The Israeli military prosecutor has filed the most serious charge ever against an IDF officer regarding the Gaza massacre, Operation Cast Lead. The charge of manslaughter against the Givati staff sergeant known only by the initials, C.S., (from his light-skinned complexion and blond hair, he appears to be of Russian origin) in the military indictment as released to the public, comes two years after the war and in the aftermath of the Goldstone Report. In fact, one could say the officer is the equivalent of the Yom Kippur goat sent to Azazel, a sacrificial victim whose guilt will assuage international pressure and prevent the indictment of higher-ups who, by right, are the ones who really should be in the dock.
Not that C.S.’ behavior is anything worth defending. The accusation is that while positioned next to his commanding officer he shot two Palestinian women holding white flags and that he did so without authorization from the commander.
Here is the victims’ family’s account of the incident from Ynetnews:
Youssef Abu Hajaj will never forget the day he lost his mother and sister. In the early hours of January 4, 2009, his family’s home near Gaza City was shelled. “My 13-year-old niece was injured so we rushed through the trees and bushes to the Safadi family’s home. We were looking for a hiding place a little further from the tanks,” he told Ynet.
Then came the incident over which an Israel Defense Forces soldier is slated to stand trial for Operation Cast Lead’s most severe violation, and is likely to face charges of manslaughter.
Hajaj said residents of the neighborhood were instructed to evacuate the area in the afternoon. “My sister Majda and Ahmad Safadi, the man who we were staying with, were waving white flags that were cut from sheets. We walked some 400 meters and then we were fired at.
“We fled again in the direction of the Safadi family home, but some 300 or 400 meters later, as we were returning in a group of 27 people, half of which were children – they opened fire at us again.”
He said his 35-year-old sister Majda, who was carrying a white flag, was hit in the shooting. “The fire was so intense that we had to leave her behind. My mother shouted, ‘Majda has fallen, Majda has fallen’. We prayed for her and kept going. Some 100 meters on there was another blow of fire, and this time, the bullets hit my mother Raya, 64-years-old, in her chest. She collapsed and we were forced to leave her behind as well.”
Hajaj said there was nothing unusual about their movement. “We were in a completely open area, but they still opened fire. We returned to the Safadi family’s home until the end of the war, and all attempts to coordinate the removal of the bodies were unsuccessful. Only at the end of the war, over two weeks afterwards, did we bury my mother and my sister.”
In his defense, the officer claims he felt the group of unarmed Gaza civilians waving white flags and walking toward him were a potential threat to his comrades and that he fired at their lower body. The mother who was killed was shot in the chest.
C.S. was only questioned about the incident by investigators in 2009, doubtless as a result of the Goldstone Report. Were it not for that and the testimonies compiled by B’Tselem of this and other incidents, the officer would’ve gotten away with impunity. A lieutenant colonel and captain will also be disciplined in this incident. Most likely their membership in the officer’s club will be suspended for a week (that’s a joke, I realize there likely isn’t an IDF officer’s club).
Sergeant C.S. must feel gratified to know that there is a Facebook group established to defend his honor, Alone Against All: Supporting S. in His Legal Fight. One commenter on the Wall notes they explored NGOs that might help but that “there weren’t many whose mission was to help soldiers in this type of trouble.” Hmmm. I wonder why. Perhaps they haven’t heard of Honenu, which is right up their alley. Settler Assassin? Call Honenu. Killed an Arab or prime minister in cold blood? Call Honenu. Committed a war crime? Call Honenu.
Ynet misleadingly labels this the worst case from Cast Lead, when in reality it is the worst one in which charges have been filed. Goldstone and B’Tselem have identified other cases even worse (notably the Samouni massacre, the mosque bombing, and the UNWRA white phosphorus attack) but no charges have yet been filed in those cases.
Reasonable people will feel a sense of gratitude to Israeli NGOs like B’Tselem without which this case would’ve gone unnoticed. For right-wing Israelis however, this is precisely the reason such NGOs should be driven out of existence. I know which side I’m on.
H/t to reader Yakov.