Monday, February 1, 2010

We Didn’t. We Did. We Didn’t. We Did. We Didn’t.

The Gaza Operation last year is a war of conflicting narratives. No, I don't mean the Palestinian narrative vs. the Israeli narrative. Or the Goldstone Report narrative vs. the Israeli government narrative.

I mean the IDF narrative vs. the Israel government narrative.

It seems now that the IDF denies, to quote Anshel Pfeffer "that Gaza Division Commander Brig. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg and Givati Brigade Commander Col. Ilan Malka, were the subject of disciplinary action by GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant after headquarters staff found that the men exceeded their authority in approving the use of phosphorus shells that endangered human life"

With the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi ordered the convening of five special investigative committees each headed by an officer with the rank of colonel to examine some of the serious allegations leveled against the army. One of the committees examined the use of phosphorus shells.

After three months, at the end of April of last year, then deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Dan Harel presented the committees' findings and with respect to phosphorus munitions said that they had found no instances in which shells were fired in violation of orders and in any event, they were fired in open areas.

Nonetheless, the report that the Israeli government gave to the United Nations last Friday explicitly states that the two senior officers were disciplined after one of the investigating committees noted among its findings that they approved the firing of phosphorus shells at Tel al-Hawa "exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardized the lives of others."

The report to the UN also says that Ashkenazi recently ordered the convening of a sixth committee to examine additional allegations made against the IDF as well as an incident which one of the previous panels had been unable to thoroughly probe

So, with this contradiction in the reports so glaring, who is right? As Tevye would say, they're both right. It is hard to believe that the two senior officers were officially disciplined for firing white phosphorus weapons. That would have opened them up to war crime proceedings in the Hague, or to the possibility of criminal charges throughout Europe. More likely Ashkenazi decided to slap them on the wrist for the lesser infraction of exceeding their authority (something unheard of in the history of the IDF).

I wanted to call this post, "The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot (White Phosphorus) Straight," but If you have seen the pictures of Gazan civilians' burns (remember when we were being told that those burns may have been self-inflicted?), you'll know why this is no laughing matter.

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