Wednesday, July 15, 2009

probably not the best advice...

according to the toronto star this morning, israeli soldiers invading the gaza strip in january received no real guidelines or rules of engagement and were encouraged to "shoot first ask questions later."

breaking the silence, an israeli organization that collected testimony from IDF soldiers on the front lines of what was called operation "cast lead" is releasing a book containing the stories of 26 israeli soldiers.

"If you're not sure – kill," confessed one of the soldiers who gave his testimony anonymously "The firepower was insane. We went in, and the booms were just mad. The minute we got to our starting line, we simply began firing at suspect places. In urban warfare, everyone is your enemy. No innocents. It was simply urban warfare in every way."

the assault, which left more than 1.300 palestinians and thirteen israelis dead, has been defended extensively by the state of israel which claims that it warned civilians to flee.

as well, despite both amnesty international and human rights watch accusing israel of war crimes in the assault, former commander of british forces in afghanistan col. richard kemp has stated that the IDF did more to diminish civilian casualities than "any other army in the history of warfare."

the head of breaking the silence, yehuda shaul(a veteran of the IDF), says that

"Very few soldiers ever heard in the briefings, `Guys – be careful about innocent people...That's the most disturbing and disappointing thing." he notes that this particular invasion of gaza was a marked departure from previous IDF practices, stating:

"Cast Lead was something different...we had an opening-fire policy... `You see something you're scared of – you shoot...' we were shocked, this is not the IDF I know."

when one soldier is asked to sum up his overall reaction to the three week operation, the toronto star reporter writes that he "waxed philosophical" when the soldier responded:

"how people are able to watch others die or suffer, how terribly easily you can grow indifferent to this. It's like you can turn yourself off, the guy's dead, let's move on."

unfortunately, what this book reveals is that soldiers respond in a way that is completely opposite to the philosophical: they live the reality of being unable to feel empathy for another human being, they feel indifferent to being responsible for death or suffering, and that probably that kind of desensitization doesn't just stay in the war zone.

there are a lot of blogs etc that post pictures or stories of IDF soldiers helping palestinians: shaking their hands and dressing their wounds. of course this happens. IDF soldiers are people as well(not to mention that they have mega public relations probably), but when captions on pictures are labelled "IDF soldier pets palestinian cat" we have to wonder how far people are willing to stretch to prove the soldier's humanity when governments and militaries do so little to protect that humanity in the first place.

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