Posts tagged IDF

Honest, ugly discourse: Gilad Sharon and John Stewart Mill

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One of the responsibilities of the news media is to set the parameters of acceptable discourse in society. But while media outlets have the unique ability to demarcate what is and isn’t acceptable to print, in doing so, they walk a fine line and risk masking the ugliest – but real – faces of society.

Last week, in the midst of the latest round of deadly violence between Israel and Gaza, The Jerusalem Post printed an op-ed penned by Gilad Sharon, a man who has pushed himself into the public eye solely by virtue of the name and legacy of his father, former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

In a hyper-nationalist tone, Sharon advocated escalating the limited military operation into what would be the 21st century’s first instance of genocide:

“We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”

There is no need to delve into the plethora of reasons Sharon’s words and ideas are appalling. If he were a man of any influence, his writings might be considered criminal under the Genocide Convention; a cursory reading (more…)

Gaza: New rules in an old war

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There’s something different about the most recent flare-up between Israel and Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians’ modus operandi appears to have changed, and Israel seems to be unsure of how to respond.

In the past month, armed Palestinian groups in Gaza launched a string of three, seemingly well planned and ultimately successful attacks against IDF forces along the border. Planted explosive devices, a massive and unprecedented tunnel detonation and an anti-tank missile left a total of eight Israeli soldiers injured, some seriously.

Already there was something strange. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, has declared for some time that it was focusing on military targets, a change from its rocket attacks on Israeli civilian centers. Nevertheless, to have nearly a month go by without rocket attacks on civilians is almost unheard of in recent years.

The IDF’s responses to the attacks were also uncharacteristically restrained considering the Israeli casualties, limited to immediate defensive fire and late-night airstrikes on empty buildings and tunnels. Following the (more…)

Iran: A game gone too far

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The story of how Israel reached the – real or perceived – brink of war with Iran is not exactly what it appears to be.

At some point in recent years, Israeli decision-makers decided to play a game. Through a fairly innocuous and innocent lens, the game can be described as “good cop, bad cop.” At worst, it is a dangerous exercise in diplomatic and military brinksmanship that risks catapulting one of the world’s most well-armed regions into an unpredictable and open-ended war.

Either way, the game has gone too far.

Israel is terrified of a nuclear-armed Iran. Although less daunting than the prospect of a second holocaust, the danger Iranian nukes pose is real: they threaten the thus-far unchallenged regional hegemony the IDF has enjoyed for decades.

Earlier this year, the IDF’s top planning officer, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, explained how an Iran with nuclear weapons would change Israel’s strategic (more…)

Israel admits ‘administrative detention’ is unnecessary

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Less than three weeks after at least 1,400 Palestinians in Israeli prisons launched a widespread hunger strike, Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Thursday made several astounding admissions regarding Israel’s use of administrative detention. In private meetings with security officials, Aharonovitch called for reducing Israel’s use of the practice, applying it “only if there is a need and not in all cases,” according to a Haaretz report.

He was in effect admitting that the practice is being used even when it is not necessary, assuming it is ever necessary. Furthermore he seemed to be conceding that Israel uses administrative detention instead of carrying out thorough criminal or intelligence investigations.

In a presentation to Israel’s Defense Ministry, Justice Ministry, the IDF, Shin Bet and Prison Service, Aharonovitch recommended that authorities “exhaust investigations and evidence collections” in order to allow the application of criminal proceedings against Palestinian arrestees, something one shouldn’t have to advocate in a democracy.

The official public explanation of the use of administrative detention, the practice of arresting and (more…)

The Iranian threat: What Israel really thinks

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One of the biggest distortions about the Iranian nuclear threat is Israel’s explanation of its basis for fearing it. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cites Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying the Israeli regime should be wiped off the map, invoking powerful imagery to lead the Israeli public and the world to fear a second Holocaust. But is that really what he and his intelligence assessments fear?

The top officer in the Israeli military’s planning directorate, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, presented Israel’s fear of a nuclear-armed Iran in a less existential and more strategic context last month. Israel, he said, would be deterred from entering into conventional wars with its traditional adversaries, Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, if their Iranian sponsor became a nuclear power.

Nuclear deterrence, Eshel explained, would dramatically alter Israel’s strategic military posture in the region. “If we are forced to do things in Gaza or Lebanon under an Iranian nuclear umbrella, it might be different.”

Another major fear, shared by the United States and regional actors in the Middle East, is that Iranian (more…)

Israel’s response to terror: Intelligence failure or blatant lies?

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In the early afternoon of August 18, 2011, terrorists launched a three-pronged attack on Israeli civilians and soldiers, shooting at civilian cars and buses, blowing up another bus, and launched cross-border shooting attacks. The violence along the Israeli-Egyptian border caused the deaths of eight Israelis, a number of the attackers and a handful of Egyptian security personnel.

At around 3 p.m. that afternoon, with shooting still audible in the background of a live press conference in Eilat, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the world that the attack (and attackers) originated in Gaza and vowed to respond “forcefully and decisively.” Minutes later, Israeli Air Force jets took off from their nearby bases and bombed the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees’ leadership. Six people were killed in that initial strike.

A few hours after the air strikes began, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a dramatic press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. He presented a new doctrine of immediate, harsh response to any attack against Israelis and lauded his security services for (more…)

The vital role of Israel’s endangered NGOs

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In order to comprehensively report on the uglier sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the media relies almost entirely on civil and human rights organizations. Today these organizations are under threat of being crippled by new Israeli legislation targeting their funding. If the laws are passed, the vital information and research NGOs provide on the unaesthetic details of military occupation, settlement growth and human rights abuses may simply disappear, along with the press reports built upon them.

The Israeli media pays little attention to the human plight of Palestinians living under the full civil, administrative, economic and military control of the IDF (Occupation). Without NGOs providing video footage, testimonies and detailed reports, the little coverage that does exist would no longer be possible.

It is true, as right-wing politicians and organizations charge, that Israeli rights groups rarely portray the IDF and the Occupation in a positive light. But they should not be expected to; it is not their role (more…)

Ehud Barak thinks Iran is a rational actor

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Ehud Barak once said that if he were a Palestinian of the right age he would join a terrorist organization. This week he went one step further. Asked by Charlie Rose if he too would want a nuclear weapon were he in the shoes of the Iranian leadership, the Israeli defense minister answered affirmatively.

More interestingly, in the nearly 15 minutes that Barak discussed the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, his arguments against Tehran’s proliferation efforts were focused entirely on preventing the Islamic Republic from acquiring the deterrence power a nuclear weapon would give it. He did not, as Health Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has tirelessly argued, charge that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks to annihilate or “wipe Israel off the map.”

“I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel,” Barak explained.

The Iranians look around and see that their neighbors, Pakistan, India, Russia and China all have nuclear weapons, he continued, “and they look westward and see (more…)

Flotilla 2011: Dueling narratives of the Gaza blockade

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The blockade on Gaza is oversimplified by those most active in supporting and protesting against it. Public relations branches of the Israeli government argue that the land and sea blockade on the coastal strip is necessary to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza that would threaten Israeli civilians living near the Strip. Those protesting the blockade, including participants in the upcoming flotilla, say that the blockade on Gaza is an illegal form of collective punishment on the citizens and civilians who live there, unnecessarily and painfully harming every aspect of life in the Strip. Both sides are correct, but neither is willing to allow the entire picture to enter their narrative.

From the time that Israel first occupied the Gaza Strip in 1956 and for more than three decades after its continuous occupation began in 1967, there was near freedom of movement for Palestinians and goods between the Strip, Israel and the West Bank. In 1991, that started to change as Israel implemented (more…)

False victories: ‘Mavi Marmara’ and the flotilla

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As result of Israel’s diplomacy, in combination with completely unrelated circumstances, the Turkish-flagged “Mavi Marmara” will not participate in the next flotilla, the Turkish IHH organization announced on Friday. Israel, however, should not be celebrating – it is a false victory.

Last year, in the violence that broke out between a small core group of violent Turkish activists and Israeli commandos aboard one of the six ships in the “Freedom Flotilla” making their way to Gaza, nine people were killed, including one American citizen. In the event’s aftermath, Israel expended great legal and diplomatic efforts to vilify Turkey’s IHH, placing blame for the entire incident on the group, calling it a terrorist organization.

Indeed, some activists on the IHH’s boat were responsible for instigating the violence that took place on the “Mavi Marmara.” But this narrative ignores the other five boats that the Israeli navy prevented from breaking (more…)

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