Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Israeli soldier: We murdered Gazans" -- Checkpoint Jerusalem (McClatchy)
As promised, Haaretz published extensive testimony from Israeli soldiers who fought in Gaza.

The stark reports, obtained independently by McClatchy Newspapers, paint a stark picture of the Israeli military strategy in Gaza.

"I call this murder," says one Israeli soldier identified as Aviv.

As Israeli soldiers prepared to take over parts of Gaza, Aviv said, they were instructed to shoot anyone they came across in buildings.

Aviv said other soldiers embraced the orders by saying: "We need to murder any person who's in there. Yeah, any person who's in Gaza is a terrorist."

"One of our officers, a company commander, saw someone coming on some road, a woman, an old woman," said Aviv. "She was walking along pretty far away, but close enough so you could take out someone you saw there. If she were suspicious, not suspicious - I don't know. In the end, he sent people up to the roof, to take her out with their weapons. From the description of this story, I simply felt it was murder in cold blood."

"I don't understand," the moderator asked Aviv. "Why did he shoot her?"

Aviv: "That's what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: You see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn't have to be with a weapon, you don't have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him. With us it was an old woman, on whom I didn't see any weapon. The order was to take the person out, that woman, the moment you see her."

Faced with direct reports from its own soldiers, the Israeli military has opened a criminal investigation.

In the talk, one soldier also said that rabbis working with the military portrayed the Israeli offensive as a kind of holy war to expel non-Jews from the land.

As an interesting coda, Haaretz on Friday also published a long story on a Tel Aviv print shop that produces shirts for young Israeli soldiers.

Perhaps the most controversial image described in the story shows a veiled, pregnant Arab woman in the crosshairs of a rifle. Underneath the image it reads: "One shot, two kills."

The Israeli military condemned the shirts:

"Military regulations do not apply to civilian clothing, including shirts produced at the end of basic training and various courses. The designs are printed at the soldiers' private initiative, and on civilian shirts. The examples raised by Haaretz are not in keeping with the values of the IDF spirit, not representative of IDF life, and are in poor taste. Humor of this kind deserves every condemnation and excoriation. The IDF intends to take action for the immediate eradication of this phenomenon. To this end, it is emphasizing to commanding officers that it is appropriate, among other things, to take discretionary and disciplinary measures against those involved in acts of this sort."

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