The Israeli Defense Forces rejected on Monday the publication of testimonies by anonymous soldiers who alleged that the IDF had been guilty of unethical conduct during last year’s fighting in Gaza.
The soldiers alleged that Israel inflicted “massive and unprecedented harm” to Palestinian civilians with indiscriminate fire and lax rules of engagement. The 237-page report was issued by the Israeli advocacy group Breaking the Silence.
The IDF spokesman declined to comment on any details in the report, saying that Breaking the Silence refuses to share information with the IDF “in a manner which would allow a proper response, and if required, investigation,” and “indicates that contrary to their claims this organization does not act with the intention of correcting any wrongdoings they allegedly uncovered.”
The group’s repeated publication of such material, rather than seeking legal redress, shows that they are politically motivated, the IDF said.
A spokesman for Breaking the Silence said that in March they had requested a meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot to dicuss the charges but were turned down.
The report received widespread media coverage, though the IDF response was rarely mentioned.
Also on Monday, Shurat Hadin Israel Law Center sponsored a conference on combatting terrorism during which it was argued that Western democracies facing ruthless groups like Hamas require a “new law of war.”
Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz told the gathering that his troops conducted themselves in accordance with international law in Operation Protective Edge, but warned that the moral challenges will only become more difficult in the future.
“Next time it will be worse, because Israel has to constantly grapple with the moral dilemma, but we need to protect our country,” Gantz said. Asked by Reuters about the Breaking the Silence report, Gantz declined comment.
“I sat with drone operators to distinguish between combatants and civilians,” recalled Gantz, noting it was often hard to tell the difference since Hamas doesn’t wear uniforms.
Gantz said the laws of war were “made to limit bad guys. But guess what? — today the bad guys don’t care, so they are only limiting the good guys from fighting them.”
But the IDF takes the responsibility of self-discipline seriously, he said. “We do investigate ourselves in Gaza and Lebanon,” noting that “the IDF checked 500 incidents during the summer Gaza War,” with some incidents going to “military court.”
Gantz added: “We don’t do it for the world, we do it for us.”