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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/10/16

The Case of Soldier A

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Soon after, he realized that this was the wrong answer, so he amended it: "He was moving and there was a knife lying next to him, so I felt threatened." However, it appeared that another soldier had already kicked the knife away.

Later, he voiced another reason, to which he has stuck ever since: "I saw a bulge under his jacket and thought that he had a suicide belt on. I shot to prevent him from killing everybody around." This is highly improbable, since the camera clip shows clearly that all the other people nearby were unperturbed The wounded man had already been searched. So the Military Police announced that they were investigating Soldier A for murder.

"A HUGE storm broke loose. All over the country, rightists, settlers, politicians and such attacked the army command in a language never heard before."

The Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, the leader of the extreme rightist "Jewish Home" party, savagely attacked the Minister of Defense, a former army Chief of Staff, who is a moderate Likud rightist.

The present Chief of Staff, Gadi Eizenkot, was undeterred. He reiterated the army orders and strongly supported the actions of the military police against the mob of talkbackers who inundated the social media with thousands of messages cursing the army command. Binyamin Netanyahu first feebly supported his Minister of Defense, then he called the father of Soldier A to express his support.

This was only the beginning. The parents of Soldier A openly attacked the army command in the media for "forsaking" their darling son, the members of Soldier A's army unit freely cursed their commanders and the military police, all over the country the cry went up that Soldier A was a "hero."

Demonstrations of soldiers and civilians took place in front of the military court inside an army compound. Cabinet ministers and Knesset members came to the courtroom in order to demonstrate their solidarity with the "hero." Both the army chief and the defense minister were called on by the mob to resign.

I WOULD like to add here some personal remarks.

In the 1948 war I was a combat soldier in a commando unit, which was awarded the honorary title of "Samson's Foxes." I took part in some 50 engagements. I wrote two books about this experience. The first, "In the Fields of the Philistines," was written throughout the war and described the battles. Everything written in it was the truth and only the truth, but not the whole truth. The second book, "The Other side of the Coin," which was published immediately after the war, described the dark sides of the war, including war crimes.

On the basis of this experience I dare to assert: everybody who calls Soldier A a hero is insulting the hundreds of thousands of decent combat soldiers, who served in the Israeli army since then until now, and among them real heroes (like the four Moroccan-born soldiers who risked their lives and carried me to safety under fire when I was wounded.)

A hero is a soldier who risks his life to save a comrade or to carry out some other essential assignment. Somebody who shoots a wounded enemy is not a hero, and to call him so is an insult to all the decent soldiers who are trying to preserve their humanity under hard -- sometimes impossible -- circumstances.

A decent soldier does not need army orders in order to distinguish between allowed and forbidden, between decent and criminal, between a hero and a bloody coward. He just knows.

SOME PEOPLE may wonder about my attitude towards the army.

I am a pacifist. I detest war and violence. But I am not a simpleton. I know that every country needs an army, not only in times of war but also in times of peace.

An army is a killing machine. But after the atrocious 30-year war in the 17th century, civilized mankind fixed limitations. In short, violence is allowed if it serves the purposes of the war, but is absolutely forbidden if it is used against helpless human beings, such as prisoners and the wounded.

As some of us foresaw, nearly 50 years of occupation has corrupted our army in many ways. It is not the army in which I served. It is not an army I can be proud of. It resembles a colonial police force more than an army whose duty is to defend our state in a tumultuous neighborhood.

Foreigners may wonder about the fact that in Israel, the army command is generally more moderate than the government and the politicians. For historical reasons, this has always been so. I do blame the army command for many faults and misdeeds, but I must praise it for its strength of character in this case.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)
 

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