Some of my readers say, "You are always quick to adopt the Palestinian position and to reject as untrue the IDF position. Why is that?" The answer is that, with some experience, one can usually determine when the IDF speaks the truth (they do that, actually) and when they are covering their tuchas.
For example, in today's must-read article in the Times about Gaza, we have the following story.
Many [Gazans] here believe that Israelis feel the same about them, and that they were treated with suspicion and contempt, as would-be fighters. That might help explain what happened, they say, when Omar Abu Halima and his two teenage cousins tried to take the burned body of his baby sister and two other living but badly burned girls to the hospital on that Sunday. [According to the Times, the burning was due to the white phosphorus. – JH]
The boys were taking the girls and six others on a tractor, when, according to several accounts from villagers, Israeli soldiers told them to stop. According to their accounts, they got down, put their hands up, and suddenly rounds were fired, killing two teenage boys: Matar Abu Halima, 18, and Muhamed Hekmet, 17.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said that soldiers had reported that the two were armed and firing. Villagers strongly deny that. The tractor that villagers say was carrying the group is riddled with 36 bullet holes.
The villagers were forced to abandon the bodies of the teenage boys and the baby, and when rescue workers arrived 11 days later, the baby's body had been eaten by dogs, her legs two white bones, captured in a gruesome image on a relative's cellphone. The badly burned girls and others on the tractor had fled to safety.
Now, I wasn't there, and I am not a judge or a panel investigating the incident. So why am I fairly confident that the two boys were shot without provocation, and that they were not armed and firing?
Several reasons: first, why would Hamas operatives be taking a tractor to town with dead and wounded girls? And if they were, why would they stop what they were doing and shoot? And then leave their baby sister to be eaten by dogs?
Second, if the IDF soldiers indeed shot the Gazan youths dead without provocation, would they have told that to their superiors. Wouldn't they have told their superiors that they were responding to gunfire, especially since there are documented cases of that?
Third, we already have cases in the past where the soldiers lie to their commanders, the IDF initially backs them up, and then is forced – generally due to video footage – to investigate and admit that the soldiers were lying.
Fourth, note that the spokesperson did not say that the two boys fired on the IDF soldiers, but rather that the soldiers had reported that the boys fired. That is giving the IDF wiggle-room for later investigations and implies to me that they don't necessarily accept the report.
Do these considerations prove that the boys are telling the truth? Of course not. Does this mean that the IDF soldiers kill Gazan for kicks? Certainly not.
But if you are asking me whom I consider to be more believable, in light of what I know about the players, then I am telling you – the Gazan boys. Too many cases have been collected by groups like "Breaking the Silence" and other international human rights groups to think otherwise.
Unless you are a moral chauvinist.