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This is an ongoing affair in the Israeli media that gets too little international attention. Some may say that’s understandable, after all we are talking about relatively mild violence, while the IDF has been proven to commit mass War Crimes during the attack on Gaza in December 2008. Others would say “violence is violence, and is wrong,” and demand the respective IDF personnel put in jail. I have a strong impression that the international media is not accepting the Israeli description of the events and thus is not giving the event the position it deserves. Yet, I decided to touch it since it shows a very important point regarding the IDF – I touched that point extensively in my book The Cross of Bethlehem – and which simple soldiers ignore – or choose to ignore – until they find themselves abandoned by the big generals.
In early 2009, a lieutenant – the deputy commander of a company belonging to the Kfir Infantry Brigade of the Central Command – and one of his soldiers (ironically a medical sergeant) were brought to a military court under charges of applying physical violence toward Palestinians in September 2008. The event was discovered after a conscious soldier of the same company gave a note – he was too scared to make a verbal denounce – to an external investigator.
The whole list of their violent acts is disturbing; it included strangling and other types of extreme violence. Having been strangled myself by Israeli agents, I can understand the savage damage caused by these IDF soldiers. During the judicial process, these two soldiers were sent to a military prison, where they were probably treated as kings and heroes; I described disturbing qualities of the Israeli Military Police and of the related prisoners’ interrogation unit in The Cross of Bethlehem. The Israeli media gave extensive coverage to relatives and unidentified IDF officers claiming the criminals did not wrong and wildly attacking the military judges in charge of the case.
This is typical; an image of justice is delivered to the world, permitting Israel to claim it is a democracy obeying all the international human rights treaties it signed, while in reality, the institutional criminals are treated like heroes.
The claim in court was that they were just following orders allowing applying “limited violence” during interrogations and detentions of Palestinians. This claim cannot be accepted in the Israeli society. A cornerstone of the Israeli education system is that Nazi soldiers were all guilty because they obeyed illegal and immoral orders. Without judging what did happen during WWII, Israeli soldiers should behave according to this code, and refuse – or sabotage, as explained in The Cross of Bethlehem – any illegal or immoral order. These soldiers did not do that, and thus are guilty. Since Israeli military prisons cannot be trusted, they should be tried and imprisoned – if found guilty – by some international tribunal.
However, there is more in this event. The commander of the brigade – Lieutenant Colonel Ytay Virob (the actual Roman spell he uses may differ from the one I chose) – justified in 2009 “the use of violence during military operations,” and got a remark in his personal file by the Central Command commander. The system was making everything possible to justify and help the violent behavior of two soldiers. Virob apparently took partial responsibility; since he said that in court, it is not probably that it was a careless and unintentional whisper. Everything fits this interpretation. Except for the Israeli public, nobody buys this. We have read the Goldstone Report. We know how the IDF behaves; throwing white phosphorous artillery over hospitals is General Ashkenazi definition of “kindness.”
Two important parts of the Israeli mythos are “disobey immoral orders,” and “no soldier would be abandoned.” The last was used as an excuse for the disastrous attack on Lebanon in 2006. There are many examples of the last being just an encouraging fairy-tale told to soldiers about to be sacrificed on an unholy altar. Even this event is not free of such a forgery. On March 16, 2010, Lieutenant Colonel Ytay Virob gave an interview to Yedihot Aharonot. In it, he said “I should have phrased myself better; there were phrasing errors that could have caused others to misunderstand my intentions;” in this awkward way he was referring to the things he said in court the year before. He should rephrase better also this last statement.
A Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep. Yet, again, the Israeli leaders show their true face by favoring their careers over the lives of their soldiers. Lieutenant Colonel Ytay Virob, you were perfectly clear; we understand your selfish intentions perfectly.
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