Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Update on Israeli military discipline

Good morning readers,

Yesterday I wrote a rather confusing entry concerning the Israeli response to the Goldstone report that asserted that two IDF commanders had been disciplined for firing white phosphorous on a UN compound in Gaza during the Winter War. I then posted an update pretty much as I was running out the door to catch the bus which was inaccurate and confusing. As it turns out, the IDF did confirm that two commanders had been disciplined (both kept their rank and posts as I blogged yesterday), but were not disciplined for firing white phosphorous. Instead they were disciplined for directing artillery fire toward a populated area. In short, the IDF disciplined two commanders but denies it was in connection to white phosphorous use. Just to be sure, no one has been held accountable for this undeniably criminal use of white phosphorous. What has not been pointed out about this picture is that the white vehicle near the right of the picture is a Palestinian Red Crescent Ambulance and the man in the orange vest running toward the camera at the right is a Palestinian paramedic. The Washington Post and New York Times both ran stories yesterday, apparently both eager to absolve Israel of war crimes allegations because they disciplined two poor saps in connection with a brutal and unnecessary war that claimed the lives of over 900 civilians. The IDF still claims that white phosphorous was only used in unpopulated areas in line with international law, though with how heavily populated (1.5 million Palestinians living in a 140 square mile area) the Gaza Strip is and given that the IDF was operating in urban environments its almost unimaginable that white phosphorous could be used in a way that would not place large numbers of civilians in extreme danger. Palestinian and European doctors reported treating nearly 100 patients with deep chemical burns consistent with white phosphorous. Israel's punishment of the two commanders really begs the question that with 900 civilians dead and international pressure mounting for Israel to carry out credible investigations, why were these two commanders singled out for discipline? What did they really do that warranted them being the only two members of the entire Israeli military worthy of punishment and international shame? Apparently Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak really does not like these two. Maybe they made passes at his daughter or something...

In other Holy Land news, the Tristan Anderson investigation was closed with no indictments. Tristan Anderson was shot in the face with a tear gas canister during a protest against Israel's separation wall in the West Bank. Anderson, an American citizen, suffered massive brain damage, spent months in a coma, and now is only able to communicate with basic sounds. WaPo tried yesterday to bolster its credibility by reporting on the story, but instead published a laughably bad article. WaPo reports (inaccurately) that the scalding hot tear gas canister (a type which are fired from underbarrel launchers of assault rifles) was not fired but thrown nearly 200 feet. WaPo also maligns ISM with the anonymous claims of "Israeli military officials." ISM has a press room but WaPo made no effort to get a statement from them. I have been to similar protests as the one Tristan was at and have seen first-hand how these protests turn violent. The IDF escalates these protests in a way that is extraordinarily dangerous to themselves and the protesters. It is not about safety, it's about asserting dominance and total authority over nearly every action of Palestinians and their allies. 50% of the time Palestinian teens begin throwing stones and the other half of the time the Israelis fire salvos of rubber bullets and tear gas first. The Israelis do not fire the tear gas in a manner to break up the protest and stop stones from being thrown, they shoot haphazardly and endanger the lives of everyone involved. On several occasions I witnessed the IDF firing rubber bullets and tear gas at Palestinians fleeing the scene and returning to their homes. There is a way to break up a protest that has become violent without massively escalating the situation and the Israelis have apparently not found it. They put themselves and others in the kind of danger that resulted in Tristan Anderson's condition.

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