19 mars 2009,
Operation Cast Lead ended two months ago in a show of arrogance by Israeli leaders : Hamas had been dealt a crushing defeat that would deter it from firing rockets, and if it continued to smuggle weapons into Gaza the entire international community, from Washington to Cairo, would rally together to intercept them.
The price paid by Gaza’s civilian population - hundreds killed, in addition to the hundreds of armed men from Hamas and other organizations - was presented as an unfortunate, but necessary, result of the combat methods required to protect soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.
With disappointment growing as the operation’s declared achievements dissipate, a second wave of evidence and revelations is being heard from the soldiers who were there, who saw what was happening and are sometimes even describing what they themselves did.
Amos Harel reports in Haaretz today and tomorrow about a discussion held a month ago among the graduates of the pre-army program at Oranim, who took part in the Gaza fighting as combat soldiers and junior officers.
This is a modern version of "The Seventh Day," the book published after the Six-Day War that highlighted the soul-searching of the generation that fought a justified defensive war, but found itself dragged afterward into acts that contradicted the moral values it prided itself on. The grandchildren of this same Six-Day War group are now teaching in their testimony that the situation is even more worrying than in 1967.
The soldiers describe the killing of innocent civilians, pointless destruction, expulsions of families from homes seized as temporary outposts, disregard for human life and a tendency toward brutalization. This scandalous behavior did not stem from the policy of the senior commanders. It resulted from the disconnect between the battalion commanders and higher officers, versus their subordinates in the companies, platoons and houses where the soldiers waited for fighting to resume after Hamas retreated from the crowded urban battlefield. When the soldiers had no one to fight, they fought what was there.
The IDF’s internal investigations, which are moving ahead very slowly, are not enough. The army is absorbing more and more religious extremism from the teachings of the IDF’s rabbinate. It would be appropriate to investigate the problems from outside the IDF and root them out before the rot destroys the IDF and Israeli society.