Sunday, March 22, 2009

 

Debate: Comments on Israelis vs Civilian Non-Combatants

http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/civilians-caught-in-urban-combat/

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:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/23/gaza-children-killed-israel

    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.

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