Thursday, March 19, 2009

Something Rotten in the IDF

Ha'aretz published very disturbing soldiers' accounts from the operation in Gaza today (in Hebrew and in English), with more details coming out in tomorrow's weekend magazine. Even if you think Cast Lead was justified, like I do, the practices the soldiers speak of are unjustifiable. The article paints a clear picture of disregard for human life, excessive force, and in many cases, racism towards the Palestinians. This has to change.

A few years ago I attended a "mesibat gius", an "enlistment party", for a relative who was joining a combat unit. People gave him various tips about army life. Several people told him to always remember the Palestinians were humans, not just automatic terrorist suspects. I remember one person saying that "once you forget the Palestinian civilians are human, you also forget that you're human". It seems to me that kind of message needs to be an integral part of the training of combat soldiers.

Today's Haaretz editorial (Hebrew version here) calls for an external investigation:

"The IDF's internal investigations, which are moving ahead very slowly, are not enough. The army is absorbing more and more religious extremism from the teachings of the IDF's rabbinate. It would be appropriate to investigate the problems from outside the IDF and root them out before the rot destroys the IDF and Israeli society."
I couldn't agree more. An investigative committee like the one set up after the Second Lebanon War should be set up, but this one should be focused on the moral and ethical aspects of the operation and IDF soldiers' training in general.

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