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    ‘Holy war’ in Gaza

    by Sunny on 21st March, 2009 at 10:37 am    

    The New York Times reports today:

    An Israeli newspaper gave a fuller account on Friday of testimonies by soldiers alleging loose rules of engagement in Israel’s war in Gaza, which they said led to civilian deaths and wanton property destruction. One soldier asserted that extremist rabbis had told troops they were fighting a holy war. The soldier was quoted as saying that the rabbis had “brought in a lot of booklets and articles,” adding, “their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle. God brought us back to this land, and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land.”

    Earlier excerpts included an account of the killing of an elderly woman by a sharpshooter and the killing of a woman and two children by another sniper. The testimonies published Friday also spoke of the ease with which some houses were damaged.

    Another soldier said: “We got an order one day — all of the equipment, all of the furniture, just clean out the whole house. We threw everything, everything out of the windows to make room. The entire contents of the house went flying out the windows.” The soldier also alleged that when entering buildings, “we were supposed to go up floor by floor, and any person we identified, we were supposed to shoot. I initially asked myself, where is the logic in this?”

    Well, there was no logic to going into Gaza in the first place - but once again Israel’s politicians shot themselves in the foot.

    I’m highlighting this for the simple reason that I’ve always stated: there is no moral clarity in the Israel/Palestine conflict, and anyone who pretends there is, is a fool. Or at worse, deliberately deceptive. I said this on the Guardian earlier: I have no sympathy for Hamas and none for the IDF either. If one is to support peace, then one cannot take the side of either organisations.

      |     |   Add to   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Current affairs, Middle East, Terrorism

    29 Comments below   |  

    1. damon — on 21st March, 2009 at 2:27 pm  

      I saw this story on Channel 4 news last week - and the most depressing thing about it to me was (apart from what actually happened in Gaza) was to see the (Australian born) Israeli government spokesman, Mark Regev …. …
      give a typical statement about having to do an inquiry. About how these allegations have to be checked, and how the IDF had some of the most stringent rules of engagement in the world (etc etc).

      I remember US government spokespeople saying similar things when US planes had bombed refugee convoys in Kosovo, or wedding parties in Afghanistan …. but I always seem to miss the final report.
      Do they give these final reports any publicity?

      I think it would have been better for people like Mark Regev to have stayed well away from the Middle East.
      To have stayed nice and comfy in Australia.
      Why get involved?

      Btw - I think his argument that you answer ”fire with fire” is disgusting.
      That’s the idea that if you detect firing from an enemy position, that it’s justified to destroy that position (and everything around it).

      That any ”collateral damage” that results from such action, can be then laid at the feet of those who fired from those attacked positins. Yuk.
      Mark Regev sucks.

    2. The Queen of Fiddlesticks — on 21st March, 2009 at 2:46 pm  

      I agree 100% that you can not take sides at all.
      But I also think it should include, you can’t give information as facts that support one side as the greater evil or make absolute enemies of entire populations. For everything there is always a “yeah, but” to add. Balance should aways be maintained.
      I have argued with die hard supporters of Israel, to look into what the intentions of a “Jewish state” really are and who is looking to build that?
      The Zionists in Israel would really be considered a far FAR right party in our home lands. Much like the BNP and even nazis. Do they really rule though?
      There are anti Zionists as well, and much protest inside Israel.
      good links from this link …
      and I wonder if the people who use sedot as an excuse,
      know it’s history? still nothing justifies current actions if it involves revenge on a generation 50 years later. And for the Palestinian rights activists, I do realize the suffering and injustice done to these people .. but how do you bring healing to those wounds?
      The world has tried for years to build for them and all is destroyed.. by who … can’t always blame Israel for everything. WWII was sparked by left over WWI issues .. I hope we would learn from that and not allow unfinished WWII business to bring on WWIII.
      TOO much negitives in the world, please, can we try to bring out some positives for a change?
      Like the people of jaffa? Who have learned to live together?

    3. blah — on 21st March, 2009 at 2:51 pm  

      Recommend all to read this piece to see the reality of what IDF defenders are exactly defending- a racist war against Arabs.

      There is another report in today’s Ha’aretz that I do want to comment on. Uri Blau’s article “‘No virgins, no terror attacks’” describes the practice of Israeli soldiers getting custom clothing printed with their unit’s insignia along with graphics and text. Below are some examples of shirts that were printed, along with some of the images. These images only appeared on Ha’aretz’s Hebrew-language website:

      A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him.
      A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.”
      After Operation Cast Lead, soldiers from that battalion printed a T-shirt depicting a vulture sexually penetrating Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh
      A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”
      There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, “Bet you got raped!”
      A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies - such as “confirming the kill” (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.
      “Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands!” had previously been banned for use on another infantry unit’s shirt. A Givati soldier said this week, however, that at the end of last year, his platoon printed up dozens of shirts, fleece jackets and pants bearing this slogan.
      “It has a drawing depicting a soldier as the Angel of Death, next to a gun and an Arab town,” he explains. “The text was very powerful. The funniest part was that when our soldier came to get the shirts, the man who printed them was an Arab, and the soldier felt so bad that he told the girl at the counter to bring them to him.”
      In 2006, soldiers from the “Carmon Team” course for elite-unit marksmen printed a shirt with a drawing of a knife-wielding Palestinian in the crosshairs of a gun sight, and the slogan, “You’ve got to run fast, run fast, run fast, before it’s all over.” Below is a drawing of Arab women weeping over a grave and the words: “And afterward they cry, and afterward they cry.” [The inscriptions are riffs on a popular song.]
      Another sniper’s shirt also features an Arab man in the crosshairs, and the announcement, “Everything is with the best of intentions.”
      A shirt printed after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza for Battalion 890 of the Paratroops depicts a King Kong-like soldier in a city under attack. The slogan is unambiguous: “If you believe it can be fixed, then believe it can be destroyed!”
      These shirts have to get the approval from IDF commanders and are a military tradition, although the explicit nature of these shirts seem new. Bar-Ilan University Sociologist Dr. Orna Sasson-Levy is quoted as saying the shirts are “part of a radicalization process the entire country is undergoing, and the soldiers are at its forefront.” Israeli anti-militarism activist Sergeiy Sandler, who works for the important organization New Profile, emailed this article out saying the shirts are “a long-standing tradition in Israeli military units; you see those shirts, although usually with less outrageous designs, on the streets all over the place. A picture’s worth a thousand words, isn’t it?”

    4. Sunny — on 21st March, 2009 at 3:59 pm  

      Queen - agree with that…

    5. George — on 21st March, 2009 at 6:47 pm  

      The sheer inhumanity of the Israelis is incomprehensible. Consider what John Pilger wrote in 2008 about a young Palestinian, Mohammed Omer, who won the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. The prize goes to journalists who expose establishment propaganda. At 24, he was the youngest winner. His citation reads: “Every day, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. His homeland, Gaza, is surrounded, starved, attacked, forgotten. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless.”

      Getting Mohammed to London to receive his prize was a major diplomatic operation. Only with a Dutch embassy escort was he allowed out. But Mohammed had been seized by Shin Bet, Israel’s infamous security organisation. Mohammed was told to turn off his mobile and remove the battery. He asked if he could call his embassy escort and was told forcefully he could not. A man stood over his luggage, picking through his documents. “Where’s the money?” he demanded. Mohammed produced some US dollars. “Where is the English pound you have?”

      “I realised,” said Mohammed, “he was after the award moneye. I told him I didn’t have it with me. ‘You are lying’, he said. I was now surrounded by eight Shin Bet officers, all armed. The man called Avi ordered me to take off my clothes - to take off everything. When I refused, Avi put his hand on his gun. I began to cry: ‘Why are you treating me this way? I am a human being.’ He said, ‘This is nothing compared with what you will see now.’ He took his gun out, pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear.

      “As they ridiculed me, they took delight most in mocking letters I had received from readers in England. I had now been without food and water and the toilet for 12 hours, and having been made to stand, my legs buckled. I vomited and passed out. All I remember is one of them gouging, scraping and clawing with his nails at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. He scooped my head and dug his fingers in near the auditory nerves between my head and eardrum. The pain became sharper as he dug in two fingers at a time. Another man had his combat boot on my neck, pressing into the hard floor. I lay there for over an hour. The room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror.”

      An ambulance was called and told to take Mohammed to a hospital, but only after he had signed a statement indemnifying the Israelis from his suffering in their custody. The Palestinian medic refused, courageously, and said he would contact the Dutch embassy escort. Alarmed, the Israelis let the ambulance go. The Israeli response has been the familiar line that Mohammed was “suspected” of smuggling and “lost his balance” during a “fair” interrogation, Reuters reported yesterday.
      The Dutch government says it was shocked by Mohammed Omer’s treatment.

    6. David Jones — on 22nd March, 2009 at 10:40 am  

      We all know it’s a holy war. The name ‘Hamas’ means ‘Islamic Resistance Movement’ and as it says in the opening preamble to its Charter, Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it”. Of course it’s a holy war - or jihad as Hamas adherents like to call it.

    7. Random Guy — on 22nd March, 2009 at 11:26 pm  

      I don’t think we ALL know its a holy war David. Those heroic Israelis are surely fighting for a free democracy, and they only want to defend themselves against those pesky Palestinian invaders, right? I mean, perish the thought that they actually do believe that they are doing God’s work, as they clear out, murder and humiliate all the Gentiles.

      C’mon David, man up and at least admit that the IDF are probably just as much terrorists as you would make Hamas out to be (if not worse).

    8. RedSeaPedestrian — on 23rd March, 2009 at 2:15 am  

      How about you Random Guy. Why don’t you “man up”. Do you think that Hamas are terrorists? Or is David just portraying them in an unflattering light?

    9. David Jones — on 23rd March, 2009 at 12:40 pm  

      C’mon David, man up and at least admit that the IDF are probably just as much terrorists as you would make Hamas out to be

      that would be the Hamas which , in its Charter, quotes approvingly from the Protocols and which claims Rotarians are a sinister front of the world Zionist conspiracty?

      Well excuse me if I think they’re considerably more out of touch with reality than the state of israel.

    10. Random Guy — on 23rd March, 2009 at 12:59 pm  

      #8, RedSeaPedestrian: How about you don’t answer my question with another question and just admit that at the very least the IDF consists of some terrorist scum?

      And David, thanks for pointing out your one-sidedness in this. Lol at the ‘reality’ of the State of Israel btw. That kind of irony can only write itself.

    11. David Jones — on 23rd March, 2009 at 4:30 pm  

      Lol at the ‘reality’ of the State of Israel btw

      So your problem with reading includes what I write, as well as the contents of the Hamas charter. I see.

    12. RedSeaPedestrian — on 23rd March, 2009 at 5:33 pm  

      Well, Random Guy, looking back at your post, it doesn’t really seem like you have asked a question at all. However, I have no doubt that the IDF contains a number of individuals who I would consider to be lacking in humanity.
      What I really took exception with was your implication that the IDF are terrorists, while David was only making Hamas out to be terrorists (ie they are really just freedom fighters or social workers).

      “I mean, perish the thought that they actually do believe that they are doing God’s work, as they clear out, murder and humiliate all the Gentiles.”

      I think that you will find that there are many gentiles that have yet to be murdered or humiliated. I’m sure the IDF will get to them soon, though.

      Btw, regarding “holy wars”, you and David are both wrong. This is not a holy war. It is a war over land, resources and the national aspirations of two peoples.

    13. David Jones — on 23rd March, 2009 at 7:30 pm  

      This is not a holy war

      It is according to Hamas, actually.

    14. Random Guy — on 23rd March, 2009 at 8:30 pm  

      Redsea, my question was implicit in my post. I was not implying the IDF are terrorists - actually they have the dual role of being both terrorists and an occupying force.

      Not sure what you mean about more Gentiles to get to - sounds quite worrying to be honest. And regarding your last point, “this is not a Holy War” - is probably the gravest lie that can be said about this conflict. Israel is meant to be the “Holy Land” is it not?

      The whole situation is predicated on a religous concept and yet you say its not a holy war? I am lost for words, I truly am.

      Also, for your consideration:

    15. Flame — on 23rd March, 2009 at 9:42 pm  

      I definitely cant take the side of an army that prints t-shirts like these:

    16. RedSeaPedestrian — on 24th March, 2009 at 4:25 am  

      Yes Random Guy. You have been very clear about your feelings on the IDF. For some reason you are a little more coy about your feelings regarding Hamas, though.

      Do you think that the primary motivation in the Is/Pal conflict is religion? If you do then you are an idiot. If you don’t then you must accept that it is not a holy war. Your choice.

    17. David Jones — on 24th March, 2009 at 7:50 am  


      I definitely cant take the side of an army that prints t-shirts like these:

      And of course the Israeli army doesn’t and didn’t print them. Did you not read the BBC article?

    18. Random Guy — on 24th March, 2009 at 10:23 am  

      @RedSea, #16: Wow thanks for laying the terms out so clearly for my own thought processes (sarcasm).

      If you are saying that the events leading to the main influx of Jews into the Holy Land was NOT religous, then I am…let me think of the right word….flabbergasted. So either you are trying to recontextualise this conflict into something that suits your own mindset, thus convieniently ignoring the religous significance of one of the most holy places in the world, OR you really do have no clue. The choice as they say (hehe as YOU say even), is yours.

    19. munir — on 24th March, 2009 at 11:42 am  

      Random Guy
      “If you are saying that the events leading to the main influx of Jews into the Holy Land was NOT religous, then I am…let me think of the right word….flabbergasted. So either you are trying to recontextualise this conflict into something that suits your own mindset, thus convieniently ignoring the religous significance of one of the most holy places in the world, OR you really do have no clue. The choice as they say (hehe as YOU say even), is yours.”

      Quite. Came across this quote from Sigmund Frued which seems apt to quote:

      “It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land. But I know that such a rational viewpoint would never have gained the enthusiasm of the masses and the financial support of the wealthy. I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.” -Sigmund Freud

    20. chairwoman — on 24th March, 2009 at 11:54 am  

      Ah Sigmund Freud. One of the many who forgot they were Jews till Hitler forcefully reminded them.

    21. munir — on 24th March, 2009 at 12:07 pm  

      “Ah Sigmund Freud. One of the many who forgot they were Jews till Hitler forcefully reminded them.”

      And had the rare decency not to respond to hyper German nationalism, which destroyed others lives, with a hyper Jewish nationalism which destroyed the lives and trampled on the rights of the native Arabs.

    22. munir — on 24th March, 2009 at 12:09 pm  

      “Ah Sigmund Freud. One of the many who forgot they were Jews till Hitler forcefully reminded them.”

      Where would you be without the “Hitler get out clause” to excuse all Israels crimes ?

    23. chairwoman — on 24th March, 2009 at 12:23 pm  

      Munir - No doubt you are currently congratulating yourself on yet another facile and non-original argument/comment.

      I don’t need what you call a ‘Hitler get out clause’. Jews having always lived in the Holy Land are part of the indigenous population. I’m sure you won’t trust me on this one, so may I suggest that you do your own independent research, using neither Jewish nor Arab sources.

      And I would be a little less sanguine about the trampling on the rights of the native Arabs as the native Arabs didn’t care too much about trampling on the native Jews.

    24. damon — on 24th March, 2009 at 12:56 pm  

      Those Israeli T shirts (’One shot - two kills’) were horrible in the extreme.
      Were not sanctioned from above (as far as I know), but are a part of a wider culture that must exist in the IDF.
      Like a canteen culture that the British police get called racists for having still.
      Armys are places full of testosterone the world over, and those T shirts (while disgusting) are not so different to others like this, are they?

      Or T shirts and sweatshirts that British squadies made up themselves, that spoke of their tours (for example) in South Armagh ”Bandit Country” in Northen Ireland years ago.

      The Israieli ones were really, particularly horrible though.

    25. RedSeaPedestrian — on 24th March, 2009 at 1:43 pm  

      @Random Guy

      2 questions:

      1. Is it possible for Israel to fight a secular war? Or, seeing as it is the “holy land”, is any war that it is engaged in automatically classified as a holy war.

      2. Is it possible to wage a holy war anywhere else in the world? If so, how do we recognize it as such?

    26. Random Guy — on 24th March, 2009 at 5:37 pm  

      Come now, you are just toying with semantics. Why don’t we keep it simple and say a Holy War is one which is instigated and waged on religous principles.

    27. RedSeaPedestrian — on 24th March, 2009 at 6:21 pm  

      Okay. I agree with your definition of holy war. I just don’t think that it applies to Is/Pal, which is more of a nationalist struggle then one based on religious principles.

    28. Tabatha — on 1st May, 2009 at 10:14 am  

      The NY Times has had to retract many of its allegations against the IDF - and has publicly acknowledged that they were based on nothing more than ‘urban myth’.

      The New York Times also ran a follow-up article on the Gaza atrocities report that, while far from perfect, corrects and rebuts many of the false charges.

      The article, which was on the Times website on Friday, was published in the Saturday paper (which has the lowest circulation of the week) on page four, not on page one above the fold like the Times’ first article on the subject.

      Still the article admits that the alleged killing by an Israeli sniper of the mother and her two daughters was an “urban myth” that almost certainly did not occur, and quotes Israeli soldiers including Yishai Goldflam on how they tried to avoid harming innocent Palestinians and their property.

      I also find it astonishing that people criticise Israel for being a Jewish state, while apparently having no problem with the existence of around 22 Muslim nations. Double standard, anyone…? And let’s remember that over one million Jews were kicked out OF those Muslim, and also Arab nations, and left with literally nothing but the clothes on their back.

      To this day, Jordan forbids any Jew from becoming a citizen or owning property.

      As for the ‘inhumanity of the IDF’ - yeah, those terrible Israeli soldiers. How dare they phone EVERY single home in Gaza, precisely to urge innocents to get out! Let’s compare this with Hamas, who actually PREVENTED those same innocents from leaving in many cases. Where is the condemnation of Hamas, for violating the Geneva Convention, by using innocents as human shields?

      Israel went into Gaza as a *response* to years of terrorism; suicide bombings and rocket attacks courtesy of Hamas. I’d like to see how long any other country would wait, in the same situation.

    29. Tabatha — on 1st May, 2009 at 10:18 am  

      Oh, and to the person who astonishingly stated that Israel is waging a ‘racist war against arabs’ - er, hello?

      Over one million Israeli Arabs choose to live in Israel, as citizens, with the same freedoms and rights as non Arab citizens. They sit in the Israeli parliament; they help to make and break and change policies. If there was the ‘racism’ against Arabs that some people here describing, then Israeli Arabs would exercise their right to leave and instead move to any one of the many larger, wealthier Arab countries in the region.

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