Saturday 11 April 2009

Why I am Proud of the IDF

I have written on numerous occasions that I believe that a Jewish army is essential for the survival of the Jewish people. The Israel Defence Force (IDF) is this Jewish army. Unfortunately the IDF has come under a great deal of international criticism recently. It stands accused of mistreating the Palestinians, of acting in an inhumane manner, of targeting civilians during its battle activities, of destroying civilian homes and property in an unnecessary way. Numerous of its commanders cannot travel to European countries for fear of being arrested under a variety of war crimes arraignments that have been authorised. Perhaps we might expect this reaction from certain members of the gentile community who have shown themselves to be anti-Jewish and anti-Israel at every opportunity. For me, what is more disappointing that this is the fact that there are so many Jews around the world who have been convinced to believe the anti-IDF propaganda, and who actively speak out against the IDF. I wish to try to create a little more balance by explaining why I am proud of the IDF.

Many will believe that I have a strong bias in favour of the IDF by virtue of living in Israel and, therefore, relying upon the Jewish army for my personal protection. This may indeed be true. I will try to present a more factual account of how I view the IDF. Inevitably, it will be difficult for me to remove my own emotions and personally-held views from my account.

Let me start by saying that the IDF is not a perfect organisation. It has many flaws. But this is to be expected in any organisation of this size. The IDF currently numbers approximately 175,000 soldiers and staff, most of whom are drafted conscripts and serve their compulsory 3 years for boys and 2 years for girls. In any organisation that numbers 175,000, it is clear that there will be individuals in this organisation who are less than fit for purpose. And this is where each person is handpicked according to strict recruitment criteria. Imagine the situation where an organisation is forced to recruit all-comers to fill jobs. This is the case with the IDF. Whilst certain recruits are rejected due to their lack of suitability to serve, it is inevitable that recruits to the IDF include petty thieves, drug addicts and drug dealers, people with psychological problems, people who are unable or unwilling to submit to authority and people who hold extreme political and religious views on or side or other of the spectrum. The IDF is required to take this mixed bag of recruits and mould them into a fighting unit that can operate under the most extreme battle conditions. All of this for the very survival of Israel and Jews around the world. As with any army or other organisations, such "rogues" can ruin the best-laid plans of the IDF.

Despite its almost impossible task, the IDF has succeeded in building a very effective fighting force. This is an army that designs, manufactures and uses much of its own military hardware and technology. This is an army that is forced to operate under the most testing and extreme of conditions where opposing soldiers masquerade as civilians in order to exploit the IDF policy of avoiding civilian casualties, almost at any price. It is forced to respond to enemy soldiers who operate from civilian neighbourhoods, who fire mortar shells from private apartments and who use women and children to shield themselves from IDF responsibilities. These are the same people who find it acceptable to strap suicide bombing belts to women, and to hide them in ambulances to transport them to their destinations. The targeted sites for such suicide bombs are frequently restaurants, shopping malls and buses which are used by non-military people trying to conduct their daily lives.

And yet, the IDF largely manages to conduct itself in a manner that is exemplary. When all the misinformation is removed from the reports of the Gaza operation Cast Lead, it becomes clear that no schools or civilian targets were hit by the IDF even though many were used as bases to attack them. It is now known that the number of casualties, and particularly the number of civilian casualties, were highly exaggerated. Ultimately, most of those killed in Cast Lead were enemy soldiers operating against the IDF. And the number of attacks that were halted at the last minute in order to avoid the possibility of civilian casualties will never be known to the general public.

In the year 2009, Israel should not be called upon to justify her continued existence in international community. Much more important, she should not have to battle every day to secure her existence against the forces that wish to see her destroyed. And yet, this is Israel's reality. Under these circumstances, the IDF is forced to fight a battle to secure Israel's existence. Inevitably, there will be episodes from the battlefield that do not show the IDF in a good light. For the most part, the work done by the IDF and the principles that the army adheres to are to its credit, and often beyond the call of duty.

This makes me feel proud of the IDF, and I call upon all Jews to support Jewish army and its soldiers as they undertake an important and enormously difficult job.

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