Monday, August 27, 2012
IDF Abuses and the Wider Issue
I have been reading with interest the recent flurry of articles about IDF abuses – there was one article about hazing (the practice of harassing or physically abusing a new recruit or low ranking soldier) in which one soldier almost died, another mocked a units long held tradition of individuals carrying a small vessel around their necks – we won’t discuss what was allegedly stored inside each vessel. There have been other controversies but the latest article (as reported in Ynet news) concerns an initiative undertaken by an Israeli organisation called “Breaking the Silence” whose aim it is to shed light on the abuses suffered by enemy youth at the hand of Israeli soldiers. In the organisations own words:
“Deterioration of moral standards finds expression in the character of orders and the rules of engagement, and is justified in the name of Israel’s security. While this reality is known to Israeli soldiers and commanders, Israeli society continues to turn a blind eye and to deny that which is done in its name”.
The down side is that at the time of the UN Goldstone Report fiasco “Shovrim Shtika” (its Hebrew name) was wholly foreign funded and supplied Goldstone’s investigators with information later proven to be fabricated but which succeeded in damning Israel internationally.
I read a commentary on the latest revelations in the British national newspaper “The Independent.” Next to the article was another article but about the Holocaust. (“The Holocaust: How relevant is it to today’s society?”) The juxtaposition was deliberate. If there is one reason to hate “The Independent” - it is its insensitivity and reprehensible bias.
I do not believe that submitting the report to the army before publicly releasing it would have generated a response that addresses the issues that are raised. Any organisation faced with systemic failures will prioritise its budget to addressing what is important to its survival and not what it regards as either peripheral or inessential to its continued vitality. But what is at issue is that unchecked power corrupts and without the application of ethical controls any organisation will lapse into morally dubious practices on an institutional level.
The more serious consequence is that it is unreasonable to assume a delineation of boundaries between work and private life.
I know that Israeli soldiers do acts of amazing kindness towards our enemy and theirs under extreme conditions of threat and violence. But this is neither going to be reported nor if it was, would it assist in countering the propaganda value that a negative story presents.
All the excuses in the world do not negate the obvious –I do not care what the Arab world thinks about me. I do care about the ethical well being of Israeli and Western society. Prolonged conflict desensitises everybody to the harm done to society’s values. Remorse is of no consequence if we are unable to address the wider issue of power and its misuse.