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IDF Open-Fire Regulations Backfire

Armed IDF Soldiers Run Away from Stone-Throwing Palestinians

 

 

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The picture at the right is so unbelievable that I must comment that the event was acknowledged by an "IDF senior commander" talking openly to settler Channel 7 and that the picture was taken by Masach, an Israeli news agency. In the interview, he admitted that in the second week of December 2012, two such events took place in the area controlled by the Judea and Samaria Regional Division; the unidentified source probably is its commander, Brigadier General Hagai Mordechai, or was another senior officer speaking with his direct permission. One event took place in Hebron, the second in Kadum. The events were common; IDF soldiers were deployed to disperse stone-throwing Palestinians. In both cases, the soldiers were unable to contain the event with alternative tools, but didn't open fire on the protesters. Instead, they ran away from the scene in front of the cameras.

In both cases, the problem was that the soldiers couldn't figure out the IDF Open-Fire Regulations. As explained in the following section, it is difficult to blame them. The actual situation is the result of the First Intifada; after the publication of the IDF brutality, the army changed these regulations and introduced several alternative weapons, like dogs, the stone-throwing "hatzatzit," "bo'ash" a device from which an insufferable stench emanates, "mataziot" water-throwing trucks, and "tze'aka" loudspeakers attached to jeeps, which creates a painful noise. The violent pictures appearing from time to time in the media prove that all these have been ineffective.

Armed IDF Soldiers Run Away from Stone-Throwing Palestinians

Armed IDF Soldiers Run Away from Stone-Throwing Palestinians
Kadum, December 2012, Picture courtesy of Masach

IDF Attack Dog

IDF Attack Dog refused to release its grip on Ahmad Shtawi
March 16, 2012, Kufr Qaddoum, West Bank
see the video

Secret Protocol of a Secret Government

Most IDF soldiers have never seen the formal IDF Open-Fire Regulations. Actually, there isn't even one version of it. Every division, especially regional ones, issues its own version according to the conditions in the territory it occupies. Invariably, the document is classified as "secret." This is done in order to restrict the soldiers' access to it. This is a contradiction, since they are supposed to obey it; however, IDF commanders have long since lost trust in their soldiers. By classifying it as secret, they assure it woould not reach the media through the soldiers. Instead, the document is supplied to the officers at level of company sub-commandant and above. The latter issue a document based on the formal order that is adapted to the specific conditions in their location and pass it downwards. Platoon commanders deliver the latter to the soldiers during their daily orders. Seldom is this done in writing; though sometimes a sterilized short version is given to the soldiers. They are supposed to keep it in their upper shirt pocket and consult it in case of need.

Secrecy allows senior IDF officers to avoid responsibility for the killing of innocents. Invariably, they divert the blame to the soldiers in the field. In 2006, the IDF conducted an investigation on the issue. Partial results were published by Yedioth Aharonot, Israel's largest newspaper. The issues reported were "soldiers fail to understand the regulation's nuances," and "In places in which the unit added 'a verbal instruction" to the regulations, it was found that the soldiers become confused from the large amount of information." Eventually, two main problems appear from the secret protocol. It encourages a quick trigger finger; soldiers know that no matter what atrocity they commit, they will be protected by a secret military tribunal assessing the secret open-fire protocol. The second problem is that soldiers confused by the complexity of the orders (nicknamed "kastach," an acronym for "ass-cover"), often summarize "I am not a lawyer and will not take responsibility for opening fire." In the ultimate example of evil administration, the IDF Open-Fire Regulations backfire.

IDF in Action

IDF in Action | Cowardice

 

Lessons in Humility

Soldiers participate in lessons in which hypothetical and historical events are analyzed. They are encouraged to participate actively, asking questions and offering alternate solutions to the event. Most soldiers are unable to deal with the mass of information provided to them; they are not prepared to deal with moral dilemmas appearing as a result of contradictory orders. Two basic principles guide all Open-Fire Regulations. The first is to open fire only in case of direct and immediate threat to the soldiers' lives. The second is to fire exclusively at the people directly involved in such a threat. Secondary details relate to the way people should be shot; certain units use the "vidu ariga" protocol, in which the victim is shot point blank for a second time in order to "corroborate killing."

What happens when the first order contradicts the second? What can a soldier do when his friend is in immediate danger, but he cannot shoot without hitting an innocent passerby? This is the classical dilemma and the source of hundreds of assassinations. In December 2012, two small IDF forces got a powerful lesson in humility. They understood that the entire situation was wrong, and just walked away. I did that ten years ago, and can assure these brave men only one thing: they have become enemies of the state. Channel 7 has already blamed them for "harming deterrence."

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