Washington Babylon — March 20, 2009, 11:31 am

Jeffrey Goldberg and Israeli War Crimes

Jeffrey Goldberg is upset. “When the IDF fails to achieve its goal, and ends up inflicting needless destruction and suffering, it sullies not only its own name, but the name of the Jewish state,” he writes.

The source of Goldberg’s angst is that Haaretz has reported on what appear to be gross war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza earlier this year:

During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive…

Another squad leader from the same brigade told of an incident where the company commander ordered that an elderly Palestinian woman be shot and killed; she was walking on a road about 100 meters from a house the company had commandeered.

The squad leader said he argued with his commander over the permissive rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning the residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, the squad leader’s soldiers complained that “we should kill everyone there [in the center of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist.” The squad leader said: “You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won’t say anything. To write ‘death to the Arabs’ on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It’s what I’ll remember the most.”

Back in January, though, Goldberg was an ardent apologist for the Israeli Defense Forces and attacking accounts of Israeli atrocities in Gaza. He suggested such accounts were overblown or that Hamas was responsible because it was using civilians as human shields or that anti-Semitic Westerners were exaggerating the situation. In one post, he linked to this “very funny” satirical interview about an “NGO that uses an ostensible human-rights agenda as camouflage for an anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic program.”

And he wrote, “I don’t think Israel is committing war crimes. Israel is fighting an enemy that intentionally seeks to kill civilians; in the course of fighting Hamas, Israel does some stupid and brutal things, but, by Andrew’s standard, every act of self-defense by a Western nation against Islamist insurgents is a war crime.”

Even now Goldberg is busy apologizing for Israeli actions. The Haaretz revelations show Israeli soldiers behaving “like Cossacks,” but his item makes sure to note that the “world media, generally speaking, doesn’t like Israel very much, and stacks the deck against it,” while the “goal of Hamas is to murder innocent people; the goal of the IDF is to avoid murdering innocent people.”

Based on the Haaretz stories, the IDF didn’t work too hard to avoid killing civilians.

Note: Also, see this:

A United Nations human rights investigator said on Thursday that Israel’s military assault on densely populated Gaza appeared to constitute a grave war crime. Richard Falk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the Geneva Conventions required warring forces to distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians.

“If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law,” Falk said.

Of course, Falk has already been attacked by Israel for his alleged partiality towards Palestinians, so this can no doubt be dismissed as more anti-Semitic propaganda.

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