Friday, March 20, 2009

Israel's moral narcissism

IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement
Haaretz: During Operation Cast lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive...

The squad leader said he argued with his commander over the permissive rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning the residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, the squad leader's soldiers complained that 'we should kill everyone there. Everyone there is a terrorist.'

The squad leader said: 'You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won't say anything. To write 'death to the Arabs' on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It's what I'll remember the most.' One NCO told of the experiences that bothered him during the operation... 'When we entered a house, we were supposed to bust down the door and start shooting inside and just go up story by story... I call that murder. Each story, if we identify a person, we shoot them.'...

The NCO also related a story about an old woman who was crossing a main route who was shot by the soldiers. 'I don't know whether she was suspicious, not suspicious... I do know that my officer sent people to the roof in order to take her out... It was cold-blooded murder.'

Another NCO told of an incident in which a family was killed. 'We had taken over the house... and the family was released and told to go right. A mother and two children got confused and went left... 'I don't know whether he first shot at their feet or not (per IDF engagement instructions), but he killed them.'

BBC: Testimonies also included allegations of unnecessary destruction of Palestinian property. 'We would throw everything out of the windows... Everything... Refrigerators, plates, furniture. The order was to throw all of the house's contents outside.'...

The soldiers' testimonies also reportedly told of an unusually high intervention by military and non-military rabbis, who circulated pamphlets describing the war in religious terminology. 'All the articles had one clear message... We are the people of Israel, we arrived in the country almost by miracle, now we need to fight to uproot the gentiles who interfere with re-conquering the Holy Land. Many soldiers' feelings were that this was a war of religion.'

Paul Woodward, War in Context: Israel is very well-versed in the practice and value of public displays of soul-searching -- witness the fact that the Oscar-contending Waltz With Bashir got promoted by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. But self-criticism ultimately is of little value if it rests on a foundation of moral narcissism.

To suffer from, or in truth enjoy indulging in, moral narcissism is to be able to examine one's failings while retaining an unshakable conviction in one's virtue. Within this condition, self-examination, far from leading to any revelations, is in fact an expression of the underlying conceit of virtue.
Image source here.