Editorial: Singled out

The justness of Israel’s cause is central to its capacity to withstand rocks, bombs, missiles... and the toxic misrepresentations of its enemies.

By JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL
March 26, 2010 10:22
3 minute read.
IDF soldiers in action.

idf soldiers 311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 
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In a region bereft of other democracies, Israel strives to safeguard military ethics, as is befitting a Jewish, democratic state, in the face of implacable enemies who cynically exploit Israeli morality.

Sadly, however, many cynical international parties have made an obsession of holding Israel to standards no other nation is asked to meet – standards many of these self-same critics certainly do not meet – while turning a blind eye to profound abuses of freedom from China to Sudan, Sri Lanka to Myanmar.

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A case in point was Thursday’s vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The UNHRC, which has gradually relinquished its moral legitimacy due to its pathological preoccupation with Israel, voted to establish a committee to monitor allegations of Israeli “human rights violations and war crimes.”

Italy, the Netherlands and the US – despite the current tension in ties with Israel – voted against the resolution sponsored by Arab and Islamic nations. Britain abstained, as did France, Japan and Norway. The remaining members of the 47-state council voted in favor.

TRUE TO grim tradition, the UNHRC ignored several recent examples of how Israel continues to grapple with the near-impossible moral dilemmas it faces in its struggle to defend itself while upholding human rights.

On Wednesday, this newspaper revealed that three months ago, the IDF Central Command instituted more stringent rules of engagement for soldiers operating in the West Bank. Military personnel driving in armored jeeps may no longer open fire on Palestinian terrorists poised to throw a Molotov cocktail at them. Only when firebombs are thrown at a non-armored vehicles is such fire permitted. Nor are IDF soldiers allowed automatically to shoot in the air to disperse rock throwing demonstrators. They must now receive express permission to do so from a high-ranking officer.

On the very day those new engagement rules were reported, another news story further illustrated the ongoing Israeli endeavor to be ethical. A military trial began for two Givati soldiers accused of using a nine-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield during Operation Cast Lead over a year ago. The two soldiers, who were searching a building for Hamas terrorists, allegedly told the boy to open a bag that they suspected might be booby-trapped; the soldiers said the bag belonged to the boy and that they themselves had opened other bags.



Similarly, earlier this month, Lt. Adam Malul of the Kfir infantry brigade was sentenced to 64 days of military confinement and 32 days of house arrest by a military court for the beating of a Palestinian not suspected of terrorist activity. Apparently the beating, which included slaps on the face and a knee to the stomach, was aimed at extracting information that could prevent a future terrorist attack. Both IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and former OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni severely criticized the practice.



Subsequently, the Military Prosecution appealed against the sentence, handed down by IDF Military Court Judge Lt.-Col. Noa Zommer, arguing that it was inadequate and that Malul should be demoted. In parallel, Military Advocate-General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mendelblit is considering additional measures against Malul’s superior, Kfir Brigade commander Col. Itai Virob, who admitted in testimony that Malul’s behavior was normative.

THIS SUCCESSION of developments underlines the IDF’s abiding effort to maintain its moral code, amid life-threatening combat conditions, against enemies who often deliberately place their civilians in harm’s way, and under the looming existential threat posed by Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons.

Western forces, fighting far from home in Iraq and Afghanistan, are facing similar dilemmas, and few fairminded observers would argue that they are handling them more admirably than the IDF.

Instead of receiving recognition for this, however, the UN’s Goldstone Report shamefully misrepresented the realities of Operation Cast Lead and now Israel has again been singled out for castigation by countries many of which have appalling human rights records.

Nonetheless, the fact is that Israel does not strive for moral excellence for the sake of international appreciation. It does so, first and foremost, for itself. The justness of Israel’s cause, and its moral pursuit, is central to Israel’s capacity to withstand rocks, Molotov cocktails, guns, bombs, missiles... and the toxic misrepresentations of its enemies.

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