Posts Tagged ‘IDF’

US Generals Flood Israel for Exercise against ‘Specific Threats’

November 9, 2009

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, Israel National News, Nov. 3, 2009

An unprecedented number of American generals, along with 1,400 U.S. army soldiers, are participating with top IDF brass in the high-level Juniper Cobra military exercise that one U.S. Navy commander said is aimed at “specific threats.” Public affairs officials interrupted the naval commander in order to divert the conversation from the scenario of Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities and defending itself from a counter-attack.

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UN retreats after Israel hits out at Gaza report

May 6, 2009

Secretary General rejects further investigation into ‘reckless’ military offensive

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

The Independent, UK,  May 6, 2009

Ban Ki-Moon: The UN secretary-general has attempted to draw a line after criticism of Israel


Ban Ki-Moon: The UN secretary-general has attempted to draw a line after criticism of Israel

The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon bowed to pressure from Israel yesterday by trying to limit the impact of a comprehensive critique accusing its military of “recklessness or negligence” in this year’s Gaza offensive.

The official UN report – which Mr Ban himself commissioned – criticised the Israel Defence Forces for breaching the inviolability of UN premises, causing deaths, injuries and damage in seven incidents involving UN installations, and on occasions issuing untrue statements about what had happened.

But in a covering letter attached to his own 27-page summary of the report, leaked last night, the secretary-general bluntly rejected its recommendations for further investigations into whether Israel had breached international law during the offensive, including by its use of white phosphorus.

Mr Ban’s efforts to draw a line under the report – compiled by a UN board of inquiry headed by Ian Martin, the British former head of Amnesty and UN envoy to East Timor – followed an intensive diplomatic effort by Israel to minimise the damage of its findings.

The report says that the IDF was “involved in varying degrees of negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries, and extensive physical damage and loss of property”.

The incidents examined in depth by the inquiry include the mortar attack on 6 January which killed up to 40 civilians outside a UN school in Jabalya being used as a shelter, and the devastating white phosphorus assault on the UN’s field office compound on 15 January which caused extensive damage.

In both cases, says Mr Ban’s summary, the UN is seeking “formal acknowledgement” by the government of Israel that its public statements claiming that Palestinian militants fired from the installations, were “untrue and regretted”. The report also recommends pressing Israel for compensation for the families of dead and injured UN personnel in the attacks.

The report says that the co-ordinates of the Jabalya school had been given to the IDF and that it had been notified of its planned use as a shelter even before Operation Cast Lead began. It notes that at the time of the rport’s drafting a claim that Hamas militants had fired mortars from within the compound and that the school was booby trapped was still on the Israeli foreign ministry website. It adds: “The Board found that there was no fire from within the compound and no explosives within the school.”

The report effectively accuses Israeli forces of repeatedly breaching the principle that “UN personnel and all civilians within UN premises, as well as civilians in the immediate vicinity of those premises, are to be protected in accordance with the rules and principles of international humanitarian law”.

The report also says that the deaths of two children and the injuries caused to 13 other civilians at another UN school used as an improvised shelter on 17 January were “undisputedly” caused by the artillery firing of 155mm shells which contained white phosphorus wedges.

The report also examines other hitherto little reported incidents, including an attack on the Asma UNRWA school in Gaza City, in which three young men, all members of a families taking shelter, were killed as a result of an “undisputed” single aerial missile. In another on a building opposite a UN health centre in the Bureij refugee after which one patient died, there was no warning, the report says. It says that one attack, on an installation in Karni, was probably the work of Hamas.

The report recommends further investigation of other both UN and non-UN related civilian deaths which have given rise to allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by both the IDF and Hamas.

But in his covering letter Mr Ban says he is “carefully considering” what actions “if any” to take on the 11 recommendations by the inquiry team. Mr Ban goes out of his way to thank Israel for its co-operation in the inquiry. He makes a point – urged on him by Israeli ministers and officials – of speaking out against “continued and indiscriminate” attacks by Hamas. And he said: “I do not plan any further enquiries.”

Israel yesterday rejected the report’s findings and its Foreign Ministry says the inquiry board “has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organisation, and by doing so has misled the world”. Defence Secretary Ehud Barak repeated that Israel has “the most moral army in the world” and laid full responsibility for casualties on Hamas.

Palestinian Revolution?

March 26, 2009

by Roane Carey | The Nation, March 26, 2009

On Friday I went to the anti-separation wall demo in Ni’lin in the West Bank, the same village where International Solidarity Movement activist Tristan Anderson was critically wounded last week. Several hundred villagers were accompanied by Jewish Israeli activists (most with Anarchists Against the Wall ) and ISMers, plus a few journalists like me. The IDF started firing tear gas at us even before we got close to the wall. The shebab (Palestinian youth) responded with stones, and the game was on: back and forth street battles, with the soldiers alternating between tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and occasional live ammunition, often fired by snipers, and the shebab hurling their stones by slingshot against the Israeli Goliath.

The IDF often fires tear gas now with a high-velocity rifle that can be lethal, especially when they fire it straight at you rather than pointed up in the air. Pointed straight, it comes at you like a bullet. That’s what seriously wounded Anderson. I saw these projectiles coming very near us, and saw how dangerous they could be. Not to mention the live ammo they occasionally fired–but they fired live rounds only at the shebab, never at the Jews or internationals. After a few hours, the clashes died down. Six were injured, one critically. Me, I just coughed and teared up from the gas on occasion. (In simultaneous demos in the nearby village of Bi’lin, three were injured, including two Americans.)

I mistakenly thought the army would be less aggressive on Friday, and not only because of the negative publicity surrounding the shooting of Anderson (the killing of Palestinians is of course routinely ignored in Western media; in Ni’lin alone, four villagers have been killed in the past eight months, with hundreds injured). The day before Friday’s march, revelations from Israeli veterans about war crimes they’d committed in the recent Gaza campaign made world headlines .

As villagers prepared yesterday’s march, Jonathan Pollock, a veteran activist with AATW, showed me where Anderson was standing when he was shot and where the IDF soldier was standing who shot him, just up the hill. The soldier had fired a high-velocity tear-gas canister at close range–what looked to me like about fifty or sixty meters–directly at Anderson, hitting him in the head. It was hard to imagine the intention could have been anything other than to seriously maim or kill.

The courage and steadfast resistance of the people of Ni’lin, and many other West Bank villages just like it that are fighting the wall’s illegal annexation of their land, is truly remarkable. Every week, for years now, West Bank Palestinians have stood up against the world’s fourth-most-powerful military machine, which shows no compunction about shooting unarmed demonstrators. This grassroots resistance–organized by the villagers themselves, not Fatah or Hamas–has gotten little publicity from the world media , which seem to prefer stories about Hamas rockets and the image of Palestinians as terrorists.

The village protests against the wall are inspiring, and not just because they’ve continued for so long, against such daunting odds. The villagers recognize the power and revolutionary potential of mass, unarmed resistance, and the shebab with their slingshots hearken back to the first intifada of the late 1980s and the “children of the stones,” when hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were directly involved in the struggle against the occupation. The Israeli government knows how difficult it is to suppress that kind of mass resistance, which is why it has used such brutality and provocation against the villagers. The army wants to shut this uprising down before it spreads, and would like nothing more than for the villagers to start using guns, as the IDF is certain to win a purely military confrontation. The other inspiration of this struggle is the courage and solidarity of the Israeli and ISM activists. They risk their lives day after day, and the villagers appreciate it. I saw signs in Ni’lin praising Tristan Anderson, who, just like Rachel Corrie six years ago, was willing to sacrifice his life for Palestinian justice.

Roane Carey, managing editor at The Nation, was the editor of The New Intifada (Verso) and, with Jonathan Shainin, The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent (New Press).

Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques – IDF fashion 2009

March 21, 2009

A T-shirt printed at the request of an IDF soldier in the sniper unit reading ‘I shot two kills.’

Last update – 22:41 20/03/2009
By Uri Blau | Haaretz, Israel,  March 20, 2009
The office at the Adiv fabric-printing shop in south Tel Aviv handles a constant stream of customers, many of them soldiers in uniform, who come to order custom clothing featuring their unit’s insignia, usually accompanied by a slogan and drawing of their choosing. Elsewhere on the premises, the sketches are turned into plates used for imprinting the ordered items, mainly T-shirts and baseball caps, but also hoodies, fleece jackets and pants. A young Arab man from Jaffa supervises the workers who imprint the words and pictures, and afterward hands over the finished product.

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques – these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, “Bet you got raped!” A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies – such as “confirming the kill” (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.

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Allowing the Destruction of Palestine, We Die Hungry Too

January 7, 2009

by Ru Freeman

Today’s New York Times highlights the plight of the Samouni family in Gaza who lost eleven of their members despite their calls to the Red Cross to help them evacuate from Gaza, and after the order from the Israeli military forces, who occupied their home, to relocate to another building. Masouda al-Samouni lost her husband, mother in law and her 10 month old son for whom she had been preparing food. “He died hungry,” she said.

Let us set aside the business of occupation and military aggression for a moment and reflect on the words of Major Avital Leibovich, a spokesman for the Israeli Defence Forces who repeats the oft repeated: Hamas has built its network among civilians and therefore civilians are collateral damage. The entire Gaza strip is 360 square km. That is just about 50 sq. km. larger than New York City. Should the rest of the neighboring states here decide to surround the city of New York, cut off access to it or departure from it, ignore its elected leaders, withold its legally earned revenue, set up refugee camps and periodically bulldoze them as well as adjoining neighborhoods, starve the people, cut off their water and their electricity and prevent the supply of humanitarian aid, where would the city’s resistance reside? I’m guessing that it wouldn’t be congregating en masse down 5th Avenue.

In the occupied territories of Palestine – and I call them that because we are all intelligent enough to know that occupation does not have to mean physical presence, it is the power to deny human freedoms and to prevent the right to the conduct of normal life – there are no families left who have not suffered a loss at the hands of the IDF. That makes every Gazan a victim. That makes every Gazan have anger toward the IDF. That does not make every Gazan deserving of murder.

Collateral damage is an easy term to toss around. The term collateral comes from the Latin and its meaning is not only “parallel,” it is also “additional but subordinate.” The United States military defines it as being damage that “is not unlawful so long as it is not excessive in light of the military advantage anticipated by the attack.” Since when is the premeditated murder of an innocent human being, “subordinate” to anything? How, exactly, do we define “excess?” Would we have mourned less if nobody had gone to work on 9/11 and only a few janitors and an over-zealous upper manager or two were killed? Is there a certain number after which we begin to pay attention? When our basic human instinct to feel for one another, to mourn the death of another like us, kicks in?
In 1994, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire watched as his troops, sent for peace-keeping, were withdrawn over the death of ten Belgian soldiers. He went on to write a book, Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, in which he poses the question, why did the deaths of ten Belgians matter so greatly, and the death of eight hundred thousand Rwandans matter so little?

The question for us today is the same. We have the UN inside Palestine, along with numerous other organizations including the Red Cross. Apparently, we care enough to maintain an international presence that can help eleviate the suffering of the people of Palestine. But we don’t care enough to stop the continuing massacre of those people. We don’t care enough to set aside our polite requests by international governments, not specific leaders, and our little European delgations flying hither and yon asking for a bit of mercy on behalf of those people, to put our feet down in the soil inside Palestine and say no.

In 2003, a 23 year old American activist, Rachel Corrie, had the guts to do what we refuse to do. She stood before a caterpillar bulldozer being driven by the IDF, to ask that they not destroy the home of a Palestinian family. Despite the attemts of her fellow activists to contact the American embassy, and the knowledge of the IDF about the presence of Rachel and other International Solidarity Movement volunteers in Rafah, Rachel was killed as her friends watched.

This country came together, not so long ago, to bring about a transformation that the world never expected of it. During those twenty months, and right up to the day of the presidential elections, we were all Rachel Corries, we were simply doing her work inside America. So long as we consider that to be sufficient contribution to the progress we desire, to the peace we seek, and to the change we want, we will all die hungry.

Ru Freeman is an author and activist. Her political journalism and cultural criticism has appeared internationally. Her novel, A Disobedient Girl, will be published in English and in translation in July, 2009.

Israel: wedded to war?

October 9, 2008

Far from learning the lessons of past conflict, the country’s military seem ever more willing to resort to brute force

For Israel, the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon war was all about questions. What mistakes were made, and who made them? What could be done to restore the Israeli military’s “deterrence” after a widely perceived defeat? In general, what lessons could be learned from the confrontation with Hizbullah in order that next time, there would be no question of failure?

Unfortunately, it seems that entirely the wrong kinds of conclusions are being reached, at least in the military hierarchy and among the policy shaping thinktanks. On Friday, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper published comments made by Israeli general Gadi Eisenkot, head of the army’s northern command. Eisenkot took the opportunity to share the principles shaping plans for a future war.

The general promised “disproportionate” force to destroy entire villages identified as sources of Hizbullah rocket fire, the reasoning being that they are “not civilian villages” but rather “military bases” – the kind of reasoning that can land you in a war crimes tribunal.

Eisenkot pointed to how Israel levelled the Dahiya neighbourhood of Beirut in 2006 and confirmed that this would be the fate of “every village from which Israel is fired on”. In case there was any doubt, he added: “This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.”

The frank promise of “disproportionate” force will be chilling for the Lebanese, who even last time round were subjected to indiscriminate attack, the targeted destruction of civilian infrastructure, and carpet cluster-bombing. But what Ha’aretz dubbed the “Dahiya Doctrine” received enthusiastic support in some quarters, such as veteran Israeli TV and print journalist Yaron London.

London seemed highly pleased with Eisenkot’s determination to “destroy Lebanon”, undeterred “by the protests of the ‘world'”. London, while looking forward to Israel “pulverising” some “160 Shi’ite villages” made the implications of Eisenkot’s thinking clear: “In practical terms, the Palestinians in Gaza are all Khaled Mashaal, the Lebanese are all Nasrallah, and the Iranians are all Ahmadinejad.” The meaning of “practical terms” did not need repeating.

The Ha’aretz report also described how similar conclusions were being reached in reports by military-academic institutions. One such paper, published by the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, and unambiguously titled “Disproportionate Force”, details the author’s (reserve Colonel Gabriel Siboni) understanding of the lessons of 2006:

With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes.

Siboni urges the Israeli military to strike disproportionately at “the enemy’s weak points”, and only afterwards to go after the missile launchers themselves. Devastating “economic interests”, “centres of civilian powers”, and “state infrastructure” will “create a lasting memory among Syrian and Lebanese decision makers” and thus increase “Israeli deterrence” and tie up “enemy” resources in reconstruction.

A further new INSS publication by a former head of the National Security Council, urges Israel to guarantee that next time around, the Lebanese army and civilian infrastructure “will be destroyed”. Or as the author pithily puts it, “People won’t be going to the beach in Beirut while Haifa residents are in shelters”.

This determination to “create a lasting memory” in the minds of the Syrian and Lebanese is reminiscent of previous Israeli declarations of intent. In 2003, the IDF’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon, said that the war being waged in the occupied territories would “sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people”.

In 2006 in fact, the likes of Dr Reuven Erlich, head of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre at the Centre for Special Studies in Tel Aviv, also recommended “searing” into the “Lebanese consciousness” the “steep price they will pay for provoking and harassing us”.

Using brute force to “sear” certain truths into the consciousness of Arabs of varying descriptions has a certain heritage in Israeli and Zionist thought, going all the way back to Jabotinsky’s theory of the “iron wall”. In the 1920s he wrote candidly that “every indigenous people will resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement”. The need then was for an “iron wall” of force to bring the Palestinians to the point of giving up “all hope”.

While the brutal logic of settler-colonial domination has been a guiding principle for Israeli military strategists through the decades, it has been complemented by the racist “anthropological” cliche that the “Arabs only understand force”. Interestingly, such tropes are now commonplace in US military discourse, as the Pentagon is also now in the position of directly occupying a Middle East country and facing resistance.

Thus it seems Israel is learning entirely the wrong lessons from the 2006 conflict. Wrong, of course, from a moral point of view (though that only seems to enter the picture in terms of an anticipated international backlash). The conclusion could also be seen as flawed from the perspective of the kind of response it could invite. Fundamentally though, these pledges of disproportionate devastation show that the Israeli military leadership suffers from tunnel-vision policymaking, wedded to the idea that Israel will gain acceptance in the Middle East through force of arms.

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