From the beginning, the IDF has been lauded as Israel’s greatest creation – not just an effective fighting force but symbol of an egalitarian willingness to fight and die in the service of country. No more. An attempt to conscript the burgeoning population of the Ultra-Orthodox has been diluted because they are also seen as the protector of Israel’s religious soul. To the secular, it is now the Ultra-Orthodox who provide ‘the existential threat’ to Israel.
For the first time since 2006, questions are being raised at the enormous sums of money – part American, part Israeli, and everywhere the envy of defence departments – that are spent on the Israeli defence forces. There have been cutbacks, there is an erosion in the image of the career officer. That means for the first time, says Amos Harel, transparency is being demanded – what exactly is the money spent on and why?
In theory, Israel has left Gaza and the residents are free to go about their business. In practice, the IDF patrols an indeterminate area beside the border and shoots at Palestinians who wander into it, thus preventing farmers from working on their land, a third of which adjoins the border. B’Tselem spells out the rules which the IDF should observe.
Some careful work with maps shows Chaim Levison that there has been a creeping increase in the amount of land given to settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. While both the EU and the US have chastised the Israeli government for its settlement policies, it is the IDF’s Central Command which has the authority over land use in the oPt. Zionism, the system where government and army have but one mind.
Using soldiers’ own Tweets and Instagram photographic pages, Ali Abuminah collects disturbing evidence of IDF soldiers exalting in violence, in killing Arabs, in taking aim at children, in getting out of their heads on marijuana. These are the men who enforce the occupation. The soldiers have deleted these pages. So far there has been no report that they have been reprimanded let alone excluded as unsuitable for Israel’s army.
In practice, the primary role of Israel’s vaunted IDF has become the inglorious business of policing the Occupation, more often than not at the bidding of the illegal settlers. Report from Yesh Din and Yossi Gurvitz.
At best it was a misunderstanding; Gazans thought the ceasefire agreement meant they were free to go into the border zone, and celebrated by entering it; the border guards thought they were trying to breach the fence, and shot at them. Pragmatically, IDF soldiers had no idea of the conditions of the ceasefire agreement and by training shoot Palestinians who are, to them, out of order. Result 1 dead, 19 injured Palestinians. No IDF hurt.
The olive harvest season has begun in the West Bank – and with it repeated attacks by settlers on the fruit-laden trees owned by Palestinians. The IDF does not intervene to protect this property – many attacks happen at night – but has been active in preventing farmers and families from reaching the olive groves. Reports from ISM, Irish Times and B’Tselem.
The main item in this posting is very distressing to read. It is an account by an Israeli soldier who was there, was so traumatised by what he saw that he was eventually discharged as mentally ill and has been unable to speak about it until now. This is followed by three letters to the NY Times written in response to the article by Seth Anziska, which we posted last week. Only the letter from Israel’s spokesman was published.
If there is a simple division on the verdict on the case brought by Rachel Corrie’s parents it is this: 1) Israel, and the IDF particularly, are above the law; 2) Pro-Palestinians exploited a naive young American for their own nefarious ends. Unable to come down on either of these sides, most US and Israel media have published no opinion. Remarkably, the story was the lead item on BBC radio on Tuesday. 15 items to choose from.
Breaking the Silence, the veterans’ organisation committed to gathering testimony about what soldiers actually do in the oPt, has published a new report, focussing on the treatment of children and youth. Each account is unique in its detail but all tell the same story: Israeli soldiers who seem more concerned with humiliating and terrifying youngsters than any recognised form of peace-keeping. Seven out of 47, chosen almost at random, are posted here.
Oded Na’aman writes: “As you stand at the checkpoint, you must constantly consider the various ways in which you may be attacked: Where are they going to come from? What will their strategy be? Is that child as innocent as he seems, or is he smuggling a weapon? Is that ambulance really rushing a woman to the hospital to give birth, or are there enemies hiding inside? Is that old man harmless…
These are the instructions soldiers receive before beginning their principle combat mission in the IDF: enforcement of military rule in the West Bank.”
Israel’s Interior Ministry has approved a plan to construct an academy for IDF officers on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, the area where Palestinians live and own most of the land. The Mount of Olives is regarded as a sacred space by Christians and religious Jews. The plan has been variously justified as providing a magnet for young Jews to a depressed area and establishing Israeli ownership over all Jerusalem.
The Israeli government has ruled that the Ulpana outpost – a state enterprise to boost settlements – has to be evacuated because it infringes Palestinian property rights. This idea has no weight with right-wingers or the Ulpana settlers, from whom the IDF expects violence. Should the establishment support the rule of the state or the rule of settling on all Palestinian land? Jpost reports and deliberates, plus Ynet and +972.
The IDF gears up for violence on Nakba day (3), Palestinian Christians hold a peaceful commemoration (4) and PSC holds a protest outside Downing Street at which Diana Neslen of JfJfP gives a moving speech about memory and exile (1 & 2). Haaretz declares Israel should acknowledge the Nakba as part of its history (5).Tel Aviv students defy education minister to hold ceremony (6).
Stop the Wall is an organization that promotes non-violent resistance to the Wall and defends its resisters (1). In the early hours of last Tuesday, the IDF raided their Ramallah offices (with or without PA connivance? – 4) and removed valuable computer equipment and records (2). While most see this is as an attack on civil resistance, the IDF says the raid was to prevent ‘terror’ activity (3).
The Holocaust is the one unifying thread in Israel and a remorseless part of all education. Yet in a Holocaust play teenagers jeered at the weak Jews and cheered the Nazi persecutors. Is this so surprising when the Ministry of Education holds up the settlers as brave pioneeers and demands the excision of a textbook quoting the Goldstone report from the school curriculum? Still, Adam Keller does not despair…
Joint Palestinian and Israeli peace groups are rare; one made up of former fighters from each side is unique. It’s called Combatants for Peace, formed in 2005 and holds a ceremony each year, on the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day, to commemorate all casualties of the conflict. Their effort was condemned by the chair of a state-owned company for insulting the IDF dead on an Israeli ‘holy’ day. +972 news and cfpeace About Us
One of the greatest and most unimaginable tragedies in human history – the slaughter of millions by the Nazis – is commemorated in Israel as Yom HaShoah on April 18th. The day has become an occasion for patriotic flag-waving and belligerent speeches about the enemy Iran reports Adam Keller. His reference to ‘Eisner’ is explained by the shocking photos of an assault on a Dutch peace activist in the 2nd item.
Nine years ago someone asked if the ancient mitzvah (religious command or duty) to rape gentile women in war still applied. Rabbi Eyal Qarim wrote that it did – because all Israel’s wars were mitzvot and thus any law should be broken if it helped the cause. The rabbi is now an IDF Colonel in the Military Rabbinate. The IDF today, of course, angrily denounces this judgment. It is of interest that any rabbi could hold these beliefs – and that the IDF should promote such a man to a senior position.