The IDF: The Moral Army

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On October 16, 2009, British Colonel Richard Kemp testified regarding Israel’s behavior in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead (Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008-9 ), as part of the UN’s evaluation of the Goldstone Report.  Colonel Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who served with the UN and NATO, commanded British troops in Northern Ireland, led UK forces in Bosnia and Macedonia, participated in Gulf War 1, spent considerable time in Iraq during Gulf War 2,  and served on the UK’s joint international commission on terrorism, testified as follows:

“Based on my knowledge and experience, I can say that during Operation Cast Lead, the Israel Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in the combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.  Israel did so while faced with an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capacities behind the human shields of the civilian population.”

But have we not heard, for decades, from Israel’s critics, detractors, and enemies (including some who call themselves Israel’s friends), from the podia of the UN, Western mainstream media, the college classroom, church pulpits, and human rights organizations that Israel commits war crimes; deploys munitions banned by international law; routinely uses excessive force; targets civilian populations; is a “state terrorist” waging terror war against innocent, helpless, harmless civilians; and in general behaves like a rogue state hell-bent on genocide and ethnic cleansing?

Even a brief overview of Israeli military actions proves these accusations false.  Israel is the only nation in the world, and across all of world history, that has intentionally consistently placed its concern for the lives of enemy civilians ahead of its concern for the lives of its own civilian and military populations.

The evidence to support Colonel Kemp’s testimony, and the above assertion, is irrefutable.

During April 1-11, 2002, the IDF invaded Jenin to neutralize terrorist forces based there, as part of its Operation Defensive Shield, after a deadly string of terror attacks including the infamous Park Hotel massacre (March 27, 2002).  The IDF knew that terrorist forces in Jenin were expecting the invasion, and had prepared for it with numerous booby traps and ambush forces hidden within the civilian population, in Arab homes, mosques, hospitals and public places.  Common sense and military practice would require that the IDF engage in safe long-distance attacks from the air and with artillery, to reduce or eliminate Israeli casualties.  But Israel chose instead to send in ground forces, going house to house, urging civilians to leave, accompanying those who did so until they reached safety, employing local residents to urge others to leave, and urging terrorists hidden in homes to surrender; and in doing so, the Israeli soldiers themselves easy targets for the terrorists.

Although UN debates and international media teemed with accusations of massacre and bloodbath, war crimes and crimes against humanity, western and even Arab sources admitted later that there was simply no evidence to support such infamy.  A total of 54 Arabs, almost all armed terrorists, and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed in Jenin.

Had Israel chosen to launch an aerial and artillery attack, no Israeli soldiers would have been killed, but hundreds or perhaps thousands of civilian Arabs would have died.  Israel chose the death of its own soldiers in order to minimize harm to Arab civilians.  Although as yet unrecognized as such, the IDF made similar decisions during the Second Lebanon War (12 July – 14 August, 2006).

Israel has been the object of much calumny and opprobrium, including the accusation of war crimes violation, for its use of cluster bombs during its invasion of Lebanon in 2006.  Cluster bombs have long been the subject of debate in legal circles, but in 2006 there had been no definitive ruling as to the legality of cluster bombs. Only in August, 2010, did an international ban on cluster munitions take effect following the ratification of the “Convention on Cluster Munitions.” Therefore Israel violated no law with its use of cluster bombs.  Nonetheless, there is a moral question.

Cluster bombs are air-to-ground or ground-to-ground ordinance which consist of a large capsule containing hundreds of marble-sized bomblets which, upon the large capsule’s impact, shoot out randomly over a wide area, exploding upon contact, causing indiscriminate damage, and thus posing a significant risk to civilians, since the bomblets cannot be aimed at a specific target.  A secondary but no less lethal risk is the fact that many bomblets do not explode after dispersion, can remain on the ground in a live state indefinitely, and can detonate if someone steps on them or picks them up.  This creates danger to civilians even long after hostilities have ceased.

So why did the IDF, the supposedly most humane army in the world, deploy them extensively in Lebanon in 2006? Because it was the best way to maintain Israel’s commitment to minimizing harm to the enemy civilian population, even at the expense of Israeli civilians and soldiers.

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  • stern

    But don't you get it? Israel isn't allowed to do ANYTHING to defend herself. Even the targeted killings of Yassin, head of Hamas, and subsequently, his replacement, the kindly old paediatrician, were criticized widely.

    The only thing Israel is allowed to do is disappear.

    • Raymond in DC

      Right. If actions deemed "indiscriminate" or "collective punishment" draw condemnation, and "targeted killings" do likewise, what permitted actions remain?

  • AnAmericaninIsrael

    I have followed Israel's defense forces for some time now; and I can attest to the
    article's accuracy; but I don't understand WHY the IDF(and by extension to the political
    sphere, American Jews) is so kind to its enemies.WHAT do they get from it? Are they trying to teach morality to radical Islam? If so, does that work? I don't advocate being purposely cruel; however, the business of not using cluster bombs because the rounds might kill civilians, or cause a roof to collapse, is nonsense. Jews are treated differently from the rest of the world, partly because they behave differently, and here is the proof.

    • ziontruth

      "…but I don't understand WHY the IDF(and by extension to the political sphere, American Jews) is so kind to its enemies."

      The way I see it, it all stems from the mistaken idea that Judaism equals humanistic pacifism (i.e. Judaism as Gandhi with a few Jewish-specific trappings). It's Norman Podhoretz's "Torah of Liberalism" thesis, to which I'm quite partial (also explains why so many American Jews vote Dem against their best interests).

      "I don't advocate being purposely cruel;"

      Neither does the Torah. But the Sages said, "He who is merciful to the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful." The Torah forbids wanton barbarism in the style of Genghis Khan, but equally condemns Gandhian pacifism as a transgression that aids and abets evil in the world.

  • Sue

    I had a colleague once who told me that I was bullied by my boss constantly because I didn’t make a peep. I allowed it to happen but once I stood up to him, he backed off. Sometimes, you just have to have a spine.

    • 9/11Bystander

      Rabbi Hillel once said, "If I am not for myself, who am I? If I am not for others, what am I?' Notice, the "WHO" comes before the "WHAT."

  • Chiggles

    Ordnance, not "ordinance".

  • UCSPanther

    The double standard that is applied to the IDF is sickening. The world yells and screams if the IDF gives some murderous terrorist thugs a well-deserved beating for their crimes (IE Arafat, Yassin, etc), but they hardly bat an eye if other ME regimes murder civilians or purge political enemies.

  • Stan

    I wouldn't call it the most "humane" army– armies aren't supposed to be "humane," after all. But it is certainly true that the IDF is the most *morally-restrained* army in human history.

    It is a telling fact about the ferocity of worldwide anti-Israel propaganda that the IDF is often compared to one of the most barbaric armed forces in recent memory, the Wehrmacht. Someone who can't tell the difference between those two is someone who cannot tell the difference between anything and– something else.

  • Brujo Blanco

    The Israelis have proven their morality by their action. Their enemies have demonstrated by their actions and words that they have a mission which is to exterminate every Jew in the world. The international MSM has elected to write off the murders of Jews and to not believe what he Islamoterrorist say about themselves.

  • John_Kelly

    This is just an observation from a Gentile who has nothing but admiration for Israel.

    Israel which is about the same size as New Jersey and makes up approximately 1% of the Middle East land mass, is the most courageous & inspirational nation on planet earth (EVER) as Israel has continuously overcome insurmountable odds in the most hostile neighborhood on the planet.

    Shalom Israel !!!!!

    • stern

      Thank you!

      • John_Kelly

        Shalom Stern.

  • Vermont Yid

    In my not so humble opinion, the problem with the Israeli military is the Israeli government. The IDF is being run by politicians – a bunch of pussies whose backsides are safe while Israel's best are unnecessarily being put at greater risk because the politicians are worried about world opinion. SCREW WORLD OPINION!

    Dissolve the Keneset. Throw every last one of them out. Put the IDF in charge of the IDF! And while you're at it, empty the yeshivas and put them in IDF uniforms. If they don't want to fight – fine, let them drive munition trucks, let them cook for the IDF, let them sew uniforms or make boots, but get them off their lazy azzes and have them actually do something productive when it comes to the defense of Israel. If they refuse, send them to Iran! But wait, let me tell you how I really feel about them.

    • ziontruth

      "In my not so humble opinion, the problem with the Israeli military is the Israeli government."

      100% agree.

      "Dissolve the Keneset. Throw every last one of them out. Put the IDF in charge of the IDF!"

      I don't agree completely. Put who in charge of the IDF? Though the government is undoubtedly the problem, there are enough heads of the IDF who share the cowardly, appeasing, politically correct mindset of the parliament members. It is critical to put people of right opinion in charge of the future Jewish Army.

      "And while you're at it, empty the yeshivas and put them in IDF uniforms."

      100% disagree. Without HaShem, the Jewish people is nothing. There may be too many people in the yeshivahs, too many who aren't the best and brightest of the Jewish world and would be better off with productive jobs, but to empty the yeshivahs entirely—no go. Torah Study is the be-all and end-all of Jewish existence, the purpose for HaShem's creation of the Jewish nation. The yeshivah students are our first and last line of defense.

      "If they refuse, send them to Iran! But wait, let me tell you how I really feel about them."

      No need to tell anything more, it's plain to see you miss the glory days of the Soviet Union.

  • Bert

    Ironically it is Israeli restraint that fuels much of the attacks against Israel. The Arabs have shown repeatedly that extermination and not peace is their goal. The IDF often violates a Jewish teaching which says, 'If an enemy comes to kill you, rise up early, and kill him first.'
    This worked well in 1967 with preemption. A big victory resulted and fear among the Arabs.
    But in 1973 Kissinger bullied Israel into waiting to be attacked first. They suffered many casualties and lost their deterrence effect.
    Sometimes peace requires a terrible war to totally crush the enemy and knock the aggression out of them as with Germany and Japan in WWII.

  • Asher

    Defense is Defense, and Political correctness is attacking both the United States and Israel's right to defend themselves. All nations have the right to defend themselves against Terrorists and aggressors who want to destroy peace, civilization, prosperity, and unity!

  • KKKK

    Israel is not only concerned about protecting the right to life of civilians; they are concerned to the level of absourd. they even go enormous lengths to protect women and children from being harmed by their troops. of the 1400 "Palestinains" killed in the Gaza Way of 2008-2009 winter, over two-thrids were Hamas fighters. and when they Qanna in Lebanon (2006) they complaiend that Hezbollah "uses civilians as shields."

  • jacob

    What I won't be able to ever understand, is the reason why the Israeli govmt. abstains from repaying HAMAS indiscriminate bombing of South Israel in kind…

    I see no logical reason to risk pilot lives, costly aircraft and ordnance for pinpoint liquidation of terrorists either in the act of firing their rockets and mortars or on the
    way to do it, which earns it the condemnatuon of the EU and UN fools for
    "Disproportionate Reaction", when the same rocketes and mortars can be fired on
    GAZA as indiscriminatedly as HAMAS fires his on Israel and if it would play havoc
    due to GAZA's population density, this should have been taken into consideration
    by their "leaders" before embarking in such actions….
    Unfortunately, Israeli "leaders" will never learn that all those who are made out of
    sugar, usually end up eaten by the ants and moreover with such enemy

  • Hollywood Jeff

    Israel 'Über Alles!

    • ziontruth

      You're a bit confused, my friend. The heirs of the Nazis today are the "Allahu Akbar"-shouting Muslims, murderers of Christians on Christmas day and sworn enemies and would-be murderers of the Jews everywhere.

      It's "Islam Über Alles" that should have you up in the arms. Unless, of course, you're a sympathizer with Islam's imperialist aggression as all Marxist Leftists are.

    • UCSPanther

      Look up the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

      The Arabs have him to thank for infecting the Middle East with German antisemitism.

  • jacob

    But the epitome of hate, is the article written by some Israeli (?) lefty claiming
    Israeli soldiers were DISCRIMINATORS because they abstained form raping
    Arab women during the relatively recent CAST LEAD operation in GAZA…..

    Is there any precise word in English to qualify such braying ??????

  • AL__
  • aspacia


  • EdwinS

    Underzog couldnt be more on the money.
    The duty of the army is to protect the homeland and then, to protect the troops. The pathetic need for world approval led to the deaths of Jewish soldiers so that enemy civilians should survive. "Look at us – we sacrifice our own boys so that you – the rest of the world- might say that we are the most moral army.. Soldiers die so that the world press might applaud.
    This is a disgusting betrayal.
    Israeli leadership makes me vomit.

  • ziontruth

    "The principle in the Tannakh against Amalek would do better and serve as an explanation why the enemy cannot use humans as body army."

    There's no need to go that far—not just because there are no known Amalekites today, but also because Jewish Law has a general ruling regarding warfare that is just fitting for enemies such as the Jewish State faces.

    The Jewish Laws of warfare are in the golden medium between Genghis and Gandhi. They say that, if the enemy takes care to put their civilians out of harm's way, it is forbidden for the Jewish army to harm them; but if the enemy puts their civilians in the line of fire—as the Muslims purposely do—then it is permitted for the Jewish army to fire indiscriminately, and the innocent blood is on the enemy's hand for using the civilians so cynically.

    I remember first reading those laws. I was simply struck how gosh-darn sensible they are. And I'm still frustrated beyond words that my government is still fumbling for various leeways, loopholes and wiggle-room within international "law" instead of perusing the amazing system of law the Jewish people has received, a system of law both sensible and having more authority than any other system.

  • Matt

    70 years ago the US, Great Britain & their allies targeted German civilian population centres as a deliberate tactic, killing & injuring many enemy civilians, yet here we are 2 generations later & the Jews are the scorn of the worlds media for entertaing any military action that MAY endanger the life of even one Arab (who in all likelyhood wants all Jews dead).
    The hypocracy is astounding

  • John_Kelly

    Great comments Underzog. Keep up the good work!