Breaking the Silence’s smear campaign only serves Israel’s enemies

The kind of concern the IDF displayed to prevent unintended ‘collateral damage’ in Gaza does not seem to be a high priority in the bombardments being carried out in Iraq and Syria by U.S., French, British or Russian forces.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

An organization calling itself Breaking the Silence has set itself the goal of breaking the silence that supposedly surrounds infractions by Israel Defense Forces soldiers of universally accepted moral standards as applied to warfare. One suspects these self-appointed do-gooders must be deaf if they believe their activities are required because such infractions are lost to the public eye by a conspiracy of silence. Just open Haaretz on any day or browse the social media networks, and you will find a daily roar of criticism and attacks on the IDF and its soldiers. There seems little need for “volunteers” like the activists of Breaking the Silence to lend a hand to these very vocal critics of the IDF.

But what about the accusations? Is the IDF an immoral army whose excesses have to be exposed at home and abroad? How does it compare with the armed forces of other countries, such as the United States, Britain, England, France or Russia, in combat? It just so happens that the air forces of these states are actively engaged in offensive actions in Iraq and Syria. One looks in vain for the kind of precautions the Israel Air Force took regularly, during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in 2014, to prevent civilian casualties. These included air-dropping leaflets warning of an impending attack on terrorist installations and “knocking on the roof” — that is, phoning residents and/or firing a warning missile before launching a decisive strike on a building. The kind of concern the IDF displayed to prevent unintended “collateral damage” does not seem to be a high priority in the bombardments being carried out in Iraq and Syria by American, French, British or Russian forces. And the result is considerable “collateral damage” there. As far as they are concerned it is “a la guerre comme a la guerre.”

The operation of NATO air and ground forces in Bosnia and Kosovo in 1999 can hardly be held up as an example of moral standards in warfare for the IDF. Not to mention the Vietnam War. And who dares to look for earlier examples? All this is relevant to Breaking the Silence because of the funding this campaign receives from abroad. Close to 70 percent of the budget for this campaign comes from foreign governments. Which governments? Among them are the European Union, Norway, Germany, Holland, Britain and others whose armed forces participated in the NATO operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, where you would have to look very hard to find examples of moral standards that equal those of the IDF.

The best proof of the recognition by Israel’s enemies of the IDF’s moral standards and its attempts to minimize, as far as possible, civilian casualties is the strategy adopted by Hamas and Hezbollah of emplacing their weapons and command centers among the civilian population, and even in schools and hospitals, counting on Israel’s reticence to attack such targets. This is unprecedented in the annals of warfare. Armies in past wars saw no use in hiding behind civilians, knowing well that both sides to the conflict had little concern for civilian casualties.

Yes, the IDF can serve as an example of high moral standards to the armed forces of nations in the world. And yet, if the activists of Breaking the Silence were simply trying to bring to the attention of the IDF brass some infractions committed by soldiers that have come to their attention and that may have escaped their notice, it would be praiseworthy. But hawking these infractions, some no doubt imaginary, abroad, is an obvious attempt to smear Israel. Those who eagerly lap up the “stories’ they provide are the activists of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, the haters of Israel and anti-Semites around the world. They surely know that. The “silence” they claim to be breaking does not exist. They are simply aiding Israel’s enemies using funds provided by foreign governments.

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