[News] Israeli soldiers testify on army's immoral behavior in Gaza war
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 15 11:16:12 EDT 2009
Israeli soldiers testify on army's immoral behavior in Gaza war
Wednesday July 15, 2009 14:14
by Katherine Orwell - 1 of International Middle East Media Center
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A group of 29 soldiers, that served in Israel's recent assault in
Gaza, anonymously spoke out about the war crimes they committed in
Gaza. Breaking the Silence, a group of ex-soldiers, that has been
trying to break the taboo around speaking about the army's behavior,
collected their testimonies and published them in a report on Wednesday.
The testimonies reveal the use of "accepted practices," the
destruction of hundreds of houses and mosques for no military
purpose, the firing of phosphorous gas in the direction of populated
areas, the killing of innocent victims with small arms, the
destruction of private property, the use of Palestinian civilians as
human shields, and most of all, a permissive atmosphere in the
command structure that enabled soldiers to act without moral
restrictions. The testimonies demonstrate that the soldiers were not
given directives stating the goal of the operation and, as one
soldier testifies, "there was not much said about the issue of
The soldiers confessed shooting at Palestinian civilians, because of
"permissive and vague" rules of engagement. Israeli officials have
always stressed that the army had exhausted all the possible means to
prevent civilian casualties during the Gaza war, but the testimonies
of the soldiers claim the exact opposite.
"We were told soldiers were to be secured by fire-power. The soldiers
were made to understand that their lives were the most important, and
that there was no way our soldiers would get killed for the sake of
leaving civilians the benefit of the doubt," said one soldier in the report.
Many soldiers said that they fought without seeing "the enemy before
their eyes." "You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying
glass looking at ants, burning them," one of the soldiers testified
that "a 20-year-old kid should not have to do these kinds of things
to other people."
The testimonies are in line with Palestinian testimonies and the
outcomes of investigations by international human rights groups such
as Amnesty International, stating that Israel committed war crimes
with its indiscriminate and disproportionate behavior.
A limited UN investigation blamed Israel in six out of nine attacks
on UN facilities in Gaza, resulting in casualties among civilians
that had sought refuge there. A fact-finding team commissioned by the
Arab League stated there was enough evidence to indict Israel for war
crimes and crimes against humanity, and that "the Israeli political
leadership was also responsible for such crimes".
At the same time Israel denies all the allegations and sets every
report aside as biased and untrustworthy. A spokesperson of the
military says the testimonies constitute "hearsay and word of mouth",
doubting the credibility, since the testimonies were made
anonymously. Israel bases its defense on an internal investigation it
carried out itself, that came to the conclusion that the army fought
lawfully, even though in a few incidents errors did occur.
The testimonies of the soldiers largely state the opposite: Israel's
immoral behavior was not incidental, but systematic.
One testimony refers to a policy that is called "the day after". The
soldier states that this policy meant that whole areas near the
borders with Israel would be razed, to leave behind a "sterile" empty
area that would make future military operations easier. Under this
policy houses were demolished without any justification, other than
that they were located in strategic areas.
"The testimonies prove that the immoral way the war was carried out
was due to the systems in place and not the individual soldier," said
Mikhael Mankin from "Breaking the Silence. "This is an urgent call to
Israel's society and leadership to take a sober look at the
foolishness of our policies."
1414 Palestinians were killed in the three-week assault on Gaza, of
which 1177 or 83 per cent were civilians. The UN states that 50,000
homes, 200 schools, 39 mosques and two churches were damaged or destroyed.
Link to testimonies
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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