Understanding the ethics of the Israeli Army

By Avi Abelow @aviabelow

Conflict doesn’t look good in the media, especially with knee jerk posts of memes and edited videos that do not give across the full picture. This is a major problem that Israel has in defending it’s actions – the fact that we always have to defend ourselves against lies and misinformation, that without the full context, place Israel in a bad ethical light.

To help explain the truth about the high ethical standards of the Israeli army, and the extremely complex reality Israeli soldiers deal with, a group of IDF reservists are traveling around US college campuses to educate the students to better understand and appreciate what Israel and the IDF are up against.

It is their hope, that once they have a better understanding of the true reality, US college students won’t be influenced by the misinformation, videos and memes that are spread on social media. The misinformation gives over a false picture of Israeli soldiers and the their duty in trying to protect all innocent civilians, even when in complex combat situations.

It is not an easy situation.

However, the bottom line is, that if our enemies would stop the terror against us, nobody would get hurt. To better understand the true reality we live with, just remember the following words of PM Benjamin Netanyahu “If they put down their weapons we will have peace, but if we put down our weapons, we will be destroyed.”

Now for some information about the The IDF Code of Ethis. The IDF calls it ‘Ruach Tzahal’ (Literally, ‘Spirit of the IDF’).

This code represents the values of the Israel Defense Forces and stands as the foundation for the responsibilities of Israel’s army. This overarching ethical code, and the guidelines and operation resulting from it, shape the mode of action applied by all IDF soldiers and units, both in peace and at war.

During basic training, every IDF soldier studies and analyzes the code of ethics together with their commanders. It is customary for a framed copy of the code to be hung in every commanders office as a constant reminder of the IDF’s values and guidelines.

The full IDF code of ethics can be found here on the IDF website.

As expressed on the IDF website, the Spirit of the IDF draws on four sources:

The tradition of the IDF and its military heritage as the Israel Defense Forces.

The tradition of the State of Israel, its democratic principles, laws and institutions.

The tradition of the Jewish People throughout their history.

Universal moral values based on the value and dignity of human life.

Top complaints against Isreal

When conflict erupts, the mass media and politicians around the world, like to portray Israel as being inhumane and unethical by comparing the numbers of dead Arabs in Gaza vs the number of dead Israelis. But this is a conceptual error, as Professor Asa Kasher writes in the Jewish Review of Books.

Professor Asa Kasher is the author of the IDF Code of Ethis (aka ‘Ruach Tzahal’).

Kasher continues to explain that Hamas unscrupulously violates every norm in the book, citing indiscriminate rocket fire at Israeli civilians, rockets launched from or stored in residential areas, mosques and schools in Gaza, and the use of a hospital basement as an operational headquarters for Hamas.

Despite this, he continued, Israelis must conduct our war against terrorists in accordance with our values, i.e., doctrines, procedures, rules of engagement, and commands that are compatible with fundamental Israeli principles, IDF values and principles, and international law, appropriately interpreted and extended.

One of Kasher’s main points, ignored by all the media whenever conflict erupts, is that Israel not only has the right to defend itself but also a duty to respond when Hamas attacks Israeli civilians.

Kasher ends with an extremely important question, which is always ignored: “Does the presence of large numbers of non-combatants in the vicinity of a building that is directly involved in terrorist assaults on Israelis render that building immune to Israeli attack?”

The answer is, and must be, no. Israel cannot forfeit its ability to protect its citizens against attacks simply because terrorists hide behind non-combatants. If it did so, it would be giving up any right to self-defense.

In an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper Kasher adds the following:

“We are fulfilling the ethical requirements,” he said. “Every battalion commander has an officer in charge of locating civilians, and everything is overseen by too many lawyers, who help direct the operation on the ground. The number of casualties is irrelevant – it does not speak of omissions or any wrongdoing on the part of the IDF.”

Kasher said that during a military campaign, morale is extremely important.

“During a war, criticism does not improve anything; it is a shot in the back. All the criticism, including the blame for how protected the armored personnel carrier [in which seven soldiers died] was, are out of place. We must not interfere with the soldiers,” he said.

Israel, he said, is facing a torrent of aggressive criticism because “there are people whose perspective is very shallow. They are shown photographs of a destroyed house and a doll’s severed leg, photographs that are sometimes even from Syria, and they cry out. They do not understand anything and they feel the need to express a shallow sort of good-heartedness that has them momentarily identifying with the underdog.”

The Professor was also asked for his advice on a relatively recent incident when a 17 year old palestinian Arab girl, Ahed Tamimi, known to be a professional provocateur, started slapping an IDF officer in the middle of an assignment

“What we saw is seemingly not the best professional way of solving the problem,” Kasher told The Jerusalem Post about the incident that took place in the Arab village of Nabi Saleh. “Because when people interfere with the activities of military troops, the behavior should be stopped, it cannot be ignored.”

“Within a few minutes the situation should have included female Border Police officers who should have arrested the girls and not just allow them to continue,” Kasher said, adding that IDF brigades in the West Bank do not have any female soldiers who could have dealt with the situation.

“The women interfered in their military activity, undoubtedly, and that was a problem that had to be solved, effectively, and in accordance to IDF values.”

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