I was at the Gaza border, we did all we could to avoid killing
I’m writing this for my good friends, my moral humane friends, and for all those who are concerned and angry over the Palestinians killed and injured on the border with Gaza.
In the biblical Exodus from Egypt, when the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea just before overtaking the Israelites, our sages say that God prevented the angels from singing and rejoicing, scolding them with the words “my creations are drowning in the sea and you are singing?!”
I write these words with great caution, and from a sense of mission. I can understand and identify with all of those good and moral Zionists who fear that the many Palestinian victims may be our fault, the result of mistakes made by our side. I’m writing because I am one of the few who was there, in uniform, in the reserves, but I was there. Yes, right there on the fence where the demonstrations are happening. It was last Friday, but I saw it with my own eyes; I was on our side of the fence but I could see and hear and understand everything. I want to testify from my firsthand knowledge, not a theoretical point of view. Because I was there.
I want to testify that what I saw and heard was a tremendous, supreme effort from our side to prevent, in every possible way, Palestinian deaths and injuries.
Of course, the primary mission was to prevent hundreds of thousands of Gazans from infiltrating into our territory. That kind of invasion would be perilous, mortally dangerous, to the nearby communities; would permit terrorists disguised as civilians to enter our kibbutz and moshav communities, and would leave us with no choice but to target every single infiltrator. That’s why our soldiers were directed to prevent infiltration, in a variety of ways, using live ammunition only as a last resort.
The IDF employs many creative means of reducing friction with Gazans and uses numerous methods, most of which are not made public, to prevent them from reaching the fence. In addition, over the past few weeks there have been serious efforts to save the lives of children and civilians who have been pushed to the front lines by the Hamas, who are trying to hide behind them in order to infiltrate and attack Israel.
When there is no alternative, and live ammunition must be used to stop those who storm the fence, the soldiers make heroic and sometimes dangerous efforts not to kill and to only injure those on the other side. The IDF stations senior commanders at every confrontation point to ensure that every shot is approved and backed up by a responsible figure with proper authority. Every staging area has an especially large number of troops in order to make sure that soldiers are not put into life-threatening situations where they will have no choice but to fire indiscriminately.
A situation where thousands of people rush you is frightening, even terrifying. It is extremely difficult to show restraint, and it requires calm, mature professionalism. Sixty-two dead is an enormous number. But I can testify from my first-hand experience, that every bullet and every hit is carefully reported, documented and investigated, in Excel spreadsheets. Literally. I was there and I saw it with my own eyes.
This isn’t the time or place to discuss the situation in general and the desperate plight of the residents of Gaza. I’m not interested in starting a political discussion here, although I do have a clear position. What I’m trying to do is present, for everyone who really wants to listen, the extent of the IDF’s enormous effort to protect Israel’s borders while minimizing injuries and loss of life on the other side.
And despite all this – the situation on the border with Gaza is deteriorating. I hope that we won’t be called up again soon for reserve duty to protect our country. But if we are, we will go with the knowledge that we are serving a morally just cause. We do not rejoice when we must go to war, but we also don’t go like sheep to the slaughter. Not anymore.
Kinley (Moshe) Tur-Paz is founder and CEO of the Kibbutz HaDati Educational Network.