Tuesday 13 October 2009

Soldiers Speak Out

The Goldstone Commission has brought into sharp focus the behaviour of the Israel Defence Force (IDF) during the recent Gaza War, Operation Cast Lead. It has questioned the culture of the IDF and the conduct of individual soldiers in carrying out their orders.

Goldstone has painted the IDF as an army without morals. He has depicted it as a force that purposefully pursues civilian targets in the worst case or, in the best case, disregards the consequences on civilians of the actions it takes. Those of us who are closer to the daily activities of the IDF know that nothing could be further from the truth. We know that the IDF is an organisation that often takes risks to protect enemy civilians even though this could risk the lives of Israeli soldiers and civilians. How can it be that Goldstone and his associates do not see this. After all, comparing the behaviour of Hamas to that of the IDF is like comparing day to night.

I have been sent details of an interesting website that illustrates this point (thanks Ivan). The website - Soldiers Speak Out - carries the testimonies of various Israeli soldiers from their combat experience. Some of the stories worry me because it sometimes seems that the care for the enemy civilians far oversteps the line of reasonableness. In some of the stories, the risks to Israelis by protecting Palestinian civilians was far too great. In my view, the IDF is there to protect Israelis in the first instance, then consider the protection of Palestinian civilians. On the other hand, I gained great strength from realising that the IDF has morals, has a conscience and a heart. This is both at an institutional level as well as at the individual level. Even though the job of a soldier demands a certain amount of heartlessness, the IDF has shown that it is not required to lose your humanity to do a good job as a soldier. In fact, sometimes being human adds to the qualities of a soldier.

Please go to the website and please listen to the stories. It is important to show just how wrong and unjust the Goldstone Report really is.


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