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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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