The New York Times had a brace of articles by Ethan Bronner reporting from Jerusalem in Friday and Saturday’s editions on the ‘furor’ caused by IDF soldiers' reports alleging actions against Gaza civilians during the recent Operation Cast Lead. Read here and here. The titles of the two pieces ,”Soldiers’ Accounts of Gaza Killings Raise Furor in Israel” and “More Allegations Surface in Israeli Accounts of Gaza War”, give rise to the impression that IDF soldiers violated traditional IDF military doctrine of ‘purity of arms’ and savagely targeted unarmed Gazan civilians.
The soldier shall make use of his weaponry and power only for the fulfillment of the mission and solely to the extent required; he will maintain his humanity even in combat. The soldier shall not employ his weaponry and power in order to harm non-combatants or prisoners of war, and shall do all he can to avoid harming their lives, body, honor and property.
This current furor was created by the alleged soldiers’ accounts compiled in February by an notorious Israel reserve refusenik and Chomsky acolyte, Dani Zamir. Zamir teaches at Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Kiryat Tivon. There is more afoot according to an analysis published in the Jerusalem Post by Herb Keinon, yesterday, entitled, “The crucial morality of the IDF's cause.”
As an Israeli friend and Zionist who lives in Europe observed: I have read all the articles and watched TV stations, both from Israel and in France. This is a Peace Now-Amnesty Leftist ideology being used to hit at Israel. What they want is to condemn Israel all around the world.
Note these excerpts from the Bronner articles:
Now testimony is emerging from within the ranks of soldiers and officers alleging a permissive attitude toward the killing of civilians and reckless destruction of property that is sure to inflame the domestic and international debate about the army’s conduct in Gaza. On Thursday, the military’s chief advocate general ordered an investigation into a soldier’s account of a sniper killing a woman and her two children who walked too close to a designated no-go area by mistake, and another account of a sharpshooter who killed an elderly woman who came within 100 yards of a commandeered house.
When asked why that elderly woman was killed, a squad commander was quoted as saying: “What’s great about Gaza — you see a person on a path, he doesn’t have to be armed, you can simply shoot him. In our case it was an old woman on whom I did not see any weapon when I looked. The order was to take down the person, this woman, the minute you see her. There are always warnings, there is always the saying, ‘Maybe he’s a terrorist.’ What I felt was, there was a lot of thirst for blood.”
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.
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.”
A soldier involved in Israel's recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip said in published reports Friday that the military's rabbinical staff distributed material characterizing the operation as a religious mission to "get rid of the gentiles who disturb us from conquering the holy land."
In the second day of published accounts from soldiers critical of the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza, the daily Maariv ran excerpts of an interview with a squad commander in Israel's Givati Brigade. He was identified only by his first name, given as Rahm.
The daily quoted him as saying that the Gaza operation from the beginning had "the feeling of almost a religious mission."
While military rabbis provided routine services -- such as distributing books of psalms and leading prayers at the start of the operation -- some religious materials veered in a political direction, he said.
"The military rabbinate brought many magazines and articles with a very clear message: 'We are the Jewish people, a miracle brought us to the land of Israel, God returned us to the land, and now we have to struggle so as to get rid of the gentiles who disturb us from conquering the holy land.' All the feeling throughout all this operation of many of the soldiers was of a war of religions," he said. "As a commander, I tried to explain that the war is not a war of Kiddush Hashem [the sanctification of God's name, including through martyrdom] but over the stopping of the launching of the Qassam rockets."
Now let’s see what Keinon of the Jerusalem Post uncovered about the author of this heedless anti-IDF kerfuffle abetted by the New York Times and the Washington Post, the left wing Israel reservist refusenik, Dani Zamir:
The second piece of context is Dani Zamir, the head of the program, who had the soldiers‚ words transcribed and published. A story in Haaretz on Thursday said that in 1990 Zamir, then a parachute company commander in the reserves, was tried and sentenced to prison for refusing to guard a ceremony where "right-wingers" brought Torah scrolls to Joseph's tomb in Nablus.
Zamir, in an interview on Israel Radio on Thursday, said that the soldiers from Operation Cast Lead who spoke at the meeting reflected an atmosphere inside the army of "contempt for, and forcefulness against, the Palestinians."
Zamir himself appears in a 2004 book titled Refusnik, Israel's Soldiers of Conscience, compiled and edited by Peretz Kidron, with a forward by Susan Sontag. The book, which earned commendation from no less a personage than Noam Chomsky, includes a section by Zamir, described as "an officer in the reserves from Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar who was sentenced to 28 days for refusal to serve in Nablus and now heads the Kibbutz Movement's preparatory seminary for youngsters ahead of their induction in the army."
"With stupid resolve and the smugness of the all-knowing, primitive preachers and unbridled nationalists are leading and misleading us to calamity, while Pompeii is preoccupied with watching boxing matches and with banquets in advance of the disaster," he wrote.
“I see a volcano in the land where one-third of the inhabitants are banned, by dint of their national and ethnic origins and geographical location, from voting as equals, where they don't have basic civic rights and where thousands are detained under administrative decree - under a military justice system that is farcical.“
"A land, a third of whose inhabitants have been subjected to extended military occupation for over 20 years - which means restrictions of rights and a different code of law for Jewish and Arab residents in the selfsame land - is not a democratic country. “
"Accordingly, collaboration with a regime or government that forces or orders me to be part of an anti-democratic apparatus that leads to self-destruction, disintegration and national decay, along with the utter denial of its own foundations, is illegitimate, unjust and immoral, and will remain so as long as the state does not take one of only two feasible actions: annexation of all or most of the territories conquered in 1967 and granting full civil rights to those residing there; or withdrawal from densely populated areas and a settlement that will release us of responsibility for the residents of those areas, who will chose for themselves whatever regime they desire (of course with security arrangements included)."
That was what Zamir wrote in 1990, reprinted in 2004. The testimonies of the soldiers that he brought to the public's attention seem to corroborate - what a coincidence - his thesis.
Now let’s return to one of the authors of this ‘furor’, Ethan Bronner of the New York Times. I received an email from a friend in Connecticut who penciled in some interesting background about Bronner:
Ethan Bronner is from Hartford. His father is a prominent semi-retired professor at UConn Health Center and his Uncle was a well known Israeli labor party big wig with name change from Bronner to something close in Hebrew, Baram. Believe me, Ethan was brought up a Zionist and good Jewish background.
What I draw from these remarks is that Timesman Bronner is a leftwing “Zionist” who doesn’t stint from filing reports from Jerusalem that appear to follow the extreme Peace Now propaganda. In effect he demonizes both Israel and the brave soldiers of the IDF with questionable reports from a Chomskyite acolyte, Mr. Zamir. If that is the case then Bronner has truly lost his moral compass.