Friday, March 20, 2009
With such blatantly racist attitudes towards Palestinians, it is any wonder that Israeli troops in Gaza went on a killing spree? With the passage of time, we are discovering what the IDF really did there:
Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children's graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques - these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription "Better use Durex," next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter's T-shirt from the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, "1 shot, 2 kills." A "graduation" shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, "No matter how it begins, we'll put an end to it."
There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, "Bet you got raped!" A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies - such as "confirming the kill" (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim's head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.
Of course, this shouldn't be that surprising to us. Our troops engaged in similar practices in attempting to suppress the Iraqi insurgency. Indeed, the practice of permitting troops to engage in indiscriminate violence against civilians as a purported means of self-protection has been commonly accepted by the US military for a long time.
A squad leader said: "At the beginning the directive was to enter a house with an armoured vehicle, to break the door down, to start shooting inside and – I call it murder – to shoot at everyone we identify. In the beginning I asked myself how could this make sense? Higher-ups said it is permissible because everyone left in the city [Gaza City] is culpable because they didn't run away."
The accounts, which also describe apparently indiscriminate destruction of property, were given at a post-operation discussion by graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military course at the Oranim Academic College in northern Israel. The transcript of the session in front of the head of the course – details from which were published by the newspaper Haaretz – prompted the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) military advocate general Avichai Mendelblit yesterday to announce a military police investigation into the claims. Haaretz said the airing of the "dirty secrets" would make it more difficult for Israelis to dismiss the claims as Palestinian propaganda. The course principal, Danny Zamir, told the newspaper that after being "shocked" by the testimonies on 13 February he told the IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi he "feared a serious moral failure" in the IDF.
In one account, an infantry squad leader describes how troops released a family who had been held in a room of their house for several days. He said: "The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay... The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him. He shot them straight away. I don't think he felt too bad about it, because, as far as he was concerned, he did his job according to the orders he was given. And the atmosphere in general, from what I understood from most of my men who I talked to, the lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers."
A second squad leader, who described the killing of the elderly woman, says he argued with his commander over loose rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, soldiers had complained that "we should kill everyone there [in the centre of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist." The squad leader said: "To write 'death to the Arabs' on walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics."