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Israel’s Goldstone report: not so good

Posted By Obadiah Shoher On July 30, 2010 @ 7:46 pm In military matters | 1 Comment

Israel’s legal system is extremely tilted against the army. Direct oversight of military prosecution by the pro-Oslo Supreme Court ensures indictment for the slightest transgressions. After the Supreme Court orders the Military Attorney General to indict, a lower court has no practical choice but to convict.

Military prosecution can be ordered by the Military Attorney General, his civilian counterpart, or the Supreme Court. Typically, one of them finds sufficient reason for indictment. Soldiers are thus three times more likely to be indicted than common criminals.

Enemy civilians are allowed to sue IDF soldiers in Israeli courts. In practice, these civilians often act as Hamas and Fatah proxies, allowing the terrorist groups to sue the army for conducting antiterrorist operations. Israel allows NGOs unrestricted access to the courts without substantially requiring them to establish that their rights have been violated—as opposed to the rights of abstract civilians. Since political NGOs are predominantly ultra-left and petition the ultra-left court, the outcome is pre-ordained.

The Israeli Gaza report dispels the government lie that Israel undertook the investigation of incidents in Gaza on her own. The report repeatedly answers charges “discussed in the HRC report.”

Prosecution of soldiers in deference to the Muslim-dominated UNHRC is a major breach of trust. Before entering Gaza, the soldiers were explicitly given carte blanche by their commanders. Their persecution for imagined crimes is still more despicable in light of IDF’s routine clashes with Gazans. The government refuses to treat the situation as war.

The number of criminal cases opened—forty-seven—is huge given the war’s short duration and the small number of troops involved. In per-soldier, per-day terms, the ratio of Israeli criminal investigations vastly exceeds the American ratio in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In one case, two IDF soldiers were indicted for making a human shield out of a Palestinian teenager. Jewish religious law is unequivocal: the soldiers had the right to protect themselves. But there is another question: if the risk was so great that the human shield was expected to be killed, why were the soldiers sent in the first place? A situation so dangerous calls for bombing the place. So, either the risk to the Arab was negligible, or the politically correct commander is guilty of unnecessarily endangering his soldiers. When a society sends its teenagers to protect its grown-up voters, our least duty is to minimize the risk to those we send to protect us.

But the madness is, IDF actually mandates the use of human shields—of Jews to protect Arab detainees! The soldiers must surround the detainees and thus walk them to the camp. One reason for this absurdity is to prevent escape without having to shoot, as any army or police force does. But another objective is to prevent the enemy from killing the prisoners.
IDF officially sanctions the use of human shields. According to the army’s doctrine, military operations are to be aborted when they are likely to inflict disproportional civilian damage. That is an invitation to Hamas to build their strongholds in schools and hospitals. Since the Strip is home to 750 UN facilities, and another 1,200 schools, hospitals, mosques, and other such hands-off structures, Hamas will find no shortage of places to hide in the next war.

Is there anything worse? Sure. Shelling is prohibited even in the vicinity of hospitals, markets, and other sensitive buildings, even if terrorists present a clear target (par.69 of the report). The presence of enemy civilians even on adjacent streets similarly prevents an attack (par.70).

One soldier was indicted for looting. Jewish law permits the looting of enemies. In the few instances where looting has been prohibited, God has told us so explicitly. That might not be nice Jewish behavior, but war is not just. When sending young Jews into urban battles, the country cannot demand that they act like saints.

Two commanders were punished for approving the use of explosive shells in violation of… safety distances in urban areas! “Safety distance for explosive shells”; talk about oxymorons. The war was conducted almost entirely in urban areas. According to the report, explosive shells can only be used where they cannot cause harm. If you thought that shells could be at least be used against empty houses, think again. Changes in army doctrine are meant to minimize damage to civilian property. Never mind the impractically high cost of targeted munitions.

Reacting to the outcry over some damage to the UN’s compound, IDF severely restricted the use of white phosphorus shells in populated areas. There is so far no adequate substitute for the use of phosphorus as a smoke-screen, and the ban greatly endangers our troops.

In an almost Goldstonian manner, the report speaks about Palestinian witnesses who refused to testify in Israeli courts, thus making indictment futile. It is improbable, though, that any Gazans refused to join a witch-hunt against Israeli soldiers. The truth is transparent: they signed off on whatever complaints Hamas had prepared for them, but knew that they would not be able to sustain their lies under interrogation. Israeli investigators could not bring themselves to say clearly that most of the incidents were fabricated. Instead of dispelling the Goldstone allegations, the investigators concentrated on confirming them, even if only partially.

The hundreds of Arabs who gave false testimony won’t be punished, even though they lied to investigators in Israeli territory at the Erez Crossing. Witnesses were provided with immunity; they were not questioned beyond the scope of their complaints. If the prosecution had only upheld Israeli law and questioned the complainants about the entire range of relevant information, including their terrorist affiliations, next to no testimonies would have been recorded.

Israeli investigators exhibited unreasonable zeal in prosecuting our soldiers. In one case, Goldstone accused IDF of ordering a Palestinian teenager to open suspicious packages. The name and whereabouts of this teenager were unknown. What does a normal prosecutor do when there is no victim? Right, he ignores the complaint. Not the Jews. The investigators invested great effort in finding the kid, who was allowed to testify in the presence of his mother, which would allow him to sustain the lie. He will not be cross-examined in the Israeli court where the two soldiers are now on trial.

The Jewish insanity went beyond not endangering enemy civilians. A Lieutenant Colonel was punished for merely allowing an Arab to take a small risk. The Arab, Abd Rabbo, went into a neighboring house to talk the terrorists hiding there into peaceful surrender so that his own house would not be damaged by bombing. The Jewish commander’s only crime was not preventing the Arab from doing so. Abd Rabbo was found to be lying like hell on other allegations. The commander allowed him to save his own house. Even the strictest interpretation of wartime law only prohibits soldiers from involving civilians in armed conflict; it does not call for preventing civilians from involving themselves.

The report proudly mentions that the Israeli government settled its financial issues with the UN over the damage done to some UN properties in Gaza. Our decidedly immoral government did not ask the UN to compensate us for the attacks on our homeland that were launched from UNRWA refugee camps.

Speaking of shelling the Fakhura UN compound, the report mentions approvingly that the commander exposed his unit to Hamas mortar fire for a long time while he attempted to organize a retaliatory strike in such a way as to cause minimal damage to civilian property. Dereliction of duty would not be too strong a name for the actions of a commander who valued enemy property over the lives of his soldiers. Grudgingly asserting that the commander committed no crime in inflicting collateral damage, the report urged further tightening of the rules of engagement. The army complied.

The extent to which the IDF finds it acceptable to endanger its soldiers can be seen from the Sawafeary incident, in which the army razed chicken coops to provide for a mere 20–50 meter security zone. Political correctness prevented them from razing the neighboring orchards to provide for meaningful visibility. This willingness to risk our soldiers is odd, considering the government’s equal willingness to exchange a kidnapped corporal for a thousand terrorists.

In the Maqadma incident, the army fired two missiles into a group of terrorists, who later appeared to have been standing near a mosque. One officer was punished for not telling his superiors that he suspected the building to be a mosque—as if that should make any difference during a pursuit of terrorists. Two other officers were punished for approving the use of more powerful missiles because less powerful ones were not available. Even the investigators say they have found nothing wrong with the officers’ decision—but they recommended sanctioning them anyway.

On the day that the IDF fired two “wrong” missiles at Maqadma, 39 rockets from Gaza his Israeli population areas. Unlike the IDF, Hamas commended its men.

The report suggests avoiding future strikes like an excellent strike at Hamas police stations in the opening minutes of the war. The IDF, investigators say, was not aware of the market nearby where some Arabs were killed during the strike. Presumably, had they known about the market, the army would have aborted the strike and spared dozens of militants.

Fake war requires fake munitions, and the IDF developed them: dud and delay-fuse bombs. Dud bombs warn terrorists to flee their houses before the real bombs are used. Delay fuse bombs similarly allow the targeted militants to escape, though their proper use is in a bunker-buster action, in which the bomb detonates after breaking the roof.

In the Abd al Dayem incident, Jews were accused of murdering Palestinian mourners. Investigators concluded that the tank crews could not see the civilians, and therefore legitimately used flechette munitions against Palestinian rocket crews. That reasoning implies that the soldiers would have been obligated not to use the best available munitions if they had known about civilians. To the report’s authors, a a Grad rocket fired at Jewish population centers is more acceptable than the death of Arab civilians.

In one aspect, the rules of engagement in Gaza were more strict than Israeli peacetime practice. Soldiers were prohibited from destroying property in deterrence and retribution, though Israel destroys the houses of suicide terrorists in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

True, the world urged that investigation on us, and the government lacked the guts to ignore those demands. But the objective is to show a degree of compliance with idealistic “humanitarian law,” never practiced by any army in real combat. Complying with that law is wrong and dangerous. Israeli investigators must target complainants rather than soldiers. They must act as the soldiers’ attorneys rather than prosecutors. They should seek exonerating rather than incriminating evidence. Any other attitude will eventually make fighting impossible.


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