The Israeli military once had a storied reputation for bravery, integrity and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice. Think of three Israeli tanks singlehandedly stopping the advance of the entire Syrian army into northern Israel during the 1973 war. Think of the heroic efforts of the Palmach to break the siege of Jerusalem in 1948.
Watch this video distributed by B’Tselem and originally shot by a Palestinian teenager from the window of her home, and see to what extent those hopelessly old-fashioned values have shriveled and died. The operative ones for the current Israeli military are cruelty, banality, and depravity. If you watch the video carefully, you will see the Lt. Colonel on the right move the prisoner slightly to his left to give the shooter a clear line of fire. This is disgusting beyond measure.
I repeat something learned during the Lebanon War: an army which is forced to resort to shooting unarmed, blindfolded Palestinians merely for waving a Palestinian flag, as Ashraf Abu Rahma does at the beginning of this video, is an army that has forfeited any claim to decency. What is worse–this army does a deep disservice to the nation it is supposed to defend.
I suppose one could argue that the military is doing precisely what the Israeli people want it to do. Thus the blame falls not only on the the army itself, but on all of Israel.
If you wonder why it failed its mission during the Lebanon war, you can certainly point to hopelessly inadequate leadership at the top. But you should also point to the corruption of its mission caused by playing the role of army of Occupation. It is one thing to face a resourceful, resilient foe as it did in Hezbollah in 2006; and it is something else entirely to torment unarmed civilians. I personally don’t see how the army can perform both missions without screwing up one or the other or both.
Abu Rahma was shot in the toe in this incident by a rubber-coated steel bullet. He was treated by an Israeli medic and released. B’Tselem has demanded that the Lt. Col. and shooter in this incident be brought up on charges for violating regulations and international law. Will they?
To be fair, this incident was perpetrated by the Border Police, an agency known for its extreme cruelty and depravity. The IDF usually does have higher standards than the Border Police though both have been known for acts of extreme violence against civilians.
I know a planet where such conduct is called aggravated assault, not just unspecific violation of regulations (aka “boys will be boys”). But if the past is any indicator I guess we’ll have to be content with the shooter getting a slap on the wrist, if only because the video is hopefully generating too much bad PR.
The army may have somewhat higher standards than the Border Police (what “border”?), but when it comes to harming, even killing unarmed Palestinians, their investigative, let alone prosecutional record is likewise abysmal. That’s only natural, given that since the beginning of the second intifada even investigations into killings of civilians are not mandatory anymore. It all depends on the report of the unit’s CO, who often will understandably prefer not to implicate himself, as he’s responsible for his men’s actions after all.
I’d agree that any army is constitutionally unfit to police a population, whether the own or an occupied one in what is de facto a domestic law enforcement scenario. It doesn’t matter that the OPT aren’t de jure domestic Israeli territory. A police force is supposed to enforce the law, and uphold the rule of law, against individual violators within the population the police serves. An army OTOH is trained to consider the “other”, individually and collectively, The Enemy – it serves a population different from the one in which it operates. An occupation is nothing else than low-level war.
Rupa Shah says
Mr Silverstein, Sadly, IDF has a reputation for being trigger happy and there are many instances which are on record on YouTube. e.g.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF1ibN40FJE– this is just an extreme example. Sadly there is no accountability and immediately after an incident, it is declared, IDF was at risk and later, “IT WAS A MISTAKE”. This unfortunately happens too often to believe IDF anymore and most of the time, the soldier doing the shooting never gets punished.
U.S. Citizen says
You idealize the territorial imperative of 1948 while you lament IDF troops acting like barbarians today. You think something has changed in the character of Israelis, but that is only in your mind. In actuality nothing has changed. Jews were brutal usurpers in 1948 and they are still usurpers in 2008.
It is as if you’ve got your hand stuck in a monkey trap, and all you have to do is let go of the banana in order to gain your freedom.
Israel is not a means toward some idealized end. Israel is the sum total of the means that it uses to put itself before Palestine. It can never be anything more than that.
Richard Silverstein says
To say something this preposterous, shows that you don’t have a clue about my views of 1948. You’re just making it up out of whole cloth.