Posts Tagged ‘IDF’


An edited version of this article originally appeared at LobeLog.

Like many of us, I’ve been very busy on social media since this started. I see a lot of ignorant nonsense there, and it’s not limited to Used to be our housethe pro-Israel side. I also see a lot of shoddy thinking and ignorance of the facts. Since I had to study up on a lot of this for my job as the Director of the US Office of B’Tselem, I thought I might clear a few of those up.

“War crimes”

Various memes make the rounds in discussions of war crimes. One that I found particularly laughable was “Even the UN says Hamas is committing war crimes but they say Israel only might be.” I’ve also seen defenses of Hamas’ firing of missiles at civilian targets at Israel based on Palestinians’ right of self-defense.

Here is the long and short of it: War crimes are defined as “Serious violations of international humanitarian law constitute war crimes.” That’s going to encompass pretty much every violation that might become a public issue in any conflict. (more…)

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My friend, Sarit Michaeli, B’Tselem’s tireless spokesperson, was shot in the thigh with a rubber-coated bullet by Israeli Border Police

B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli, holds a rubber coated bullet, which was taken out of her leg, in Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv, July 20, 2013. Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org

B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli, holds a rubber coated bullet, which was taken out of her leg, in Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv, July 20, 2013. Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org

Friday during the weekly demonstration at a-Nabi Saleh, The Palestinian village has suffered from Israel taking parts of its land and the nearby settlement of Halamish stealing its already limited supply of water.

Sarit, in her account of the incident, which I’ve pasted below, makes it clear that there were no stone-throwers anywhere near her, that the police, as they regularly do, violated even their own rules of engagement, and that either she or some other non-violent civilians near her had to have been intentionally targeted: “In order to shoot at me, the soldier had to knowingly point his weapon in my direction, or in the direction of a medic and two Palestinian female protesters who were close to me. No one standing in my vicinity threw any stones.” (more…)

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In this week’s article for Souciant, I analyze the new unity government in Israel–why it happened, what it means and how it affects various aspects of Israel’s current situation. Particularly, I look at some potential implications for the Palestinians, a point which seems largely overlooked in analysis of this week’s events.

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Earlier this week, the story broke that Jawaher Abu Rahmeh, the Palestinian woman who died after being injured by tear gas during a weekly protest against the Israeli security barrier in Bi’lin, had died as a result of poor medical care at the hospital in Ramallah.

Case closed, right? Not so fast.

Jawaher Abu Rahmeh

972 Magazine has been on top of this thing from the beginning. And their blogger, Yossi Gurvitz, noticed right off that the reports attributed the announcement of the conclusion of the IDF investigation to unnamed military sources. So, the intrepid Gurvitz called the IDF Spokesman, who immediately denied that any result of the investigation had been arrived at.

Hmmmm.

Weeks ago, the Central Command brass engaged a whole slew of right-wing Israeli bloggers to spread their initial version of Abu Rahmeh’s death. Now, these bloggers have been embarrassed and thrown under the proverbial bus as they passionately advocated the IDF story, which the IDF later contradicted. Jerry Haber, at the Magnes Zionist, reviews the various stories that the IDF has put out there. Three and counting so far.

Gurvitz describes the game that is being played. It’s worth your time to read it in full. But the short form is that the IDF, in an effort to manage the issue and to try to defuse yet another potential shock to their image is having the Spokesman give the official line, which is that the incident is being investigated, while Gen. Avi Mizrahi’s Central Command office is anonymously putting out one story after another to try to explain Jawaher’s death and why the IDF was not at fault.

There is, of course, a better way to deal with this, and that is for the IDF to obey the order of the Israeli High Court of Justice and move the barrier out of Bi’lin, where it serves to undermine, rather than enhance Israeli security and cuts off the people of Bi’lin from much of their town’s lands, which are needed for grazing and other purposes. But that’s not likely to happen as long as the IDF can thumb its nose at not only international law but even Israeli law with impunity.

Until that changes, we can at least count ourselves lucky that we have 972 and other hard-working Israelis to at least expose these shoddy tactics.

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Eden Abergil’s photos on Facebook, depicting her having just a wonderful time with bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners, are contemptible. Unfortunately, the outrage has done nothing to prevent the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from depicting Abergil as an aberration, the proverbial “one bad apple” among the wholesome fruit.

One cannot blame the IDF; any military or governmental body would do the same. But one need go no further than to

Eden Abergil in some of her Facebook pictures

read the testimonies from dozens of IDF reservists to find that this is as far from an isolated incident as Israel is from Australia.

Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the Silence) has been spreading those testimonies far and wide for years now, incurring the wrath of the Israeli government. But the ad hominem attacks that have been launched against the group have yet to discredit even one testimonial from one soldier. Not surprisingly, they haven’t really tried, merely calling the soldiers names but never trying to address the substance of their remarks.

We’re letting the face of Abergil become the face of an isolated IDF soldier gone awry. Her actions were deplorable, but Shovrim Shtika, B’Tselem and other Israeli groups have been reporting on the callous and sometimes cruel actions of IDF soldiers for a long time now. (more…)

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The precise details of the events on the Israel-Lebanon border Tuesday are still unclear. But from what we have now, a picture is starting to develop.

UNIFIL has confirmed that the Israelis who were shot at were on their side of the Blue Line, the de facto border between Israel and Lebanon. There is a security fence near there, but it does not follow the Blue Line precisely, and in

Israel-Lebanon Border

the area where the incident took place, the fence is inside of Israeli territory, leaving a small area of “no man’s land” that Lebanon claims as its own, but which is recognized internationally as part of Israel.

Back in 2006, Hezbollah operatives used surrounding growth to launch a sneak attack against Israeli troops, precipitating the massive Israeli response that led to the war that summer. As a result, Israel routinely removes some of the brush in the area. In this case, it seems UNIFIL and the Lebanese army was notified and, while UNIFIL asked Israel to delay for a day for their commander to return, Israel waited only a few extra hours. But the area in question was on the Israeli side of the Blue Line, so this cannot possibly be called anything more than an annoyance.

The Lebanese army commander in the area apparently was ordered to fire warning shots, and it remains unclear whether he ever did that or whether shots were immediately fired at an Israeli observation post behind the fence, where the one IDF officer was killed and another wounded. In the moment, when soldiers are fired upon from a distance, it is often impossible to know where the bullets were aimed—and, in fear for one’s life, one is not apt to start an investigation on the spot. (more…)

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I’ve just finished reading the Israeli report updating investigations into alleged war crimes in Operation Cast Lead. The report quite clearly shows there were some serious issues in that war, and that international outrage was not unwarranted, even if Israel would still maintain it was exaggerated.

Many make the case that the report vindicates the Goldstone Report and, in some ways, it does, though I don’t think it

Gaza, during Cast Lead

quite “proves the Goldstone Commission right” as other commentators have said. But what I think is more important is that it shows that if Israel had set up a credible, independent and civilian investigation of Cast Lead as soon as the war was over, and in response to calls from its own civil society, it would be in a much better position than it is today.

The character of such an investigation is important, as is demonstrated within this Israeli report itself, when it says that

“Another challenge is that some Palestinian witnesses have refused to make any statement, even in writing, to IDF investigators. Other Palestinian witnesses have declined to provide testimony in person. While an affidavit can provide investigators with valuable information and serve as the starting point for an investigation, a written affidavit alone is generally inadmissible as evidence at trial. In the Israeli legal system, as in many others, proving a criminal case instead requires that witnesses be willing to appear in court to permit cross-examination on issues such as the witness’s ability to observe the events, whether a witness has any bias, and whether there were other relevant facts not recounted in the written statement. Hence, in some cases, the unwillingness of a complainant to cooperate in criminal investigations may deprive the investigators of the most significant evidence.”

Well, yeah, are we really surprised that the investigative team from the army that just wreaked havoc across your land, and which was previously occupying that land (by even the strictest definition) for almost 40 years would not be trusted by the victims? (more…)

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