Monday, July 20, 2009

Israel in Gaza: 'We'll tell them they're lying'

Rattling the Cage: Our sons are lying again
Larry Derfner, The Jerusalem Post: Now comes 'Breaking the Silence,' an organization of IDF combat reservists, with the testimonies of 26 soldiers who served in Operation Cast lead, and the stories are very, very familiar, only they're much more detailed than what we've heard before. Over 100 pages of testimony about the extraordinary scale of destruction ('like in those World War II films where nothing remained'); the vandalism ('In one house we entered I saw guys had defecated in drawers'); the shoot-'em-up spirit ('The atmosphere was not one of fear but rather people too eager to shoot other people'); the elastic definition of 'legitimate target';... the firing of napalm-like white phosphorus in thickly-populated area; the killings of unarmed civilians in no-go zones; the rabbi' anti-Arab pep talks; and much, much more...

One soldier, a reserve combat medic, told me his unit spent a week in an abandoned rural village where 'about 50' houses had stood; by the time they left, most of the houses were rubble. 'I saw every kind of destruction I could think of. Houses were blown up by airplanes, helicopters, artillery, D-9 bulldozers, machine guns, mortars,' he said. The plan was to raze them all, he added, but the army had to leave Gaza early, what with Barack Obama getting inaugurated... It doesn't matter who tells us the truth about what we did in Gaza -- we'll deny it. If the entire IDF General Staff called a news conference and admitted that the evidence were true, we'd say they're leftists, they're kissing up to Obama, they're lying. Even if our own sons tell us it's true, we'll tell them they're lying.

Gershom Gorenberg, The American Prospect: 'We didn't see a single house that was not hit. The entire infrastructure, tracks, fields, roads -- was in total ruin,' an anonymous soldier says... 'Nothing much was left in our designated area... A totally destroyed city... The few houses that were still inhabitable were taken by the army... There were lots of abandoned, miserable animals.' The destruction continued daily, he testifies, though Palestinians -- fighters and civilians -- had fled the area.

So much lay in ruins, says another Israeli soldier, that it was hard to navigate. 'I entered Al Atatra after seeing aerial photos and couldn't identify anything... I remembered that 200 meters further on down the track there should be a junction, with two large houses at the corners, and there wasn't. I remembered there was supposed to be a square with a Hamas memorial... and there wasn't. There was rubble, broken blocks.' Later, he says, he was in an operations room where soldiers were directing air strikes. Landmarks that were supposed to serve the pilots as reference points had already been destroyed...

The Israel Defense Forces spokesman's office has argued consistently since the war that if any moral problems arose in Israel's conduct in Gaza, they were due to 'delinquent soldiers.' The soldiers' testimony presents a very different picture -- of a policy set by top commanders that led to unnecessary civilian deaths and massive physical damage.
Image source here.