And the IDF’s responses grow more absurd.
Yet another human rights organization has condemned the actions of the Israeli army in Operation Cast Lead. Unlike such groups as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, however, Breaking the Silence’s report is based exclusively on the testimony of active Israeli soldiers.
The testimonies—twenty-six in all—describe the use of “the ‘Neighbor Procedure’ [i.e., using civilians as human shields] and of white phosphorus ammunition in densely inhabited neighborhoods, massive destruction of buildings unrelated to any direct threat to Israeli forces, and permissive rules of engagement that led to the killing of innocents.” (The full report can be found here, a summary by The Independent here.)
Not surprisingly, the IDF (Israel Defense Force) has condemned the report: “The IDF Spokesperson Unit regrets the fact that yet another human rights organization is presenting to Israel and the world a report based on anonymous and general testimonies, without investigating their details or credibility. Furthermore, this organization denied the IDF the minimal decency of presenting the report to the IDF and allowing it to investigate the testimonies prior to the report's publication.”
What’s so ludicrous about the IDF’s response is that it assumes that it’s capable of conducting an objective investigation of itself. Assuming no more than the principle of self-interest, it should be obvious that any internal IDF investigation would end up echoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s claim that the IDF is “the most moral army in the world.” We’ve already witnessed numerous examples of this.
In March, for instance, Ha’aretz obtained, and subsequently made public, the transcript of some Operation Cast Lead veterans speaking to students at the Yitzhak Rabin Military Academy. Among other things, the soldiers described how numerous homes were wantonly destroyed and how civilians were killed “under permissive rules of engagement.” After a speedy, eleven-day investigation, the IDF claimed—surprise, surprise—that “the crucial components” of the soldiers’ “descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by specific personal knowledge.”
The following month, the IDF revealed the results of another internal investigation, this one partially prompted by a Human Rights Watch report which said that the IDF had “repeatedly exploded white phosphorus munitions in the air over populated areas [which constitutes a war crime], killing and injuring civilians, and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse and a hospital.” Again, the IDF absolved itself, claiming that it had only used white phosphorus in accordance with international law.
So now the IDF has the audacity to scold Breaking the Silence for not giving it enough time to conduct its own investigation into the matter?
Equally absurd to this demand is the IDF’s complaint that Breaking the Silence has based its report on anonymous testimonies. Yes, the testimonies are anonymous, but they are corroborated by numerous other testimonies and investigations. We’ve already looked at the claims made by the soldiers at the Rabin Academy, as well as Human Rights Watch. Additionally, B’Tselem, an Israeli-based human rights group, has noted that the testimonies given to Breaking the Silence are “very similar” to those given to B’Tselem by numerous Palestinian civilians. And Amnesty International has concluded that “Israeli forces repeatedly breached the laws of war, including by carrying out direct attacks on civilians and civilian buildings and attacks targeting Palestinian militants that caused a disproportionate toll among civilians.”
But, of course, no amount of evidence will make the IDF—or its intransigent apologists—admit that it’s ever done anything wrong. As Israeli journalist Larry Derfner writes, mocking his compatriots: “It doesn’t matter who tells us the truth about what we did in Gaza—we’ll deny it. If the entire IDF General Staff called a news conference and admitted that the evidence were true, we’d say they’re leftists, they’re kissing up to Obama, they’re lying. Even if our own sons tell us it’s true, we’ll tell them they’re lying. We’re telling that to another 26 of them right now.”