Rules of Engagement

August 5, 2009

- See all 10 of my articles

This month I wanted to express my opinion on the investigations of the “war crimes” supposedly committed during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. A number of anonymous soldiers have testified to various news sources that during this latest military operation they felt that Israel had conducted itself unethically and attacked civilians as well as destroyed property in a style of “shoot first and ask questions later”.

As background I would like to point out a few things.

  1. All Israelis are required to serve in the army which is significant as you will get a number of people that will never agree with any level of violence as it may not be in their nature to be troops.
  2. The enemy in this scenario is not another army but a terrorist organization that makes use of suicide bombers and human shields making it very difficult to limit civilian casualties but under normal circumstances Israel is well documented to be better at limiting civilian casualties than any other army including the USA.
  3. Israeli politics and culture allows for if not even encourages people to express their opinion so this kind of rhetoric by troops after a conflict is nothing new. In fact, it is welcomed for troops to report war crimes which are then heavily investigated and acted upon.
  4. Finally, if you get 3 Jews in a room you end up with 4 opinions so complaints about any action taken by Israel even by Israelis is expected.

As to the allegations, my opinion is that it is very possible that this last military engagement may have had harsher rules of engagement then normal but this is really do to point 2 above. No organized military in the world is currently well equipped or trained to combat terrorist organizations using the methods that Middle East ones do in an urban setting without casualties. I believe that the Israeli army provides adequate warning to civilians prior to an attack but it has been well documented that the civilians often do not heed the warning or receive threats from the terrorist organizations not to heed them. These civilians are critical to a terrorist organization’s defense (human shields) and offense (media coverage of dead civilians) therefore the terrorist can’t afford these civilians to simply step aside and allow the conflict to occur between the two armed forces.

I will admit that recent failures in some of the Israeli conflicts may have prompted a harsher approach but I think based on the approach that organizations like Hamas take with Israel this is well warranted. In addition, based on the fact that most if not all of the complaints are coming from anonymous soldiers I have to question the validity. In closing I want to leave you with two thoughts.

One, if it was your son or daughter entering an urban setting with potential land mines, suicide bombers and civilian clothed militia, how many questions would you want them to ask before shooting?

Two, has anyone noticed that even some of the Arab leaders had compared the way Israel conducted itself to that of the terrorist groups? While I don’t ever want to see Israel sink to their level it is ironic to me that Israelis bulldoze a few buildings by mistake and they get this kind of negative coverage but Hamas shoots rockets at kindergartens and hospitals and nobody blinks.

In closing, I guess for those reading this that do not have any sons, daughters, cousins or friends serving in the Israeli army it will always be hard to understand why I support them being cautious in a way that may cause an accidental civilian death but keep the troops out of harm’s way. I think there is only so much precaution that is worth the death of an Israeli soldier and for people that really want to see an end to civilian casualties they should attack the heart of the problem – which is the way that terrorists situate themselves among these civilians.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Larry H.
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 12:07:48

    You mention that because all Israelis are required to serve in the army, that many pacifists end up serving. This is true, but on the flip side of the coin, many disgruntled radicals that should be considered too high strung for active duty must end up serving.

    I have never heard of Hamas intentionally targeting kindergartens and hospitals, but the Israeli army has certainly wiped out many civilian targets, often with children and families becoming victims. Most of the suicide bombers just seem to be otherwise ordinary people who have grown up in a culture of violence, chaos, fear and desperation.

    I’m not involved in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I am just an outsider who tries to see the situation from all perspectives and it is just sad any way we look at it.
    .-= Larry H.´s last blog ..August – Oreck Halo Vacuum Giveaways =-.


  2. Peter Rabbit
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 12:51:39


    Thank you very much for your comment. I agree that the situation is very sad.

    I will comment on two of your points.

    Hamas does not intentionally target kindergartens and hospitals only because their missiles do not have that kind of precision. But anytime you send thousands of rockets into a city you are bound to hit some and they have no regard for this. The Israelis do occasionally kill civilians in combat but so do US troops and so do UN troops. Israel is one of the most conscious armies of this and has developed a lot of methods to minimize civilian casualties. Many of these methods put their own troops at additional risk. But bottom line is anytime you are fighting an enemy that is using human shields, you can only be blamed so much if you can’t eliminate civilian casualties. The sad thing is that while the Israeli army is portrayed as having little respect for human life, Hamas is not criticized for doing things like building bases in a hospital or school and putting those people in huge danger.

    As for your suicide bomber point, I want to make two points. One, why are we not more angry with the people that are convincing them with money and fairy tales of virgins in heaven to become suicide bombers. Two, at the end of the day even if you are poor and fearful what kind of society values life so little that it would advocate suicide bombings. This is again a topic where you want to blame Israel because they are seen as the strong but the weak is not always the right or always the victim. Break down the methods of fighting used by Hamas and tell me how they can claim any kind of higher ground. Sending rockets into densely populated civilian areas and using human shields and suicide bombers is not the act of a moral enemy or one that deserves rights at a typical bargaining table. Even the US realized 20 years back that you can’t negotiate with terrorists.


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