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(DV) Jones: The Most Moral Army in the World







The Most Moral Army in the World
by Steven Jones 
June 19, 2006

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While Dana Olmert, the daughter of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was protesting the deaths of Palestinian civilians at the hands of Israeli security forces, her father issued the following statement: “The Israel Defense Forces is the most moral army in the world. It has never conducted a policy of harming civilians, and is not doing so today.” Olmert was on a European tour promoting his “convergence” plan of unilateral withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, and it was not going well. Overshadowing European disapproval for Olmert’s plan was the video, broadcast throughout the world (except, of course, on American networks) of young Huda Ghalia, screaming over the corpse of her father who had just been killed, evidently, by the most moral army in the world. 

On Friday, June 9, seven Palestinian civilians, all members of the Ghalia family (among them three children -- an infant, a three year old and a ten year old), were killed [1] and forty injured as IDF shells rained down on a crowded beach in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. [2] The Israeli government and the IDF, while not accepting responsibility for the slaughter, initially expressed regret for “the strike on innocents.”  Within twenty four hours Israeli officials were preparing the ground for an altogether different memorial. Defense Minister Amir Peretz (the one who looks like Stalin) suggested that the massacre may have had “internal Palestinian causes.” The head of the IDF Southern Command, Major General Yoav Galant, proposed that the butchery was the result of a “work accident” (the euphemism employed by Israeli officials when Palestinian militants are blown up by their own ordinance). On Monday, the IDF leaked the results of its hastily assembled internal investigation, the conclusion of which was that the Palestinian civilians had been blown up, not by Israeli artillery, but, surprise!, by a mine planted by Hamas to impede the entrance of Israeli commandos into the Gaza Strip.  By Tuesday, Peretz was declaring, “the accumulating evidence proves that this incident is not due to Israeli forces.” 
While the IDF report may have given Olmert and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, simultaneously on her own swing through the Old World, a little breathing space and served to reassure their constituents -- the Israeli and American taxpayers, ever ready to accept the results of government and/or military investigations of said institutions’ corruption, atrocities etc.—Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon battlefield expert investigating the incident for Human Rights Watch, was concluding that based on “the crater size, the shrapnel [a fragment found at the scene by Galasco stamped 155mm, the precise type of artillery shell used by Israel in its unrelenting bombardment of the Gaza Strip], the types of injuries [and] their location on the bodies … all points to a shell dropping from the sky, not explosives under the sand” [Guardian U.K. 6/13/06]. 
Meanwhile the IDF, in another of its “targeted killings” (read: extrajudicial executions), was murdering more Palestinian civilians -- another lucky seven, including two children and three medical personnel in addition to the two “targets.” After disabling a vehicle reportedly being driven by Islamic Jihad militants on their way to fire rockets at Israel, the Israeli pilots waited for a crowd to gather and for medics to arrive at the scene before firing a second pair of missiles, killing nine and injuring dozens [Ha’aretz 6/14/06]. Israeli officials, this time unable to deny their involvement in the massacre, nonetheless laid the blame for the incident on Palestinian “terrorists.”  Said IDF spokesperson No Meir: “Aerial attacks are usually very, very precise, and we really do our best to avoid harming any civilians … but listen, this is an ugly war and they [the “terrorists”] are operating from within populated areas.” 
As the late Edward Said would have said, let us bring discourse in line with reality. Since the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000, 358 Palestinians have been killed in targeted assassinations. Of those, 253 were “targets” and 123 were civilian bystanders or passers-by. That is to say, over a third of those killed in these “very, very precise” air strikes have been civilians [B’tselem 6/13/06].  Appalling as this may be, the overall ratio of civilian to combatant Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israel is far worse. The Israeli human rights group B’tselem, which closely monitors both Palestinian and Israeli civilian casualties, reports that since the fall of 2000, Israeli security forces have killed 3,431 Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.  Nearly half the fatalities -- 1,645 -- have been non-combatants, including 698 minors (statistics based on B’tselem data from 9/29/00 to 5/31/06).  Yet Olmert can proclaim to the world that the Israeli army “has never conducted a policy of harming civilians.” Are the highest of hi-tech weapons supplied to Israel by the U.S. for its “defense” so unreliable and inconsistent, is the much vaunted Israeli intelligence service so criminally incompetent that nearly fifty percent of Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli security forces in the past six years have been civilians? Or is the truth rather that, in the words of that Israeli “dove” Amir Peretz -- uttered almost precisely at the moment missiles 
were screaming toward two Palestinian children outside their home on a crowded street in the shooting gallery known as the Gaza Strip -- when it concerns the most moral army in the world, “no one is guaranteed safety.” 

Steven Jones is a musician, writer and activist living in Los Angeles. He can be reached at: ddyda1@yahoo.com.


[1] In the cruelest of ironies, four members of the same family were killed when IDF artillery hit the family farm in 2004 [Ha’aretz 6/10/06]. What are the odds of being struck by lightning twice? Apparently, they are pretty high when Israeli security forces are seeding the clouds. 
[2] The IDF has fired 6.000 shells into the Gaza Strip in the last two months, officially in response to Palestinian militants firing homemade Qassam rockets toward Israel. The Qassams have a very short range and are notoriously inaccurate.  For the most part they are impotent, many of them landing within Gaza. There have been several minor injuries to Israelis and some structural damage to buildings within Israel (including a hole in the ceiling of the home of Defense Minister Amir Peretz’s neighbor in Sderot). The Israeli shelling, on the other hand, has resulted in the deaths of fifteen Palestinian civilians, including five children [Guardian U.K. 6/10/06].