Caroline Glick has an interesting piece today on the Center for Security Policy’s web site in which she unpacks the story surrounding Israeli left-wing media outlets’ release of interviews of IDF soldiers recounting alleged abuse of Palestinian civilians during Operation Cast Lead.
Gratuitous brutality against civilians in war is unacceptable, whether or not the larger fight is just. I will not make absolute judgments about these few IDF soldiers who served in Operation Cast Lead and claim there may have been abuses. But I agree with Glick, and with former U.S. deputy national security advisor Elliott Abrams, that anonymous talk is cheap. The manner in which these soldiers’ accounts were gathered, the facts that they seem to rely on hearsay, and that they are anonymous, make them highly dubious.
According to Haaretz correspondent Amos Harel, who has helped to circulate these accounts, “The soldiers are not lying for the simple reason that they have no reason to.”
There is simply no way to know if these incidents actually occurred in the way they supposedly did because this small number of IDF soldiers who spoke about them won’t even go on the record with their names, much less share any evidence.
It seems to me that if these young men were truly experiencing crises of conscience because of acts they directly witnessed or participated in, they would be of solid if not exemplary enough moral character to stand up and say so on the record, rather than to hide behind anonymity. As to the claim that “they have no reason” to lie, distort, exaggerate, etc., difficult as it may be for honest people to comprehend, the world is full of people who will bear false witness for any number of reasons, especially when they can be anonymous and face no accountability, whether to sabotage, to obtain a misguided sense of power and importance, or simply to feel a part of something and conform to others’ expectations (and, given the way they were obtained, there may have been a significant element of this last factor in these anonymous, confessional stories).
As Glick points out, these anonymous sources will be used to condemn Israel’s military operation, which, whether or not any individual abuses occurred, was by and large waged with as much respect for civilian life as possible under the circumstances. However, don’t expect that latter element of reality to be reflected in international media, whom Haaretz and Israel’s Channel 10 have provided cheap, unsubstantiated fodder for slandering Israel.
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