Sunday, March 22, 2009


Israel-Hamas Negotiate Truce Deal

Jan. 17: An Israeli army mobile artillery piece fires towards targets in the Gaza Strip, from the Israel side of the border with Gaza.

Jan. 16: Palestinian drives his car through burning tires left by Palestinian stone-throwers during clashes with Israeli troops.

Jan. 14: An explosion from an Israeli airstrike is seen on the outskirts of Gaza City.
Jan. 16: A controlled explosion of a Palestinian house is seen as Israeli tanks move inside the Gaza Strip.
Jan. 15: Israeli armored vehicles drive near Atatra inside the Gaza Strip.
Jan. 15: Smoke rises following an explosion caused by Israeli military operations is seen through a window.,2933,480367,00.html

Israel Security Cabinet Approves Cease-Fire in Gaza as Olmert Says Objectives Achieved

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Saturday, folllwing a Security Cabinent vote in favor of a cease-fire, said that the goals of Israel's offensive in Gaza had been achieved.

Israel has no immediate plans to withdraw troops from Gaza, but the cease-fire likely will entail the end of Israeli attacks on Hamas now that the militant Palestinian group appears to have been disabled to the point that there is less of a threat of rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Olmert said in a televised address that Israel's "goals have been achieved, and even more." Fighting stopped at 2 a.m. local time (7 p.m. EST) but Israel will keep troops on the ground for the time being, Olmert said.

But Hamas leaders have repeated that it will not respect any cease-fire as long as Israel remains inside Gaza.

More than 1,100 Palestinians have been killed in the three weeks of violence, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. Thirteen Israelis have also died.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that a unilateral cease-fire should be accompanied by a timetable for withdrawal, and a Hamas spokesman said the group would not stop fighting until Israel is out of Gaza.

As the world waited Saturday for the cease-fire vote in the Israeli Security Cabinent, Israeli forces kept up the country's punishing three-week-long campaign by pounding dozens of Hamas targets as the army kept up pressure on the Islamic militant group.

The military said it struck some 50 Hamas targets. But one shelling attack struck a U.N. school packed with refugees fleeing the fighting, killing two Palestinians and drawing a sharp condemnation from the United Nations. Israel had no comment on the incident, the latest in a string of attacks to hit a U.N. installation.

Click here for photos of the conflict.

Israel was pressing ahead with its offensive hours before a vote by its leaders late Saturday on whether to accept an Egyptian-brokered truce.

A senior Israeli official said Saturday that Israel plans to halt its three-week-old Gaza offensive because it has achieved its goals, Reuters reported.

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"The goal is to announce, subject to the approval of the cabinet, a suspension of military activities because we believe our goals have been attained," the official, who asked not to be named, said.

The vote follows Friday's signing of a "memorandum of understanding" in Washington between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that calls for expanded intelligence cooperation to prevent Hamas from rearming. Livni called the deal, reached on the final working day of the Bush administration, "a vital complement for a cessation of hostility."

Israel's 12-member Security Cabinet was expected to approve the Egyptian proposal, under which fighting would stop immediately for 10 days. Israeli forces would remain in Gaza and the territory's border crossings with Israel and Egypt would remain closed until security arrangements are made to prevent Hamas arms smuggling.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev saying he was hopeful that Israel is "entering the endgame" on its Gaza offensive.

A "sustained and durable" stop to Hamas rocket fire on southern Israel was near, Regev said. If approved, a truce summit would follow in Cairo with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Under the deal, Egypt would shut down weapons smuggling routes with international help and discussions on opening Gaza's blockaded border crossings — Hamas' key demand — would take place at a later date. It remains unclear whether Hamas supports the proposal.

The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a non-binding resolution demanding an "immediate and durable and fully respected cease fire" in Gaza on Friday night, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The U.S., Israel, Nauru and Venezuela voting against the resolution, because they hoped for a stronger statement.

Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27 to try to halt near-daily Hamas rocket attacks against southern Israel. Palestinian medics say the fighting has killed at least 1,140 Palestinians — roughly half of them civilians — and Israel's bombing campaign caused massive destruction in the Gaza Strip. Thirteen Israelis have been killed, four by rocket fire and nine in ground battles in Gaza, according to the government.

In the meantime, there was no slowdown in the offensive. A total of 11 Palestinians were killed in battles throughout Gaza Saturday, Palestinian medics said.

Israeli warplanes dropped bombs throughout the night on suspected smuggling tunnels in the southern border town of Rafah. The bombs could be heard whistling through the air, shook the ground upon impact and left a dusty haze in the air.

In the northern town of Beit Lahiya, an Israeli shell struck a U.N. school where 1,600 people had sought shelter to flee the fighting, said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

He said several shells struck the school compound, including a direct hit on the top floor of the building. The shell killed two boys, and turned a room on the building's into a blackened mess of charred concrete and twisted metal bed frames. Near Gaza City, Palestinian officials said three more civilians were killed by a naval shell, while a militant was killed in an airstrike.

Gunness condemned the school attack, noting the U.N. has given Israel the coordinates of all its operations in Gaza to avoid such violence. "There have to be investigations to see if war crimes have been committed," he said.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment, saying the matter was still under investigation. But in similar instances, including an attack that heavily damaged the U.N. headquarters in Gaza earlier this week, Israel has accused Hamas militants of staging attacks from U.N. and other civilian buildings.

The military said its planes struck 50 Hamas locations overnight, including rocket-launching sites, smuggling tunnels, weapons storehouses, bunkers and minefields. Some five rockets were fired into Israel, causing minor damage but no injuries, the army said.

Israeli troops entered a small central Gaza town and nearby housing project, taking over houses and positioning on rooftops. Hamas militants fired assault rifles, mortars and rockets at the Israeli forces in tanks and military vehicles, the sound of clashes audible from Gaza City. Warplanes fired missiles at buildings and nearby farms, witnesses said.

"A shell landed in my bedroom and we are now sitting in the kitchen. We are 17 people here," said Jihan Sarsawi, a resident of the housing project. Speaking by telephone, she said residents were trapped in their homes.

The violence followed Israeli envoy Amos Gilad's journey to Cairo on Friday. He returned to report "substantial progress" in truce talks with Egyptian mediators, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office announced. The Israeli vote comes ahead of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday, and Israeli elections next month.

Hamas has given mixed signals about whether it would accept the cease-fire proposal. In Turkey, a spokesman for the movement, Sami Abu Zuhri, said militants would keep fighting. Hamas "will not bow to invading forces, will not raise the white flag," he said.

A Hamas official said Saturday the group will continue fighting against Israel if none of its demands for a cease-fire are met.

Apparently reacting to reports that Israel could call off its offensive and declare a unilateral cease-fire without considering Hamas demands, Beirut-based Osama Hamdan said fighting would continue.

"Today, the movement's delegation arrives in Cairo. To be clear, we have nothing new to offer. We are not going to go back to the first point in the discussions and dialogue. Either we hear what we want or the result will be continuing the confrontation on the ground," said Hamdan, who is close to movement leader Khaled Mashaal.

He added that for Israel to call a unilateral ceasefire while negotiations are underway in Cairo undermines the mediators, a reference to Egypt that has been promoting its own initiative to end the fighting and resolve the long-running crisis.

A Hamas delegation was set to arrive in Cairo Saturday amid the frenzied international diplomacy to end 22 days of fighting.

But after weeks of heavy losses, leaders inside Gaza have signaled they are ready for a deal. A Hamas delegation was headed to Cairo on Saturday for more negotiations.

"Our movement is a main player and it cannot be ignored," said Ghazi Hamad, a Gaza-based Hamas official.

Hamas, which overtook the Gaza Strip in a violent coup in June 2007, has demanded an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the opening of blockaded border crossings.

In an interview with the Israeli YNet news Web site, Livni indicated that Israel would renew its offensive if Hamas militants continued to fire rockets at Israel even after a truce agreement was reached.

"This campaign is not a one-time event," she said. "The test will be the day after. That is the test of deterrence."

Speaking in Washington, she said the deal with the U.S. was meant "to complement Egyptian actions and to end of the flow of weapons to Gaza."

The agreement outlines a framework under which the United States commits detection and surveillance equipment, as well as logistical help and training to Israel, Egypt and other nations to be used in monitoring Gaza's land and sea borders.

Earlier, Rice said she hoped European countries would work out similar bilateral agreements with Israel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Negotiator: Israel Asks to Annex 6.8 Percent of West Bank for Peace Deal

[ Israel goes for more land grab of Palestinian lands]

Negotiator: Israel Asks to Annex 6.8 Percent of West Bank for Peace Deal

Friday, December 12, 2008

JERUSALEM — Israel proposed to annex 6.8 percent of the West Bank and to take in a few thousand refugees under a peace deal, but it has not revealed its position on the most contentious issue — the future of Jerusalem, the chief Palestinian negotiators said Friday night.

Ahmed Qureia said the Palestinian side did not consider the ideas presented on annexation and the return of some Palestinians to be acceptable.

Speaking for the first time in detail about yearlong U.S.-backed talks that failed to produce an agreement, Qureia's comments appeared aimed, in part, at providing a record of the Israeli position ahead of leadership changes in Israel and the United States.

Click here for photos.

Barack Obama assumes the U.S. presidency Jan. 20. Israel holds elections Feb. 10, and polls suggest hard-line opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu could become the next prime minister.

Netanyahu opposes large-scale territorial concessions to the Palestinians and has said he would not continue the negotiations in their current format. He says he would try to focus on improving the Palestinian economy instead.

The office of outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declined to address Qureia's comments. However, aides noted recent speeches in which Olmert said Israel would have to withdraw from much of the land it captured in the 1967 Mideast War, including the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem.

Qureia told Palestinian reporters that Israel wants to keep four blocs of Jewish settlements in the West Bank — Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, Givat Zeev and Efrat-Gush Etzion. He said Israel initially proposed to annex 7.3 percent of the territory, then reduced that to 6.8 percent.

Israel offered to give some of its own territory as compensation, but not an equal trade in size and quality, Qureia said. He added that some of the areas Israel wants to annex would be crucial to a viable Palestinian state envisioned as the goal of the peace negotiations.

Israeli officials have talked publicly about keeping some settlements in exchange for other land, but have not given any specifics. Qureia has said in the past the Palestinians are willing to consider a land swap, but on a much smaller scale than he outlined Friday.

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Turning to Jerusalem, Qureia said the Palestinians repeatedly raised their demand for a division of the city but were never given Israel's view.

Olmert, who will step down after the elections, has said Israel will have to give up some Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. However, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, a member of Olmert's governing coalition, has threatened to quit if Jerusalem is discussed in the talks.

Qureia said Olmert's offer during talks to take in 5,000 Palestinian refugees over five years was rejected. But he added that the Palestinians do not seek the return of all refugees and their descendants, a group that numbers several million.

"To say that not a single refugee would be allowed back or that all the refugees should be allowed back is not a solution," he said. "We should reach a mutual position on this issue."

Israeli leaders have adamantly refused to accept large numbers of Palestinians, saying mass repatriation would destroy the Jewish character of Israel.

The negotiations were launched a year ago, at a U.S.-hosted Mideast conference in Annapolis, Md. Since then, Qureia and Livni have met repeatedly, in parallel to talks between Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Qureia said he hopes the new American president will make solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority. "We hope that we will not have to wait" for intensive U.S. involvement, he said



Civilians Caught In Urban Combat - Gaza Debate

March 19, 2009, 7:45 pm

Civilians Caught in Urban Combat

(Photo: Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images) Palestinian civilians ran for cover during an Israeli air strike in the Jabalia refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, on Dec. 29, 2008.

Since Israel ended its assault on Gaza, Palestinians and international rights groups have accused it of using excessive force that resulted in a high number of civilian casualties. The Israeli military has denied these charges, but now testimony is emerging from soldiers, indicating that some of these claims have merit.

Although rules of engaging potential enemy combatants exist, in the heat of battle they often become murky. Fighting in an urban environment where the enemy is not in uniform or carrying arms but slipping between houses and among civilians presents an especially difficult situation for soldiers.

Are there rules of engagement that can minimize civilian casualties?

Interpret the Situation

Andrew Exum

Andrew Exum is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and blogs at Abu Muqawama.

The recent Israeli campaign to end rocket fire originating from Gaza left 1,300 Palestinians dead and many wondering about the morality of such seemingly “disproportionate” operations. Questions of morality in warfare, though, are notoriously difficult to referee and inspire more emotion than sober thought.

A related question to ask — and one more accessible to traditional tools of measurement — would be one concerning effectiveness. In pursuing military options that carry with them such a high human cost, did the Israel Defense Force achieve operational successes at the expense of Israel’s long-term strategic interests?

In modern conflict against violent nonstate actors, rules of engagement may need to be refined for operational effectiveness.

In modern conflict against violent nonstate actors like Hamas, Hezbollah or guerrilla groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, it may be in the best interests of the dominant military actor to adhere to rules of engagement that go beyond the laws of land warfare and international conventions. As the United States military has discovered in both Iraq and Afghanistan, civilian casualties have a direct effect on the effectiveness of operations in the strategic sense.

Traditionally, Israel — much like the United States — has subscribed to a Jominian concept of warfare that privileges the destruction of the enemy’s fighting forces above other considerations. In the Clausewitzian model, though, the supreme question of war has to do with whether or not military force served its purpose in advancing national political aims.

The time may arrive when Israel decides that highly kinetic, enemy-centric military operations do not necessarily serve Israel’s longer-term strategic aims. Instead, Israel may want to adopt lessons learned from the United States experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and place a higher emphasis on the prevention of civilian casualties at the expense of lethality and force protection.

Weighing the Cost of War

Sarah Holewinski

Sarah Holewinski is the executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, an organization that works with warring parties to help civilians they have been harmed in combat.

Rules of Engagement will never completely prevent civilian casualties unless the first rule is “don’t discharge your weapon.” But in the real world, these rules about when and how to approach a potential enemy combatant can significantly limit civilian harm if planned properly and followed.

The lesson the U.S. learned in Iraq in 2007 was: know the mission, review the rules, make smart changes, save lives.

Just look at the example that Gen. Peter Chiarelli set in Iraq in 2007. He saw that checkpoints, while necessary to stop the speedy flow of traffic near bases or combat operations, were harming too many locals. The ordinary Iraqi didn’t know when to stop, how to stop and was too frequently being killed in his car in the resulting confusion. With General Chiarelli’s new requirements about giving better warnings, civilian casualties dropped. The lesson learned was: know the mission, review the rules, make smart changes, save lives.

The Laws of Armed Conflict tell warring parties that hitting military targets has to be proportionate to, or worth, the potential cost to civilian lives. Certain weapons cannot be used because they’re too deadly to a broad population. If the mission is to take out a weapons installation located in a densely populated area, that objective must be weighed against the cost of obliterating homes, destroying families and causing humanitarian suffering. You need to think about what weapons and tactics might best shield civilians from greatest harm.

Unfortunately the laws of war don’t tell soldiers how to weigh those factors, but a good commander knows the whole point of rules of engagement is to burrow down into where and when and how to fight. Getting that wrong is far too costly.

To Protect Noncombatants, Seek a Ceasefire

Micah Zenko

Micah Zenko is a fellow in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The recent revelations from Israeli combat pilots and ground troops that their commanders granted permissive rules of engagement during incursions into the Gaza Strip comes as no surprise given the chaotic nature of offensive combat operations and the tactics employed by Hamas that often do not respect the laws of war.

Even the most carefully crafted rules, however, are useless if they are not utilized in split-second, life-or-death situations.

The Pentagon defines the rules as “directives issued by competent military authority that delineate the circumstances and limitations under which United States forces will initiate and/or continue combat engagement with other forces encountered.” These directives provide guidance to commanders in answering four questions about using military force: when, where, against whom and how.

In an era where international perceptions of whether a state is morally and legally right to use force, and whether the scope and intensity of that force is commensurate with achieving the intended political and military objectives, the proper rules of engagement are as essential for success as highly advanced weapons systems. Even the most carefully crafted rules, however, are useless if they are not utilized by pilots and soldiers in split-second, life-or-death situations, and consistently enforced by their commanding officers.

In the future, the surest way to prevent incidences alleged by the Israeli soldiers from ever happening is to exhaust all avenues short of war to reach a ceasefire with Hamas. If Israel believes it is necessary to reignite the conflict, then according to some of its own combat veterans it will need to revisit its rules of engagement and make certain they are followed.

The Problem Lay in the Strategy

Michael O'Hanlon

Michael E. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Whatever the rules of engagement, Israel’s soldiers did not perform notably worse than we Americans did in the early years of the Iraq war or the Afghanistan mission. In fact, in all three cases, the soldiers have been extremely careful by historical standards.

That said, there have been differences across and within these cases. In Iraq, commanders emphasized care and restraint in the use of force more as time went on than they did from 2003 to 2005. In Afghanistan, we have used air strikes somewhat indiscriminately, and that continued even through much of 2008.

Israel’s overall strategy was more problematic than the specific performance of troops or the rules of engagement.

In Gaza, my view is that Israel’s overall strategy was more problematic than the specific performance of troops or the rules of engagement. Israel did not, in my view, have any realistic chance of killing most Hamas leaders or disarming Hamas in its operation (notably, in a somewhat similar operation in Lebanon in 2006, Israel did only temporary damage to Hezbollah, as its own leaders now publicly admit). Rather, Israel wished to convey its willingness to use force to defend its people and territory — to “reestablish deterrence” as its leaders like to say.

Its hope was that Hamas would be convinced not to attack in the future even if it had weapons to do so. Israel also wanted to send a message to the region that, in effect, no land-for-peace deal is possible if it leaves Tel Aviv vulnerable to similar kinds of attacks coming out of the West Bank. Once these decisions were made, and once Israel decided that it needed several weeks of combat including a ground incursion to drive the points home, the level of Palestinian fatalities that resulted became more or less inevitable.

I think Israel could have accomplished the same goal after perhaps a week to 10 days of fighting — and that issue, rather than debates about the rules of engagement for its troops, is the crux of the matter. At least, Israel did not feel it needed to fight for 2 or 3 months to reestablish deterrence. The situation could have been better, but it also certainly could have been worse.



Debate: Comments on Israelis vs Civilian Non-Combatants

Comments to post above:

From 1 to 25 of 106 Comments

1 2 3 ... 5
  1. 1. March 19, 2009 8:22 pm Link

    The IDF’s targeting of civilians in Gaza is not opinion but fact. Not one, but two UN schools were fairly precisely shelled with white phosphorous rounds. At the very least hundreds, but most likely thousands of Palestinians have been killed. Most likely the vast majority of those are civilians in the purest sense of the word - women and children. Thousands have been wounded. Entire families have been buried alive under collapsing buildings, thousands upon thousands have been cut off from medical services, many have lost what little they owned.
    Israel makes war on a captive civilian population with no access or control of its own borders, a population that has no real means of defense. The weapons that Israel uses in this campaign should never be used in a densely populated civilian area. It would be as if the New York Police Department leveled several public housing complexes with artillery to root out drug dealers.
    Let’s discard the fiction that the IDF ever intended to minimize civilian casualties - what we have witnessed in Gaza is a fairly pure expression of collective punishment - no other strategic objectives have been met except terror. The burden of proof is on Israel - it must somehow show the civilized world that it did not, in fact, intend to kill Palestinians indiscriminately. At this point, that would be difficult indeed to prove.
    At Sabra and Shatila, the IDF was content to have others pull the trigger, but now Israelis are warming to this kind of work.

    — Philip Nicholas
  2. 2. March 19, 2009 8:55 pm Link

    “Civilians Caught in Urban Combat” is what you dumb it down to when it’s a case of deliberate murder by the supposedly moral Israeli Defense Forces that prompted this discussion? The stories in Haaretz are not about militants “hiding” among civilians as the usual American excuse - often lies - for Israel goes. But this is about Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed women and children (as they often do and goes unreported in America) without provocation as vividly described by an Israeli witness.

    But even in this instance where there is a clear distinction between good and bad orders and decisions, the vehemently pro-Israeli editors of this paper clouds the issue by reducing serious Israeli crimes to simple circumstance. Of course Israel’s opponents never get that luxury of doubt.

    Shameful American media protection of aggressive, murderous Zionists continues to know no bounds while the rest of the world watches in disdain and disgust at Washington’s hypocrisy and impotence. Also, it must be very nice and easy for an American editor to write “finger pointing aside” when no American finger has EVER pointed at Israel in a serious, consequential manner. You people have no conscience.

    — AH
  3. 3. March 19, 2009 9:18 pm Link

    It is assumed in the introduction and in the subsequent analyzes that civilian casualties in Gaza were the inadvertent result of combat with an elusive enemy: “Indeed, fighting in an urban environment where the enemy is not in uniform or carrying arms but slipping between houses and among civilians presents an especially difficult situation for soldiers. ”

    Yet, reports from NGO’s, human right organizations, and UN officials on the ground paint a very different picture. One in which civilians and civilian infrastructure were deliberately targeted, or where IDF fire was so reckless that it was clear no effort to spare civilians was considered at all.

    Furthermore, Gaza yet remains occupied and Israel remains the occupying power. The rules that apply are those that fall under the 4th Geneva Accords, not those of Clauswitz or the Baron de Jomini. According to International Law then, Israel should be in the dock accused of war crimes, not being portrayed as the hapless victim of Hamas as this piece does in the large part.

    — Grif
  4. 4. March 19, 2009 9:58 pm Link

    The number of civilian deaths and casualities is just part of the crime. The bombing of UN sites, hospitals, schools, and no coverage allowed in by reporters speaks volumes.

    — julie
  5. 5. March 19, 2009 10:05 pm Link

    The sad part is, there are no rules of war. There are theories, and there are schools, but there are no rules. Each command must craft its own strategy based on the playing field, and each combatant must make split-second decisions.

    Certainly some actions are less desirable from a third-person observer standpoint; deliberately targeting civilians, as Hamas openly does. And some are less effective in the long term image battle, as the Israeli Army’s tactics seem to be in this case.

    But it seems empty to pass moral judgment. This is war, and the only winner is he or she who returns home alive.

    — Kent
  6. 6. March 19, 2009 10:05 pm Link

    I am a firm believer that once at war, combat must be the application of overwhelming and maximum force. The only goal of combat is the absolute destruction of the enemy and anything else that stands in the way.

    That said, there are (and can never be) rules of engagement that would protect civilians.

    Protecting civilians must be ensured at the strategic levels. Political leaders must pursue strategies that minimize civilian deaths. This, most obviously, includes strategies that involve no combat at all.

    The sad truth is, once at war military leaders have an obligation to follow tactics that both destroy the enemy and minimize friendly casualties. Inevitably this leads to the use of massive force, which frequently causes civilian casualties. I don’t blame military leaders or the troops for this. I blame political leaders for putting the military in this difficult position in the first place.

    — mjl
  7. 7. March 19, 2009 10:20 pm Link

    These four comments seem thoughtful and well-argued, yet they also share an underlying assumption that is not be accurate. They start from the assumption that Israeli forces do not want to kill civilians or destroy civilian infrastructure, and go on to address how the IDF can tweak its rules of engagement or adjust its strategy to minimize such mistakes.

    Yet a reading of the testimony that emerged from the soldiers at the discussion group, as published in Haaretz, will show that much of this killing and damage was intentional. The NYT story describes a soldier ‘mistakenly’ shooting a woman and her children. The original Israeli version states clearly that the soldier knew exactly who he was shooting.

    Did the soldiers in the Haaretz testimony mistakenly smash and spit on Palestinians’ family photos, mistakenly defecate in their childrens’ beds, or mistakenly smash and dismember computers, fridges and televisions?

    No, they heard loud and clear the message from their superiors and from Israeli society as a whole: Your job is to teach the Palestinian people a lesson. Punish them until they lose their will to resist. The hatred and contempt behind those petty cruelties also drove the relentless killing and destruction of homes.

    Teaching that lesson, breaking that will to resist, has been the mission of the IDF in the occupied territories for 42 years, and it will continue to get progressively more brutal and savage, without ever acheiving that goal, until the rest of the world finally tells Israel ‘enough’ and puts an end to this occupation.

    Meanwhile, let’s not overlook our role in aiding and abetting these atrocities, with the arms, money, and diplomatic cover we provide Israel. Many of our own citizens and politicians are also egging these soldiers on. This blood is on us too.

    History will judge America harshly for its ignorant blind cruelty to the Palestinian people. The rest of the world already has.

    — tom scanlon
  8. 8. March 19, 2009 10:35 pm Link

    The two new axis of evil in the world today, are now the IDF, and the AIPAC..
    Shame, on all the Zionists and their unquestioned violence by Israel.
    A plague on your house……….Israel
    The AIPAC (Wolfowitz, Perle,etc.) are the promoters of this Iraq war for the benefit of Israel.
    Is Iran next???

    — Mannie
  9. 9. March 19, 2009 11:30 pm Link

    Interesting — Israel is just realizing what the rest of the world (with the exception of the US media and politicians) knew all along: That IDF committed war crimes in Gaza. The Gaza massacre has turned me (someone who, as recently as last fall, was hoping to one day visit Israel as a tourist) into an activist against the Israeli occupation. In fact, it’s turned me into a believer in the end of Israel as it exists today. I believe that the state solution is dead and that Israel needs to cease to exist as a Jewish state and that it should grant full citizenship rights to all Palestinians currently living in the occupied territories. No more Apartheid, no more occupation, just good old democracy where one person equals one vote and everyone has equal rights.

    Until that happens, I will boycott Israel, I will boycott companies with strong ties to Israel (including those owned by prominent Zionists), I will keep spreading the word about Israeli crimes far and wide (as I’ve been doing for the past three months), and do whatever else I can to ensure the end of Israel.

    For the past three months, every night before going to bed, I’ve doing something that keeps me going: I apologize to Amal Abed Rabbo, who was only two when she was murdered by IDF, on January 7 of this year, for having contributed to her death with my tax dollars:

    I owe it to Amal to make sure I do everything in my power to end the suffering of the Palestinian children.

    — Z.G.
  10. 10. March 19, 2009 11:52 pm Link

    W.r.t tom scanlon’s comment above:

    You’re exactly right. All one needs is to listen to Moshe Yaalon, the ex-chief of staff of Israeli Defense Forces, who in 2002 said: ‘The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.’

    That’s what the IDF soldiers were doing in Gaza: helping the Palestinians understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people!

    — Z.G.



Abuse Allegations in Israeli War on Gaza

More Allegations Surface in Israeli Accounts of Gaza War

Published: March 20, 2009

JERUSALEM — An Israeli newspaper gave a fuller account on Friday of testimonies by soldiers alleging loose rules of engagement in Israel’s war in Gaza, which they said led to civilian deaths and wanton property destruction. One soldier asserted that extremist rabbis had told troops they were fighting a holy war.

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Civilians Caught in Urban Combat

Room for DebateIn war, are there rules of engagement that can minimize civilian causalities?


A Religious War in Israel’s Army (March 22, 2009)[See post Below]

The soldier was quoted as saying that the rabbis had “brought in a lot of booklets and articles,” adding, “their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle. God brought us back to this land, and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land.”

He said that as a commander, he had tried to explain to his men that “not everyone who is in Gaza is Hamas,” and that “this war was not a war for the sanctification of the holy name, but rather one to stop the Qassam rockets.”

The account, in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, expanded on shorter excerpts printed Thursday in Haaretz and Maariv, a center-right newspaper, and came from a taped conversation among Gaza war veterans at an institute that prepares soldiers before their service. After the materials were published, the military advocate general began an investigation into the allegations.

The director of the institute where the discussion occurred, Dany Zamir, published the accounts in his newsletter and leaked them to the newspapers to draw attention to what he considered to be troubling revelations. Mr. Zamir is known to be on the left of Israel’s political spectrum.

He is quoted in the excerpts as saying to the soldiers who spoke: “I think it would be important for parents to sit here and hear this discussion. I think it would be an instructive discussion, and also very dismaying and depressing. You are describing an army with very low norms of value, that’s the truth.”

Earlier excerpts included an account of the killing of an elderly woman by a sharpshooter and the killing of a woman and two children by another sniper.

The testimonies published Friday also spoke of the ease with which some houses were damaged.

Another soldier said: “We got an order one day — all of the equipment, all of the furniture, just clean out the whole house. We threw everything, everything out of the windows to make room. The entire contents of the house went flying out the windows.”

The soldier also alleged that when entering buildings, “we were supposed to go up floor by floor, and any person we identified, we were supposed to shoot. I initially asked myself, where is the logic in this?”

“From above they said it was permissible, because anyone who remained in the sector and inside Gaza City was in effect condemned, a terrorist, because they hadn’t fled. I didn’t really understand. On one hand they don’t really have anywhere to flee to, but on the other hand they’re telling us they hadn’t fled so it’s their fault.”



Religious War in Israel's Army

A Religious War in Israel’s Army

Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

AT ODDS Some secular liberals say religious nationalists set a tone that encouraged abuses during recent fighting in Gaza.

Published: March 21, 2009

JERUSALEM — The publication late last week of eyewitness accounts by Israeli soldiers alleging acute mistreatment of Palestinian civilians in the recent Gaza fighting highlights a debate here about the rules of war. But it also exposes something else: the clash between secular liberals and religious nationalists for control over the army and society.

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More Allegations Surface in Israeli Accounts of Gaza War (March 21, 2009)

Times Topics: Israel

Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

AFTERMATH A sign of the intense violence: A donkey’s carcass lies where it was shot.

Several of the testimonies, published by an institute that runs a premilitary course and is affiliated with the left-leaning secular kibbutz movement, showed a distinct impatience with religious soldiers, portraying them as self-appointed holy warriors.

A soldier, identified by the pseudonym Ram, is quoted as saying that in Gaza, “the rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land. This was the main message, and the whole sense many soldiers had in this operation was of a religious war.”

Dany Zamir, the director of the one-year premilitary course who solicited the testimonies and then leaked them, leading to a promise by the military to investigate, is quoted in the transcripts as expressing anguish over the growing religious nationalist elements of the military.

“If clerics are anointing us with oil and sticking holy books in our hands, and if the soldiers in these units aren’t representative of the whole spectrum of the Jewish people, but rather of certain segments of the population, what can we expect?” he said. “To whom do we complain?”

For the first four decades of Israel’s existence, the army — like many of the country’s institutions — was dominated by kibbutz members who saw themselves as secular, Western and educated. In the past decade or two, religious nationalists, including many from the settler movement in the West Bank, have moved into more and more positions of military responsibility. (In Israeli society, they are a growing force, distinct from, and more modern than, the black-garbed ultra-Orthodox, who are excused from military service.)

In many cases, the religious nationalists have ascended to command positions from precisely the kind of premilitary college course that Mr. Zamir runs — but theirs are run by the religious movements rather than his secular one, meaning that the competition between him and them is both ideological and careerist.

“The officer corps of the elite Golani Brigade is now heavily populated by religious right-wing graduates of the preparatory academies,” noted Moshe Halbertal, a Jewish philosophy professor who co-wrote the military code of ethics and who is himself religiously observant but politically liberal. “The religious right is trying to have an impact on Israeli society through the army.”

For Mr. Halbertal, like for the vast majority of Israelis, the army is an especially sensitive institution because it has always functioned as a social cauldron, throwing together people from all walks of life and scores of ethnic and national backgrounds, and helping form them into a cohesive society with social networks that carry on throughout their lives.

Those who oppose the religious right have been especially concerned about the influence of the military’s chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki, who is himself a West Bank settler and who was very active during the war, spending most of it in the company of the troops in the field.

He took a quotation from a classical Hebrew text and turned it into a slogan during the war: “He who is merciful to the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful.”

A controversy then arose when a booklet handed out to soldiers was found to contain a rabbinical edict against showing the enemy mercy. The Defense Ministry reprimanded the rabbi.

At the time, in January, Avshalom Vilan, then a leftist member of Parliament, accused the rabbi of having “turned the Israeli military’s activity from fighting out of necessity into a holy war.”

Immediately after Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 and then from several West Bank settlements, there was a call to disband certain religious programs in the army because some soldiers in them said they would refuse to obey future orders to disband settlements. After the rise of Hamas in Gaza and the increase in rocket attacks on Israel, that discussion died down.

But Yaron Ezrahi, a leftist political scientist at Hebrew University who has been lecturing to military commanders, said that the call to close those programs should now be revived because what was evident in Gaza was that the humanistic tradition from which a code of ethics is derived was not being sufficiently observed there.

The dispute over control of the army is not only ideological. It is also personal, as all politics is in this small, intimate country. Those who disagree with the chief rabbi have vilified him. Those who are unhappy with what Mr. Zamir did by leaking the transcript of the Gaza soldiers’ testimonies last week have spread word that he is a leftist ideologue out to harm Israel.

In 1990, Mr. Zamir, then a parachute company commander in the reserves, was sentenced to prison for refusing to guard a ceremony involving religious Jews visiting the West Bank city of Nablus. For some, that refusal is a badge of honor; for others it is an act of insubordination and treason. A quiet campaign began on Thursday regarding Mr. Zamir’s leftist sympathies, to discredit the transcript he publicized.

At the same time, Rabbi Rontzki’s numerous sayings and writings have been making the rounds among leftist intellectuals. He has written, for example, that what others call “humanistic values” are simply subjective feelings that should be subordinate to following the law of the Torah.

He has also said that the main reason for a Jewish doctor to treat a non-Jew on the Sabbath, when work is prohibited but treating the sick and injured is expected, is to avoid exposing Diaspora Jews to hatred.

Mr. Halbertal, the Jewish philosopher who opposes the attitude of Rabbi Rontzki, said the divide that is growing in Israel is not only between religious and secular Jews but among the religious themselves. The debate is over three issues — the sanctity of land versus life; the relationship between messianism and Zionism; and the place of non-Jews in a sovereign Jewish state.

The religious left argues that the right has made a fetish of the land of Israel instead of letting life take precedence, he said. The religious left also rejects the messianic nature of the right’s Zionist discourse, and it argues that Jewish tradition values all life, not primarily Jewish life.

“The right tends to make an equation between authenticity and brutality, as if the idea of humanism were a Western and alien implant to Judaism,” he said. “They seem not to know that nationalism and fascism are also Western ideas and that hypernationalism is not Jewish at all.”


Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Museum of Sadam's Horrors - video

Museum of Saddam's Horrors

In Iraq a museum is being built to display the instruments of torture and the documents proving guilt of Saddam Hussein, his sick son Uday, and his loyal henchmen.

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