Sunday, March 22, 2009

israeli atrocities in gaza

Israeli soldiers have reported atrocities in the Gaza War, including the shooting of civilians without adequate efforts at identification and a generally indifferent attitude toward civilian casualties. The reports are to some degree compromised as they appear to originate with a training program run by a left-leaning individual with a beef against the increasingly religious/messianic caste of the Army, especially in the elite combat units. Nevertheless, the reports are broadly consistent with the findings of neutral observers, and are being taken seriously by most involved.

Having followed the war (including Hebrew broadcasts) pretty closely, I have long suggested that there was a somewhat trigger-happy approach in Zahal (the Israel Defense Forces), borne out of a desire to minimize Israeli casualties and avoid the domestic political opposition that characterized the Second Lebanon War. The important thing, I think, is that this matter be investigated by people--Israelis and others--who can be trusted to take an objective view of the issue and not use it as a wedge for anti-Israel (or for that matter, pro-Israel) propaganda. Such people would, for example, take seriously the special nature of the operation--a war against urban guerillas/terrorists rather than a uniformed army--neither ignoring this factor nor using it as an excuse for any and all Israeli misbehavior. In this latter sense, if nothing else, discussion of the issue within Israel is an encouraging sign.

A less encouraging sign is the use of the issue as a club for the usual religious-secular rivalry in Israeli society. The NY Times "Week in Review" ran an article today suggesting that atrocities may have been encouraged or condoned by religious fanatics (including rabbis and others) who inculcated soldiers with a sense of religious war. The problem with this analysis is that there were an equal if not larger number of similar allegations involving Israeli (and Arab) forces when secularists were firmly in control of the Army and society. A neutral investigation should be run by people who can see beyond such prejudices to the facts at hand.


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