Emanuel Shahaf

Breaking the silence on Gaza

Immediately upon its release, the usual suspects had a clear interpretation of the BTS report on operation “Protective Edge”: Those on the right pronounced it a compilation of unproven contentions at best and outright lies, at worst and the leftists took it with relative equanimity, just another report on IDF operations that caused terrible casualties among the Palestinian population, severely harmed Israel’s international image and might just possibly implicate Israeli officials in war crime investigations. Not that we haven’t seen reports like this one before.

The arguments over the facts are moot — the evidence is overwhelming, with dozens of relevant and credible testimonies and it’s hardly relevant if in each and every case things went down exactly as described or slightly different or, indeed, if the events can be proven in court beyond a reasonable doubt: The picture is clear enough – everybody who knows anything about the firepower of modern armies and the mindset of their commanders who want to bring their soldiers home safely understands that the combination of the two, unleashed on a densely settled urban landscape is a disaster waiting to happen. In this case, like in others before, it indeed happened.

There is no way that even assuming we have the most moral army in the world (which even our own Military Advocate General refuses to claim these days) we will not run into serious trouble every single time the IDF is let loose on Gaza. And the trouble is getting worse with every engagement. Running into trouble in this context means one thing only: The unwarranted killing and maiming of large numbers of innocent civilians and the concomitant wholesale destruction of their houses and property. And when I say unwarranted I mean that all that killing and destruction has no military benefit whatsoever other than killing a smaller number of combatants while leaving the conflict not only unresolved but primed to be rekindled at a later occasion

The real culprits here are our politicians, not the soldiers they sent into battle. Leaving an impossible situation in which hundreds of thousands of our citizens are under constant threat of rocket or mortar shelling without making a constant and determined political effort to bring the situation to a peaceful resolution is borderline criminal under these circumstances. Sending the IDF into battle where its soldiers will, by definition, infringe upon the rules of war because there is no way you can send a modern army with tremendous firepower into a densely settled urban environment without doing that, is immoral even if our lawyers can defend it in court. And to keep sending an army that we insist on calling the most moral army in the world to conduct operations that are, in effect, highly immoral, is the height of cynicism.

It should not surprise anybody then that there is considerable reluctance to join the government of a Prime Minister who is not only a symbol for inaction to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians, even more so than one of his predecessors in the office, Yitzhak Shamir, but who also has a poor record with regard to observing humanitarian norms, if it is vis-a-vis migrants in Israel, the Palestinians population in the West Bank, or, like in this case, when repeatedly dealing with Gaza with the sledgehammer called the IDF.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".