“You will never hear me say, ‘The IDF is the most moral army in the world,’” declares Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni. “I think that our army has good values, but some of this has to do with the fact that it investigates and examines suspected offenses in a professional way. If we don’t do that, the IDF’s values will very much be thrown into question.” (haaretz.com)
Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of all British forces in Afghanistan, a military expert who isn’t shy about praising the IDF, said: “No other army in the world has ever done more than Israel is doing now [Gaza 2014] to save the lives of innocent civilians in a combat zone.” (israeltoday.co.il)
However, a huge commotion is happening in Israel over an alleged crime: an IDF soldier was filmed “executing” a so-called neutralized terrorist on March 24 in Hebron. Naftali Bennett, cabinet minister and leader of the right-wing, religious party The Jewish Home, said, “A soldier was condemned because of one video by B’Tselem, led away in handcuffs and charged with murder. Have we lost our minds?” (theguardian.com)
For those who don’t know, B’Tselem is, in its own words, “… an independent non-profit organization whose stated goals are to document human rights violations in the occupied territories, combat denial and help to create a human rights culture in Israel.” Actually, it is a mostly foreign-funded organization of leftist Israelis and Arabs who want to erase the Jewish State of Israel. The video was made with one of the many cameras B’Tselem has provided to its followers to film (and often to foment) actions that might be used against Israelis.
The crux of the matter here is three-fold: whether the soldier killed an unarmed terrorist in custody; whether the terrorist was not incapacitated and may have still been armed; and more disturbing, whether the prime minister, minister of defense, the prosecutor, the media, and others have already condemned a young soldier, before a full investigation and an autopsy (was the terrorist already dead or dying?) have been done, based on a video supplied by an NGO dedicated to destroying Israel.
This incident has been publicized throughout the Arab world, and perhaps on media that you follow. The damage is that, for the umpteenth time, Arab terrorism is pushed into the background and Israeli defensive measures become the story. This affects the morale of Israelis, especially Israeli soldiers. Who are these soldiers? For the most part, they are the 18-21 year old sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, friends and students of Israeli noncombatants.
The responses by the government and IDF to the death of the terrorist is distressingly familiar: first apologize to everyone in sight, then investigate. However, the people of Israel have weighed in strongly on the side of the soldier. Strident demonstrations are being held backing the soldier and, of course, politicians of all stripes are accusing each other of being immoral or of failing to support our soldiers.
The moral argument is whether a terrorist, in this case one who tried to murder a Jew, should be shot dead or just wounded. There is no argument against using lethal force to stop an attack, except perhaps when it is obviously not necessary to kill. But many argue that even injured terrorists should be terminated because they want to murder Jews and will eventually be free to return to terrorism. Additionally, Israel has a bad habit of releasing prisoners by the hundreds to ransom captured Israelis. Some of the most heinous terrorists have been freed in this manner and have returned to their murderous ways.
I can’t resolve this moral argument, but I can say how horrendous it is that Prime Minister Netanyahu and other officials reflexively discarded the soldier’s statement, that he feared that the downed terrorist had a bomb or other weapon concealed beneath his heavy coat and was still able to use it. The military prosecutor even charged the soldier with murder at the first opportunity. This, despite the fact that medics at the scene — who are commanded not to approach a terrorist without confirmation that he isn’t booby trapped — plainly observed that the terrorist’s coat was buttoned and had not been removed. The IDF claimed that the terrorist had been examined, but that hasn’t been proven.
Subsequently, the medics hesitance was vindicated by a Magen David Adom (MDA) investigative committee while the prosecutor reduced the murder charges to manslaughter.
So, a terrorist is killed (hurrah!) by a soldier who claims he feared for his safety and the safety of his fellow soldiers, and the leaders of the Israeli government condemn his actions in proclamations to the media before he has even been charged. This is not the kind of support we should be giving our soldiers, who are protecting the civilian population while standing against the terrorists, who may be little girls, young boys, mature women, or men of any age. In fact, 80% of Israelis polled approve of the accused soldier’s behavior.
Moreover, this is not the kind of ammunition we should be giving to our mortal enemies, the Arabs who refuse to live alongside of us in peace.