Tel Aviv — Israel routinely gets crucified by its enemies, not least for the behavior of the Israeli military. The Jewish state’s reckless soldiers eagerly spill Arab blood, as if for sport. Or so the story goes.
Kuwaiti officials accuse the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of “intentional killing, intentional destruction of civilian objects, intentional scorched-earth policy.” Pakistani authorities complain that the “horrors of Israeli occupation continue to haunt the international community’s conscience.”
“The IDF faces a challenge,” according to Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an outside expert on the IDF’s strategy and tactics. “It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.”
If Israel’s critics would calm down and face facts, they would be astonished by the IDF’s efforts to reduce or eliminate civilian casualties through its policy of military restraint.
Captain O (as I was asked to call him) is stationed at the Dov Air Base just north of Tel Aviv, in the shadows of a huge power plant. The serviceman recently discussed this topic with a delegation of U.S. journalists who visited here on a fact-finding mission sponsored by the America-Israel Friendship League. Captain O is a charming Israeli with British-born parents, medium-brown hair, and blue eyes. The surprising result looks and sounds like a twentysomething, Jewish Jude Law in a pilot’s uniform.
A flying camel is the logo of the 100 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, headquartered on this base. “In 1947, the Arabs said Israel will have an air force the day camels grow wings,” Captain O smiles. The warplanes that fill the sun-drenched tarmac nearby more than answer those Arab skeptics.
Dov specializes in aerial surveillance and real-time visual intelligence to support other operational assets. The 100th flies U.S.-made Bonanza A-36 aircraft retrofitted for military use.
“We will do almost anything to prevent killing or hurting civilians,” Captain O says inside a small, spartan briefing room. “We try to pinpoint our targets. We destroy the rocket launchers, but avoid the kindergarten. We spend time and money to do this.”
Last November’s Operation Pillar Defense involved some 1,500 targets. Independent of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile shield, the goal of Pillar Defense was to foil the Palestinian rockets that rained down from the Gaza Strip onto southern Israel and, eventually, the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, a radical Islamofascist terrorist group that enforces sharia law.
The preamble of the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas’s official name) states: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” According to Article 7 of the covenant, “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them.” Article 13 also is instructive: “There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by jihad. Initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”
Before the IDF hit Hamas-operated targets, it scrutinized them to protect the safety of non-combatants.
“Our goal,” Captain O says, is to assure that “no innocent civilians are hurt.”
This objective is complicated severely by the fact that Hamas routinely locates its weapons among civilians, for reasons discussed below. It does so in total violation of the Geneva Convention and some 700 years of the just-war tradition.