The testimonies now being given by a number of Israeli soldiers who took part in the recent war on Gaza, a war that Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights, called a criminal act, offer us a glimpse into acts of human and individual courage.
There is no other way to describe the actions of these young men who were involved in what was nothing short of an international war crime against the unarmed civilian population of Gaza.
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz has been publishing a series of testimonies – the paper’s Amos Harel’s has two pieces, IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement and ‘Shooting and crying’.
The Inter Press News Agency also had a piece, Israeli soldiers expose atrocities in Gaza
The matter is so large that even the otherwise obfuscating New York Times just had to give it some attention in a piece called Further Accounts Of Gaza Killings Released
And you can read Richard Falk’s views on the matter here Israel’s war crimes which was published recently in Le Monde Diplomatique.
These soldiers are finally exhibiting some bravery because it takes none to hide inside armoured vehicles and tanks and tear apart an unarmed civilian population.
But to speak honestly in the face of a nation whose conscience, morality and sense of moral right and wrong has been drowned by sectarian and ethnic prejudices requires nothing short of courage. These soldiers were commanded to kill for god, (and yes, there were rabbis with the soldiers handing out booklets telling them that palestinianscan be killed with impunity to protect the ‘holy land’!) and country, a command that in all nations sanctions murder in return for medals, political posts, and mythical immortality. They could have chosen the easy way out, and just moved on.
And we should not underestimate this act.
This is not the first time Israel’s soldiers have spoken out. They are in fact a rare example to the soldiers of all nations who have been asked to commit acts of murder against innocents.
We should also not forget this; that they are offering us an example of the individual conscience over collective passions and hypnosis. Not an easy act.
Our International institutions of justice and law have failed us, usurped as they are by the powerful and militarily footloose!
The young Israeli men (and maybe women?) know well that their silence will not be questioned, and that no international institution will be able to touch them – Israel enjoys an impunity in the court of law that most all other nations (other than the USA) probably envy!
And yet they are speaking out, reminding us the real nature of war once all the nationalist and political jingoism has been cut through – lies that in fact some of Israel’s more ‘cultivated’ minds like Amos Oz, or David Grossman and Yehoshua (to name a few) insist on reproducing for us and by their reputations transforming into ‘truths’!
Now once again and probably for just a little while the thin veil, woven mostly by cowardly political, journalistic and corporate apparatchiks, is lifted to show us what life is like on the other side of the Israeli guns.
Richard Falk in his piece on Israeli war crimes was not optimistic that anything will or can be done to bring to book the military and political leaders who carried out their acts.
As we listen to these young men fighting to save their conscience, morality and souls, we can only wonder if anything will become of their words and acts?
Not yet at least.
But we can hold on to the belief that these testimonies are now part of the official records and histories. And for as long as we continue to collect those we can have hope that some day, if not tomorrow then the day after, justice will indeed be done.
To courage, then.
UPDATE: More details are continuing to emerge, as they have been for many years by the way, of the’ lax rules of engagement’ (read as: kill first and wonder later) under which the Israeli army has operated in the West Bank and Gaza for decades.
FURTHER UPDATES: The Guardian updates the situation with this piece about t-shirts being sold to the IDF, and further revelations about the killings of civilians by the Israeli army.