanon War seem to have been a great success in view of the events in Na'alin.
So, the most important newspaper in the country is using its front page to demand of the head of the army that he get his act together. So far so reasonable. What I found particularly interesting, however, was this short passage:
According to IDF statistics, the boy who was shot Tuesday was the first Palestinian citizen to be killed in the West Bank this year, after the killing of 34 terrorists (the Palestinians count a number of civilians killed, but they, too, concede that the number is low). That figure reflects more care in this matter than in previous years, along with a lessening of friction with the Palestinian population. The control by PA security forces in the West Bank, as well as security coordination with the IDF, are improving.
34 dead fighters and one innocent civilian. That's one too many, of course, but it's also the sign of an army that's waging a low-level war with significant care not to harm anyone but the armed fighters facing it. During the same period 11 Israeli civilians have been murdered in Jerusalem, which ought to remind us that the IDF isn't waging a campaign against an imaginary foe; earlier this week they killed a terrorist who had dispatched a murderer into Israel some months ago and would have done so again if he'd been able to. The lessening of friction with the Palestinian populace: doesn't sound like a brutal and callous army to me, rather an army trying to figure out how to do things with as little damage as possible. The growing coordination with the PA indicates that there are another positive aspects to the story, too.

And did you see the comment about the small number of dead civilians the Palestinians claim dead at the IDF's hands, while the IDF refuses to take responsibility? Interesting, isn't it? Sometimes IDF troops kill innocent Palestinians and set up inquiries; other-times Palestinians try to blame Israel for deaths Israel didn't commit. How are you going to know who's right? If you automatically believe either side, you're potentially putting your preferences before truth. If you try to follow past experience you'll have to agree that the IDF officials don't generally lie, but that doesn't automatically mean they'll never screw up. Especially as in some cases the truth simply isn't knowable, as for example when the corpse is hurriedly buried and there's no possibility to do an autopsy to determine the type of bullet that did the killing.

Then of course you have the unquantifiables, such as how the general Israeli populace sees the whole story and its parts. If you want to damn Israel, surely you need to know that, too? Well, I can't tell you, because I don't really know - which in itself is an interesting finding.


Anonymous said...


Sorry, "context" loses.

Ya gotta learn that arabs have friends, too. And, yes. They have the media sewed up.

So, what happens? In Ni'lin they give out FREE video cameras. Which just happen to capture an incident; where a soldier got blamed for "shooting towards the toe of an blindfolded, and handcuffed, teen."

Kid's 14 years old. And, there's no excuse when this stuff is done "under the color of a uniform."

Okay. So far. So good. The commander, however, is HOLDING the teen still! This is the unexpected piece.

And, then? The commander lies. He says "he never gave the order to shoot."

I don't know about you. But if you've got commanders in the IDF who do not have to take responsibility ... But who can tag a soldier and force him to take the blame ... BOY, do you have troubles on your head YOU DID NOT NEED!

And, unfortunately, the Israelis want to be compared to the arabs, getting away with the same stuff! Instead of taking the high road. And, giving respect to authority; that authority earns in democracies.

America, by the way, purposely separates church from state. Because you can't run a decent democracy when religious nuts get involved with politics. It just does't work. And, that handwriting should'a been up there, on the wall.

Wow. Has the IDF been using up its good will FOR NO REASON AT ALL! Worse, what you're doing to the kids who HAVE TO SERVE! While the religious can keep their kids out.

Let alone, how internally, the religious folk abuse the soldiers.

It's criminal.

And, it's catching up.

Just in case you think, once you've wasted your "yarisha" you ever get it back.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

What Israel does right must be acknowledged. It is very encouraging to hear both from Israeli and Palestinian sources that the percentage of civilians among those killed by the IDF has decreased dramatically as compared to previous years.

That means Israel has people who think and people who care, people who are truly worried about the morality of the country's actions and try to do something about it.

Those people contrast with the vocal majority of those who defend Israel's actions no matter what. These self-described "staunch supporters," or, euphemisms aside, pro-Israel fanatics, never had any problem with the high numbers of civilians casualties.

Whenever a large number of civilians died, they chorused "the Palestinians use their own civilians as human shields." Well, it turns out that's not the case. The 34 terrorists killed by Israel this year could very well have been hiding among civilians, thus provoking collateral damage that would have tarnished Israel's image. But only one civilian boy was killed: it means the terrorists were NOT using human shields.

Those of us who accused the IDF of indiscriminate and disproportionate violence were right, and fortunately some people in the IDF reacted and corrected the worrying trend.

All that said, we must never lose sight of the fact that violent death is just one of the many forms of violence an army can exert. According to today's Haaretz, the official who detained the Palestinian who was shot in the foot has been identified by another Palestinian as the one who kicked him and stepped on his hands at a checkpoint. This pervasive but non-spectacular violence is a long way from being eradicated.

Also, the permanent violence of lands privately owned by Palestinians that have been forcibly turned over to the settlers continues to be a major stumbling block of any peace process, and nothing's being done to correct it.

But then again, let's rejoice at the quarter of the glass that's full. I congratulate the IDF on its efforts aimed at diminishing civilian casualties, and on the positive results.

Anonymous said...


Oh, yeah. "Unquantifiables." As if the public is sleeping. (While interestingly enough the world's press has given up. And, left Tel Aviv. Since they don't think there are stories worth reporting "to the folks back home.")

While the commander, Barburg, has now come out and said, "okay, but it was a joke."

What's so funny?

First, he hires his own poligraph-er. And, he says "he passed." He was telling the truth when he said: "Shake your gun."

And, the soldier was condemned (by Ehud Barak), to take the fall.


Later, Israelis would learn that in fact, the order to shoot was given by the commander. "But it's all a joke."

With the appropriate rabbi, I guess you can survive anything? As long as you lie. And, make stuff up as you go along.

The press is up to it's ying-yang in Adelson's billions. And, the take-over of Kadima, by Likud, almost looks complete.

Can Olmert save the day?

He's still there.

And, he knows Israel is now a country "full of grumblers." That, and religion, is setting the course.

For disaster.

Too bad truth got forgotten.

And, taking out a prime minister has turned into some sort of political game. Where Lindenhauss "rules."

Call me disgusted.

But, then, I'm an American.

And, I seem to think this stuff will have price tags on them down the line.

There's a strange comment Eleanor once made to Franklin. He had just graduated Columbia Law School. And, she asked him "if he had been Jew'ed, yet." In other words? Had lower ranking lawyers been having a field day on his head. That was the question. Not to be investigated fully.

But out there. And, EARNED.

Beware of taking down Olmert. The price tag? Israel's good will. While billionaires see a country up for grabs.

HA! Selling Bibi (with his comb over), after he lost of Olmert in the Spring of 2006, should become a more interesting soap opera, ahead.

Where it's possible Livni is now trying on Foad Ben Eliezer's shoes. Do you remember him? He took down Arik Sharon's first government. BECAUSE? He heard, in his head, people calling him "prime minister."


Okay. While you're on memory lane, do remember how Livni danced with Amir Peretz ... during what's called the "fiasco" of the 2nd Lebanese encounter.

Israelis need facts?

What for?

Another man of peace, (with Jesus being the first one), bites the dust for the Jews.

Nothing sane here. Or as Napoleon said about the Bourbons: "They learned nothing," so what's to forget?