by Alban du Boisguéheneuc
“Human Dignity – The IDF and its soldiers are obligated to protect human dignity. Every human being is of value regardless of his or her origin, religion, nationality, gender, status or position.”1
This is an excerpt from the code of conduct of the Israeli armed forces, "the spirit of the IDF." It is taught to soldiers and is, according to the website, an integral part of their training. However, the international community continues to question the ethics Israeli military operations.
“Purity of Arms – The IDF servicemen and women will use their weapons and force only for the purpose of their mission, only to the necessary extent and will maintain their humanity even during combat. IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property.”
The NGO Amnesty International recently released a report entitled "Trigger-Happy", denouncing the repeated attacks against human dignity committed by the IDF, going as far as mentioning war crimes. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said Amnesty International was showing "a complete lack of understanding of operational issues," an unsatisfactory response to the defenders of Palestinian rights. Here is one of the stories listed in the report:
Lubna Hanash – one story among many
“Lubna Hanash, 21, and her relative Suad Ji’ara, were walking along a path leading out of the Palestine Agricultural College near Hebron at around 1.30pm on 23 January 2013 when an Israeli soldier fired what Suad Ji’ara remembers as four shots in their direction from a distance of about 100 meters. They had just visited the college, where no students were present that day because of a strike; they were not participating in a protest or posing a threat to anyone or anything.”2
There are many other examples of injustices committed by the Israeli army against the Palestinian population. The Jewish state, engaged in a war of attrition with terrorism, revels in the famous "Masada complex" the idea that the Israeli state is the last refuge to protect at all cost, which is sometimes the source of extreme behavior. IDF soldiers still take the oath as follows: "Masada shall not fall again" ("Shenit Matzada lo Tipol").
A code of honor developed for different times
The fact is that the IDF’s honor code was developed in a specific context, that of the 1948 war that was to repel potential invasions of Israel by neighboring Arab countries, therefore reflective of a fight for survival. Opponents were of a similar nature: an army against an army, and the Jews could proclaim self-defense. Since then, circumstances have obviously changed. It is here that the response of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel takes its full meaning when it emphasizes the "complete lack of understanding of operational issues" from the NGO. It is important to consider the rules imposed by a new type of conflict, that is to say the urban warfare. In this context, civilians mingle with the fighters, resulting in many unjustified abuses from the army. The real fault attributable to the IDF is the protection it offers to its men.
“Following the incident, the Israeli army said that the shooting had occurred after a car in which a senior officer and his driver were travelling came under attack from youths who threw stones and a petrol bomb. In accordance with normal procedures, however, the MPCID ((Military Police Criminal Investigations Division) opened an investigation, whose outcome–at the time of writing, a year later– has yet to be disclosed.”
In its paranoia, the IDF has trouble identifying its very real enemies. This is actually what finds expression in the Amnesty International report. From a state perspective, and morally, the justification of atrocities committed by soldiers against human dignity is more serious than the crimes themselves, which seem in fact inevitable in a conflict of this kind. In its attempt to protect its men, the IDF endorse these crimes, which are identified by some as war crimes.
What about the purity of arms?