New accusations have emerged in Israel of the IDF recklessly disregarding civilian lives and coming close to targeting them:
When asked why that elderly woman was killed, a squad commander was quoted as saying: “What’s great about Gaza — you see a person on a path, he doesn’t have to be armed, you can simply shoot him. In our case it was an old woman on whom I did not see any weapon when I looked. The order was to take down the person, this woman, the minute you see her. There are always warnings, there is always the saying, ‘Maybe he’s a terrorist.’ What I felt was, there was a lot of thirst for blood.”
It seems to me these accusations are credible, for one simple reason: we didn’t hear them at all during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 or the Lebanon War in 2006. Right after Jenin, Israel faced all kinds of accusations of massacres from the usual suspects, and none of them turned out to be true.
This is different. It’s coming from Israeli soldiers:
Amir Marmor, a 33-year-old history graduate student in Jerusalem and a military reservist, said in an interview with The New York Times that he was stunned to discover the way civilian casualties were discussed in training discussions before his tank unit entered Gaza in January. “Shoot and don’t worry about the consequences,” was the message from the top commanders, he said. Speaking of a lieutenant colonel who briefed the troops, Mr. Marmor said, “His whole demeanor was extremely gung ho. This is very, very different from my usual experience. I have been doing reserve duty for 12 years, and it was always an issue how to avoid causing civilian injuries. He said in this operation we are not taking any chances. Morality aside, we have to do our job. We will cry about it later.”
Even assuming these charges are true, we don’t know how extensive they are. One crime is too many, but the incidents may be isolated. Israeli newspapers promised more such accounts, but have specifically declined to say how many there are.
That said, it represents a very disturbing trend, the military equivalent of Avigdor Lieberman’s rise. Andrew Sullivan says that this means Israel is being “cheneyed.” I wish that were true, because it suggests that it derives from US influence. Instead, it may reflect a downward moral spiral in Israeli culture — one that cannot be changed by a new US President. Sullivan notes wisely that “war crimes happen in every war – and that the way to judge a society is how it handles such things.” Somehow, a Netanyahu-Lieberman government doesn’t make me very hopeful.