Leading article: Israel must root out the canker of military brutality

These soldiers' allegations demand an independent investigation

Share
Related Topics

One of the values enshrined in the code of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is that its soldiers will behave with scrupulous morality, even in the heat of combat. So the testimony published in a college newsletter from some Israeli soldiers who served in the recent military engagement in Gaza will come as a severe shock to a public taught to trust in its army's "purity of arms".

What these soldiers describe from their experience of the three-week long Operation Cast Lead is not scrupulous morality, but an almost complete absence of it. They cite wanton destruction of Palestinian property and a chilling indifference to civilian casualties. They also relate how such abuses were made possible by the permissive rules of engagement established by their superiors.

This is not the first time allegations of possible war crimes by Israeli soldiers during the Gaza operation have been made. Until now the IDF has shrugged off such claims, accusing those human rights groups which related tales of illegal killing and destruction of either being duped by Hamas or pursuing their own anti-Israeli agenda.

But that avenue is not open to the army on this occasion. This testimony cannot be dismissed as enemy propaganda because it comes from a respected Israeli college. And the soldiers themselves have no reason to lie about what they saw, and, in some cases, carried out. The question is how Israel itself will respond to such incendiary testimony; with a resolve to get to the truth, or denial?

It is true that all armies suffer occasional breakdowns in discipline. And we should not make the mistake of holding Israeli soldiers to a higher standard of conduct than we expect from our own. We in Britain should remember that Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel receptionist, was beaten to death in the custody of British troops in Basra in 2003 and none of our soldiers was convicted of this killing. American military personnel were guilty of appalling abuses of prisoners in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

We should bear in mind too that this testimony was made public by a concerned Israeli academic. Whatever crimes might be laid at the door of the IDF, it should not be Israeli society on trial here. Indeed, it is a tribute to the openness of Israel's democracy, that we have learned of these allegations. Nor does the conduct of Israeli troops invalidate the overall objective of Operation Cast Lead, namely to stop Hamas firing rockets into towns in southern Israel.

All this is true. Yet none of it excuses what has apparently happened in Gaza. It is vital that the Israeli government should investigate these allegations and do so openly. The process should certainly not be left in the hands of the IDF.

The army's failure to investigate previous allegations of misconduct by its troops in a serious fashion leaves no confidence that it is about to change its ways now. An outside investigator should also look into the IDF's distribution to soldiers of a pamphlet containing vile religious extremism prior to the Gaza invasion.

The strength of Israel is measured not only in the sophistication of its military technology, but in the openness of its society and the clarity of its values. If Israel fails to root out the canker of brutality and ill-discipline from the IDF, it will deal itself a heavier blow than any of its enemies in Hamas or Hizbollah have thus far managed to inflict.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...

Recruitment Genius: Class 2 LGV Driver / Delivery Person

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This coal merchant would like to recruit a Cla...

SThree: German Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sale...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Adviser - OTE £30,000

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Budget 2015: George Osborne should earn his reputation for courage by abolishing free TV licences for the over 75s

Christopher Bland
A ballot box is emptied by a voting official at the closing of polling stations in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. Greece voted on Sunday on whether to accept more austerity in exchange for international aid, in a high-stakes referendum likely to determine whether it leaves the euro-currency area after seven years of economic pain.  

Greece debt crisis: Too many Greeks decided the referendum question was 'Do you want to pay more humiliating and unfair taxes?'

Nick Sarris
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate