Breaking the Silence Over Gaza

July 15, 2009

As the BBC reports, the Israeli human rights organization Breaking the Silence has compiled a devestating series of interviews with Israeli soldiers who took part in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

The soldiers document many things that we already knew, or suspected such as that:

White phosphorus was used in civilian areas in a way some soldiers saw as gratuitous and reckless

There was incidents of vandalism of property of Palestinians

Some of the troops had a generally aggressive, ill-disciplined attitude

Rules of engagement were either unclear or encouraged soldiers to do their utmost to protect their own lives whether or not Palestinian civilians were harmed.

But other details have emerged as well, which include how:

Soldiers fired at water tanks because they were bored, at a time of severe water shortages for Gazans

Testimony mentioned a policy referred to as “the day after”, whereby areas near the border where razed to make future military operations easier

Perhaps most damningly, given the tendency of Israeli propagandists to portray Hamas as using “human shields,” Breaking the Silence also found that “Civilians were used as human shields, entering buildings ahead of soldiers.”

It’s another piece of a shocking jigsaw. Operation Cast Lead now stands unmasked as a brutal assault on the Palestinian people, not Hamas. As the soldiers report, “there had been very little direct engagement with Palestinian militants” and fire was diverted towards water tanks, schools, farmlands and power plants.

The BBC uncritically quotes Lt Col Avital Leibovich of the Israeli Army in response, who slyly adds that “The IDF regrets the fact that another human rights organisation has come out with a report based on anonymous and general testimony – without investigating their credibility.”

Of course, those speaking out openly from within the Israeli Army would be disciplined and even imprisoned for their trouble. Leibovitch is using blatant slander against human rights advocates, which only heightens the risk of attacks on NGO workers in future conflicts.

In other news, a hideous advert for Israeli tourism has been banned in the UK after a flood of well justified complaints. The advert, which took the form of a map, suggested that both the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights were part of Israeli territory, and was permitted to be plastered all over the London Underground network  by British authorities.

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