Breaking the Silence reports on “rules of engagement” in Gaza war
A New Booklet by “Breaking the Silence“, published 15 July 2009
AROUND 30 ISRAELI SOLDIERS TESTIFY ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES IN OPERATION CAST LEAD
“You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them.”
Fifty-four testimonies of Israeli combat soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead reveal gaps between the reports given by the army following January’s events; the needless destruction of houses; firing phosphorous in populated areas and an atmosphere that encouraged shooting anywhere.
Half a year after Operation Cast Lead, the organization “Breaking the Silence” is announcing the release of a new booklet today (Wed. 7/15) that includes numerous testimonies by soldiers who participated in the operation. The testimonies expose significant gaps between the official stances of the Israeli military and events on the ground.
Among the 54 testimonies are stories revealing the use of “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. The booklet compiles the testimonies of about 30 reserve and regular combat soldiers from various units that participated in the fighting. The testimonies demonstrate that the soldiers were not given directives stating the goal of the operation and, as one soldier testifies, “there was not much said about the issue of innocent civilians.”
Many soldiers said that they fought without seeing “the enemy before their eyes.” “You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them,” one of the soldiers testified that “a 20-year-old kid should not have to do these kinds of things to other people.”
“The testimonies prove that the immoral way the war was carried out was due to the systems in place and not the individual soldier,” said Mikhael Mankin from “Breaking the Silence.” What was proven yesterday is that 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.”
You can find the full testimonies here
Read Donald McIntyre in the Independent: Israeli soldiers reveal the brutal truth of Gaza attack: Troops’ testimonies disclose loose rules of engagement and use of civilians as human shields. Palestinian houses were systematically destroyed by ‘insane artillery firepower’
The Magnes Zionist comments are in The Breaking the Silence Gaza Testimonies: The Use of ‘Johnnies’ as Human Shields
Here is an extract from the latter:
In the Jewish calendar, we have entered a semi-mourning period known as the Three Weeks, between the 17th of Tammuz, when the wall of Jerusalem was breached the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, until the 9th of Av, the day of the destruction of the First Temple. I think it appropriate that during this period, I shall bring one testimony of the IDF soldiers a day.
The reaction of the IDF has been confused and angry to Breaking the Silence’s booklet. Of course, they have attacked the messenger, rather than the message. But they have not spoken with one voice. For example, in Amos Harel’s article in Haaretz this morning here, the reactions to the prohibited use of Palestinians as human shields by the Golani brigade were as follows:
There were no human shields in Golani (I just heard this on the radio.)
There may have been, but they actually volunteered so that their houses would not be destroyed.
The officers were acting in what they thought were according to the spirit of the law.
Some officers don’t yet get the meaning of the prohibition of human shields.
In the case of the Palestinians who were given sledgehammers to break down the walls (see below), the IDF again said that the Palestinians volunteered to do it themselves, so as to minimize the damage.
Haaretz published a long artice in Hebrew with a video of the testimony here. Even if you don’t know Hebrew, it is worth watching – and it sounds very authentic. (Note what follows is not a direct translation of what is on Haaretz…
For the Magnes Zionist comment in full.