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Thursday, March 19, 2009

“Lax Rules of Engagement”

The headlines around the world today quote the report in Haaretz about alleged “lax rules of engagement” among IDF soldiers during the recent fighting in Gaza. Needless to add, the Israeli “moral blogosphere” is already taking the higher moral ground and asking for justice.

First things first. War is unpleasant and usually leads to unpleasant things. The Torah sets rules for behaviour during a war precisely because human beings are known to lose some of their humanity in such extreme situations. One doesn’t need to be a genius, and certainly doesn’t need Haaretz, to figure out that if hundreds of civilians died in Gaza, some of them died in circumstances that are far from being pleasant.

Having said that, the outcry is morally reprehensible.

From a legal standpoint, there so-called “testimonies” are worthless. They are based on hearsay or on what the soldiers “believed” happened or “thought” about what others felt. Most of the quotes in the report describe the soldiers’ feelings and personal interpretations. Calling for legal action based on this “evidence” is ridiculous. But of course, those who see crimes in every action of the IDF don’t need much “evidence” to cry foul.

Although there might be, and there probably are, exceptions to the rule – the basic fact is that IDF soldiers are NOT killers. Unlike the Hamas, they do not shoot old women and young children intentionally. If civilians are killed, then it is most likely either a mistake or a result of erring to the side of caution in order to protect soldiers’ lives. An army that does not think first and foremost of its own side’s casualties is immoral and I wouldn’t want the IDF to engage under rules that put the life of a Palestinian above the life of an Israeli.

Most importantly, every Israeli (even those who lead the witch hunt) knows who these IDF soldiers are. Not personally, of course, but these are our sons, our neighbours, our co-workers. I have yet to see an Israeli that will look me in the eye and tell me his soldier son or neighbour or co-worker goes to Gaza and kills for the sake of killing.

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