Avi Lewis

When your enemy doesn’t play by the same rules

What do you do when your enemy doesn’t play by the same rules

A number of years ago as part of my IDF Reserve Duty in the Air Force Planning Directorate, I attended a comprehensive course that detailed Human Rights within the Laws of Warfare

This mandatory seminar was led by a Human Rights Lawyer employed as an officer in the IAF

He outlined the bureaucratic journey each potential target goes through from the moment it’s selected until the moment it’s actualized

As part of the planning process, he explained, targets are scrupulously analyzed, meticulously examined – and run through a sophisticated conveyor belt of lawyers, intelligence analysts, researchers and finally a General that signs off on it

This process involves constant debate and back and forth:

Strategic value is weighed up against potential collateral damages

Military necessity is examined in light of international law

Which angle should the missile be fired from in order to avoid damage to surrounding areas? How large should the payload be?

Up-to-date intel on the whereabouts of nearby civilians is streamed in – live, so that mission can be aborted at a moment’s notice in order to avoid casualties

The accuracy of the intelligence is checked and re-checked

Surrounding houses are examined

The floors of the building. Who lives where. Who might be there. How important is the target?

In many cases, targets never make it through the process due to the doubt involved, and even those that do often get cancelled last-minute

I came out of that course understanding just how seriously the IDF plays by the ‘rules’

Rules drawn up in the sterile corridors of Geneva and New York, but only really tested in Gaza and Lebanon

Don’t believe what the media tells you

Don’t believe the headlines that will start coming out over the next few days on BBC and CNN

Our Air Force is extremely discriminate. Extremely precise. Extremely careful

It deeply cares about the Rules of Engagement and Laws of Warfare

In fact, the way that it operates on a tactical level is entirely derived from these rules

I’ve seen it from the inside

That’s not to say that mistakes aren’t made – with great power comes great responsibility

Sometimes the intel is wrong, or partial. Sometimes human error is involved

But as an overarching theme: The IDF is deeply committed to the rules

Anyone who has seriously researched our past military operations in Gaza knows this

The Western ethos of Liberalism, Human Rights and International Law completely dominate Israel’s military policy at every level: tactical and strategic

It also dictates Israel’s foreign policy as well

It was on full display yesterday as videos went viral of captured Hamas terrorists receiving sandwiches (while our soldiers on the front complained of hunger and lack of food – not to mention Israeli Kibbutznikim still under siege 48 hours later)

Or when IAF helicopters prioritize and airlift injured Palestinian terrorists to Israeli hospitals to save their lives

Or Palestinian security prisoners (many with blood on their hands) that afforded family visits, Red Cross, hot meals, TV, university degrees (!) and more

Or even the most basic concepts we all take for granted such as: due process, striving to protect the enemy’s women and children, humanely treating people that have come to kill you after they’re captured, going above the letter of the law to warn civilians to leave battlefields – and so forth and so forth

We play by the rules

And even if we aren’t perfect – the fact of the matter is that they are a value for us

We *strive* to uphold these values, even as they’re thoroughly tested in the chaos of the combat zone

The shocking, barbaric images from the last 3 days attest that our enemy does not play by the same set of rules

Women’s denuded bodies paraded through Gaza, a little Israeli girl now kept as a ‘house pet’ by Hamas, a grandma abducted from her home, music goers hunted down amongst the reeds, an entire smiling family massacred in their bedroom

In the end, they will surely pressure us to hold back and ceasefire under the guise of international law

But make no mistake:

For Hamas, “human rights” are simply a smokescreen, another weapon in their arsenal to achieve operational goals: restock, replenish and then come back stronger to fight another day

The fact that the Western Media (and UN) choose to play along with this show of hypocrisy is unforgivable

In past operations our hands were tied *not because we didn’t play by the rules*

But because – and reread this line – International Law was weaponized against us in a tactical fashion by terror organizations, with the Western Media gullible enough to lap it up

Israel can’t sustain military conflicts for longer than a few weeks not because we lack the capability – but because of international pressure on us to stop

As a soldier on the ground in the 2014 war with Hamas I remember this very clearly

Who runs the Gaza Health Ministry that announces Palestinian casualties?

What is the overwhelming identity of those casualties? Civilians? Women, children, elderly? Or men of fighting age?

Are the statistics reliable? Who was a confirmed Hamas fighter? Who was a civilian? How fluid is that distinction?

What due diligence is performed by Western Human Rights organizations before accepting these figures?

But we also have ourselves to blame

The truth of the matter is this view of the conflict has also seeped into the Israeli political consciousness

We’ve been too busy fighting over the interior design of our villa to remember that we’re surrounded by a jungle

We’ve forgotten that we live in the Middle East

Since we disengaged from the Strip in 2005 and Hamas took over in 2007, our policy has been dictated by a Liberal-Economic view of the world

A view that erroneously states that when people are propped up economically and have something to lose, they become less violent and more docile

In other words: appeasement

It’s a worldview that makes sense in Georgetown and Cambridge but utterly fails to take into account that people driven by eliminationist ideology and apocalyptic religious fervor care nothing for the creature comforts of this world

In the death cult, life here is but a corridor to the glorious afterlife

That’s why Hamas are unafraid to sacrifice themselves on the altar of total war and to take down the population of Gaza with them (and of course many Gazans subscribe to this ideology as well)

Over the past decade we’ve allowed transfers of Qatari cash, invited Gazan laborers to make money in our country, delivered truckloads of “supplies” to Gaza on a daily base, invited close families of the Hamas leadership to receive state-of-the-art medical care in our world-class hospitals

“Quiet begets quiet. Prop up their economy. Keep them happy. Ease the blockade. Keep providing them with electricity (even though they’re in debt to us). Show them they can make peace with us. Ensure the smooth transfer of additional construction materials. Absorb the occasional flareups and rocket fire on the South. They ultimately just want peace. That is what they want, right? I mean, it’s what we want – so badly, so desperately. As rational, Liberal-minded people like us, they probably want that same thing in order to improve their children’s lives”

Two days ago we got a big slap in the face about how wrong we were – and it came at the cost of nearly 1,000 lives. Most of them women, children and elderly

We have played by the rules

We’ve exposed our soldiers to additional harm in order to do so

By contrast our enemy manipulates the rules

When it suits them, they weaponize them against us to the fawning ears of Liberal intelligentsia

When it doesn’t, they break every rule in the book, in the most 7th-century-pogrom way possible

These rules may lead to our downfall, because even though they work in the villa, you’ll get eaten alive in the jungle

In the jungle, the weak are destroyed

And if that’s us – we might end up getting every sympathy in the world from the UN and Amnesty International

But to be honest, I prefer to live more than I prefer their friendship or sympathetic tweets

For me, this isn’t simply some nice theory to philosophize over tea and cookies


I’ve been called up as IDF reservist to defend my country

I’m in my uniform, writing these words, not having seen my wife and kids in three days

And I know that I may be sent to endanger myself in service of these very rules that the international community expects us to uphold, but that Hamas scorns

Before you believe that next headline equivocating between us and them, let that sink in

About the Author
Avi was formerly a news writer at the Times of Israel. Originally from Australia, he served in the IDF and today works in Israel's thriving Hi Tech sector in Tel Aviv. He lives near Modi'in with wife and 3 kids
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