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We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that, among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. -July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence

 

Home arrow Blog arrow February 2010 arrow February 3, 2010

February 3, 2010
February 3, 2010: Smoking Guns and Bulls-eyes: Israel rewrote the rules of War for Gaza 


On February 3, 2010, The Independent reported that a high-ranking officer who served as a commander during Operation Cast Lead, admitted that Israel’s army went beyond its previous rules of engagement on the protection of civilian lives and “that he did not regard the longstanding principle of military conduct known as ‘means and intentions’– whereby a targeted suspect must have a weapon and show signs of intending to use it before being fired upon – as being applicable before calling in fire from drones and helicopters in Gaza last winter.” [1]



A junior officer described the new policy as one of "literally zero risk to the soldiers.” [Ibid]

 

Israeli human rights lawyers, Michael Sfard, commented that the senior commander's acknowledgement was "a smoking gun.”

 

 

That gun has been smoking since July 2009, when 54 testimonies from Israeli soldiers regarding their experiences during Operation Cast Lead were published by the Israeli human rights group, Breaking the Silence, exposed the gaps between the reports given by the army in January 2009 and “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, and most of all, a permissive atmosphere in the command structure that enabled soldiers to act without moral restrictions.” [2]

 

Their testimonies illuminated that the soldiers were not given directives regarding the goal of the operation and, one soldier testified, "there was not much said about the issue of innocent civilians."

Many soldiers said that they fought without seeing "the enemy before their eyes."

 

Another said, "You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them, a 20-year-old kid should not have to do these kinds of things to other people."

 


Mikhael Manekin, was discharged from the IDF in 2002 and is now the Foreign Relations Manager for Breaking The Silence/BTS.

 

In July 2009, Maniken fired and hit the bull’s-eye when he stated, "The testimonies prove that the immoral way the war was carried out was due to the systems in place and not the individual soldier...through the IDF the exception becomes the norm, and this requires a deep and reflective discussion. This is an urgent call to Israel's society and leadership to take a sober look at the foolishness of our policies."

 

 

On August 8, 2009, Rob Lipton reported that Netanyahu asked Spain, Britain and The Netherlands to stop funding Breaking The Silence, which is made up of former Israeli soldiers who served in the occupied territories over the last ten years.

 

The accounts by the soldiers are harrowing and document war crimes.  The Israeli government claims that governmental support of ‘politicized’ NGOs undermines democracy in the Jewish state [and] that foreign governmental funding of non-governmental institutions that are ostensibly working ‘against’ the interests of the duly elected government are undemocratic.” [3]

 

 

 

Don Futterman, program director of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation working in Israel to support civil society and democracy, immigrant absorption and education, hit another bull’s-eye:

 

“If our defense minister (Avigor Lieberman) wants us to live up to the claim that the IDF is ‘the most moral army on earth,’ he should welcome soldiers who speak out about illegal acts that they have witnessed or were asked to perform. In our post-war rush to elections, we unfortunately - and perhaps, conveniently - skipped over any discussion concerning the morality of what the army has done. But even our fears of one-sided international condemnation of our actions in Gaza cannot justify official attempts to silence the messenger, especially when that messenger is us.”

Don Futterman also argued that, “BTS is not an advocacy organization, it is made up of IDF reservists who have served in the territories during their regular military service over the last nine years. In addition to recognizing the harm we are doing to our Palestinian neighbors, the organization urges us to look closely at the damage we are doing to our own soldiers when they are asked to engage in acts of questionable morality or legality. BTS gathers and then publicizes testimony in both words and pictures from soldiers who are willing to come forward. The organization makes every effort to check the veracity of these testimonies, and will not publish any soldier’s comments unless it has corroborating testimony from at least one other reliable source.

“[What] the government and the IDF find intolerable [is] opposition to their attempts to control the discourse concerning Israel’s behavior in the territories.

 

“Our government (Israel) should welcome other expressions of foreign support for our civil society, not attempt to control it. If the United Kingdom or Spain or any other state wants to be a true friend to Israeli democracy, it will renew its commitment to BTS.”

 

Bans on foreign government support of NGOs is a characteristic of dictatorships, and Israel was never a democracy, but has always been an Ethnocracy:


"An ethnocracy is the opposite of a democracy, although it might incorporate some elements of democracy such as universal citizenship and elections. It arises when one particular group-the Jews in Israel, the Russians in Russia, the Protestants in pre-1972 Northern Ireland, the whites in apartheid South Africa, the Shi’ite Muslims in Iran, the Malay in Malaysia and, if they had their way, the white Christian fundamentalists in the US-seize control of the government and armed forces in order to enforce a regime of exclusive privilege over other groups in what is in fact a multi-ethnic or multi-religious society. Ethnocracy, or ethno-nationalism, privileges ethnos over demos, whereby one’s ethnic affiliation, be it defined by race, descent, religion, language or national origin, takes precedence over citizenship in determining to whom a county actually 'belongs.-Jeff Halper, An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel, Page 74.


"The terms ‘democracy’ or ‘democratic’ are totally absent from the Declaration of Independence. This is not an accident. The intention of Zionism was not to bring democracy, needless to say. It was solely motivated by the creation in Eretz-Isrel of a Jewish state belonging to all the Jewish people and to the Jewish people alone. This is why any Jew of the Diaspora has the right to immigrate to Israel and to become a citizen of Israel."- Ariel Sharon, May 28, 1993 edition of Yedioth Ahronoth.

 

 


On July 27, 2007, during the last day of my fifth out of seven trips to Israel Palestine, Mikhael Manekin, informed this reporter:

 

"I am a practicing Jew and in two weeks we go into the month of repentance; which requires acknowledging our sins. We cannot change things until we acknowledge our culpability.

"The problem is government policy that is implemented by young soldiers and whenever religion is involved, we will have fundamentalism. The Israeli peace and justice activists are less than 1% of Israeli society and anybody who is an activist is an optimist. You cannot do anything if you do not believe you can do something to change the situation. We have to remind ourselves that we are the minority; [it appears that] we are loosing, but we remind ourselves we are right!

 

"Everybody in Israel knows somebody who has served in the occupied territories. The situation in 2007 is worse than 2006 and it looks worse for 2008, but more and more activists-like Anarchists Against the Wall and Tayoush are actively working with Palestinians against the occupation, they are not afraid to travel in the occupied territories and are learning Arabic. Two, three years ago you wouldn't have heard anything; but now every week Israelis are getting arrested for fighting the occupation.

 

"A few years ago, the soldiers you have encountered at the checkpoints would have been me. Soldiers like myself who served during the second intifada, got our education on the job. You all have visited more places [the past nine days] than most Israelis ever have. Israeli's have no idea what is happening in the occupied territories. But, so far in 2007 we have given more Israeli's a tour through Hebron than we did in 2005 and 2006 combined. Hebron is a ghost town, the settlers are unbearable and every soldier who is stationed there understands the 600 settlers there are psychotic; insane. 

 

"I became very opinionated while in the army, but I kept it all to myself. Nobody talks about it in the army and I was the commander and did not know until after I got out that one of the other soldiers in my unit was feeling the same way, until he gave his testimony. Israeli society wants you to believe you are a bad apple for speaking out because unless you trust the system, it will fall apart. Most Israelis who get out of the army leave the country and are probably all drugged out. They suffer post traumatic syndrome but we are the victimizers. My age group is getting the hell out of here or walling themselves off from society and are not involved in anything.

 

"Over 450 former soldiers have now given their testimonies and we don't publish any stories without the corroboration coming from another former soldier and the testimonies are kept anonymous.

 

"You have to understand you must preach to your own people; we want to shake up the comfortable people who may agree with us in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but are not activists yet."

 

 

 

1. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israeli-commander-we-rewrote-the-rules-of-war-for-gaza-1887627.html

2. http://www.wearewideawake.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1344&Itemid=222

3. http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2009/08/08/netanyahus-attempts-to-silence-breaking-the-silence/

4. http://www.wearewideawake.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=595&Itemid=169

 


Eileen Fleming,
Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org
A Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com
Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"  Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"

 


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