The army's kashrut stamp
- The army's kashrut stamp
By Nehemia Strasler
A document dealing with the ethics of fighting terror recently reached the
chief of staff's desk. The document was written by Professor Asa Kasher and
a team of officers, lawyers and advisors.
The authors produced a remarkable document, which says that force should
not be used against terror unless it is necessary to protect the citizens
of the state. The document makes it the soldiers' responsibility to protect
the security of Palestinians who are not involved in terror and to warn the
Palestinians in advance when necessary so that they are not harmed.
The document states that the army may not exact vengeance or punishment; it
may only defend the citizens of the state. Therefore, no closures or
curfews should be imposed on civilian populations as punishment and no
trees should be uprooted or houses demolished for the purpose of revenge.
Furthermore, when deciding on a military action in the territories, the
army must take into account the negative impact that killing and
destruction will have on local and international public opinion.
Read it and weep. What army are they talking about? To which reality are
they referring? How impervious can they be? A week does not go by without
innocent Palestinians, whether men, women or children, being killed. Not a
week goes by without houses being demolished, trees being uprooted,
humiliation and abuse at the checkpoints. But the chief of staff is silent,
and so is the prime minister. Do they need a document to tell them what is
kosher and what is not?
The brutality of the occupation did not begin yesterday, but it sometimes
escalates a level. The troubling images that emerged in mid-May from the
miserable refugee camp of Rafah shocked anyone in the world with a
conscience. That Israel Defense Forces operation killed 52 Palestinians -
some of them innocent civilians, including two teens whose only crime was
feeding their pigeons on the roof. If the public has grown used to the
killing, it will evidently also grow used to the house demolitions: the
little children leaving their homes with bags on their back, the
shell-shocked old women searching in the rubble of their homes in an effort
to save something - an old jacket, a notebook, a photo.
On July 12, Ibrahim Halfalla, a wheelchair-bound father of seven, was
crushed to death under the rubble of his house. It happened when the IDF
demolished his house in Khan Yunis in the middle of the night. The soldiers
did not check to find out whether someone was at home - and the bulldozer
buried the man alive. That same week, published photos taken at the Hawara
checkpoint showed a soldier handcuffing a Palestinian and then beating him
in front of his wife and two children. Their only crime was wanting to get
A week earlier, on July 6, Dr. Khaled Salah, a lecturer in electrical
engineering at A-Najah University, was killed in his home by snipers. His
16-year-old son, Mohammed, was also shot and lay on the floor of the family
apartment for hours before dying. When the mother shouted to the soldiers
that her son was still alive and they should let an ambulance through, they
laughed in her face while her son bled to death in front of her. Not only
was the family not involved in terror, Khaled Salah was a member of the
university's Palestine-Israel peace committee. And as if that were not
enough, after the murder, the soldiers entered the house and destroyed what
remained. They shot at clothing, towels, books, the television, the
computer, the refrigerator and thoroughly vandalized the apartment. And
these were not "problematic" soldiers, but the elite of the elite, the
naval commandos, exacting vengeance on innocent civilians because one of
their officers was killed in the operation. They apparently did not have
time to read the document on ethics.
The IDF has rampaged through Beit Hanun over the past month. Soldiers march
into residential apartments, turn them into forts and expel the tenants.
Last Thursday, a bulldozer demolished a packing house that was used by
1,000 farmers, for no reason. Just like that, out of an evil desire for
vengeance. Everything was demolished. The sorting machinery, the washing
and packing machinery, the refrigerators, the packing material. A thousand
farmers were left unemployed.
These acts of destruction (which are prohibited by the document) only raise
the walls of hatred higher and make the conflict insoluble, because every
teenager whose home has been demolished and whose parents have been
humiliated will want to take his own vengeance - and then we will say there
is nobody to talk to. An army and state that behave in such an immoral
way - harming civilians, demolishing, taking vengeance on the innocent - do
not deter the other side, but strengthen it, and particularly its
extremists. Harming the innocent proves that it is not worthwhile to be
moderate: Either way, the bullet or the bulldozer will get them.
Such actions weaken Israel's position in the world and endanger the
existence of the state. Israel depends on international public opinion, and
certainly on American public opinion. Such actions erode the public's own
resilience, increase emigration from Israel and weaken the army - because
without a moral justification, even the most well-equipped army in the
world cannot win.