The most moral army in the world
The IDF has once again shown the world that when it comes to harm illegally inflicted upon Palestinians, its officers and soldiers are held to different standards – lower standards. The battalion commander convicted of holding a bound and blindfolded Palestinian man while ordering a soldier under his command to shoot him in the leg with rubber-coated steel bullets walked out of a military court completely unscathed Thursday. The court declined to even demote the Lieutenant-Colonel and actually condoned his promotion in two years time, the equivalent of punishing a small child with a “time out.”
There are three distinct problems that this case highlights. First and foremost, it underscores the accepted violence that is inseparable from the Occupation. Secondly, it shows the lack of accountability in the upper rungs of the chain of command, a problem seen in every army around the world. Lastly, the absence of any identifiable punishment handed down in such a clearly documented case of prisoner abuse and illegal violence – by the standards of any military – seriously challenges the IDF’s self-declared status as “the most moral army in the world.”
A book is better suited to analyze the violence inherent in a military occupation than a blog post, so we’ll leave that topic with the video that prompted the military JAG to prosecute Lt.-Col. Omri Borberg (seen holding the blindfolded prisoner as he is shot).
Accountability traveling up the military command is a rare occurrence. In cases of prisoner abuse, the most memorable is the Abu Ghraib scandal. However, there were no officers present in the visual evidence of abuse documented there. In the case depicted above, the officer is actually holding the prisoner and admittedly gave a direct order to the soldier under his command. Although Lt.-Col. Borberg was prosecuted and convicted, the military court declined to even demote him. The soldier who he ordered to shoot the prisoner, on the other hand, was demoted. While it is not an accepted defense for a soldier to say he was simply following orders, when his commanding officer is documented giving that admittedly illegal order, it would be expected that he receive at least the same punishment.
Perhaps most importantly, is the message sent to the IDF by its military court on Wednesday, that there are no consequences for abusing and violating the human rights of (shooting at) Palestinian prisoners. The officer in question was in fact convicted, the court simply decided not to punish him. The army can now say that it convicted the officer, but the court disregarded the three main reasons for prosecuting such crimes: providing justice for the victim; punishing the criminal; and most importantly in this case, handing down that punishment to deter others who might otherwise think they can get away with abusing and shooting prisoners. So if you’re an IDF officer thinking about shooting a bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoner, you can sleep well knowing that the only punishment that awaits you is delayed promotion.