The recent announcement by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a probe of War Crimes against Israeli actions and soldiers requires an investigation into the behavior of Israel's (IDF) soldiers and their treatment toward their fellow human beings. It also begs an examination into the State Of Israel’s attitude and dealings with of its Palestinian neighbors. I took the opportunity to look further into this and came up with the following findings:
The Israeli Medical Officer:
On June 1, 2015, an emotional reunion occurred at the Mt. Scopus Hadassah Hospital campus between a Palestinian Arab family and an Israeli army medical officer who had saved the life of their baby son as they crossed the Allenby Bridge from Jordan into Israel the week before. The baby had suffered a cardiac arrest at the crossing and an IDF medical team led by 23-year-old Lt. Ronen Kessler quickly arrived at the scene and performed CPR before the baby was evacuated by helicopter to Hadassah. Kessler and division medical officer Moran Gershoni later visited the family at the hospital.
“They were really happy to see us,” Kessler said. “Most of the time, the father spoke English. He told us what had happened before they got to the crossing and kept thanking us for what we did. The mother also thanked us and even hugged Gershoni. It was very exciting, but it’s not easy to see a boy of six months in such bad shape.” “I appreciate everything that IDF soldiers did, and they were praying for my boy,” the baby’s father said. “They gave him first aid and took him by helicopter to Hadassah, even though he is not Israeli but Palestinian.”
Gershoni said the army’s medical treatment of Palestinian Arabs in such cases was unexceptional. “Yesterday we performed CPR on a 16-month-old Palestinian infant with a candy stuck in its throat. On Friday, we were treating an injured Palestinian who was brought to the base gate in an unconscious state,” Moran said. “Everyone who needs care is taken care of,” Gershoni emphasized. Kessler added that the IDF does not differentiate between “blood and blood;” “That’s what we swore to do and what we uphold every day. “The world probably will not see these images,” he reflected, stressing that “they represent the real army and our values.
The Israeli Army Sniper
In June 2014, During the war in Gaza between IDF soldiers and Hamas militants, the following testimony was given by IDF Sergeant Gedaliah F., a 20-year-old sniper in the Nachal Brigade, who went into Gaza on the first day of the ground operation. Over the phone he shared the following account with Tower Magazine: “I’m a sniper in my unit and we were shot at from a school about 250 meters (800 feet) away. I couldn’t see into the school because the windows were tinted. And it just puts you in this very hard position. You don’t want to shoot at a school. What if there are kids there? You can’t just shoot if you don’t see what you’re shooting at. It’s a school. But on the other hand, you’re being shot at by an enemy sniper. It really hits two ends of the spectrum and you really don’t know what to do.
"And it was like that throughout the entire war. We were in Beit Hanoun. I’m almost 100 percent sure that it was an UNRWA school. People in my unit remember it having a UN flag. If I had to guess, it was. It was a big beautiful white building with blue frames in the middle of a village of grey buildings with no rooftops. [The IDF confirmed that this incident took place at an UNRWA school.] There were tons of buildings that were higher than that school. He [the terrorist] clearly chose that spot not because it was higher up. He knew the consequences of us shooting there and he tried to use that against us.”
The Israeli Fighter Pilot:
Captain Dor is a 26-year-old Air Force pilot from Tel Aviv who serves in the 106th Squadron in the Israeli Air Force. He began his service eight years ago and while taking a rare break from the fighting between Israel and Hamas, during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014, shared his “bird-eye” testimony of events: “For me on a personal level, it was very hard bombing at night when you’re waiting for clearance to strike and you see rockets coming out of Gaza. At night you see them very clearly. They light up the sky. And you realize that now in Tel Aviv and Ashdod and Sderot, people are running to bomb shelters. It’s almost surreal to see these rockets close up, lighting up the sky in front of you, just as your friends and family are running to bomb shelters.
"You know that this rocket launcher is your target but you can’t attack because you have to wait for clearance to make sure that there are no civilians in the area where the rocket is being launched. Only once you know your target is clear, and there are no civilians nearby, then that is the time to strike. I saw several occasions where Gazans ran to the roof of a building that had been warned of an imminent strike, or people simply remaining where they were and that’s the biggest of all the dilemmas we face. . . . Every strike mission I went on had those dilemmas. . . . Many times as a pilot you’re very close to releasing a bomb and sometimes with five seconds or three seconds to launch, you abort the mission because there are civilians in the vicinity and you’re not willing to take those risks.
"Sometimes the civilians aren’t exactly in the target but they’re close enough that you feel that if you attack they could get hurt. So sometimes you come back for landing with all your bombs, because you’re waiting two hours and still the target wasn’t clear. About 20 to 30 percent of the targets I was assigned to were aborted for that reason. I saw targets in schoolyards, in parks next to swings, and you realize that Hamas takes the most innocent place, like next to a swing, and builds a rocket launcher there. In his mind, the Israeli Air Force won’t attack it because there’s a good chance there will be children nearby. And for Hamas, when children are killed, it is considered a great success. In this way, they manage to force the Israelis to harm innocent children “by accident.” We do everything in our power to avoid it, which is a paradox. You do everything in your power to make the Gaza civilians safe, and Hamas does everything in its power to keep civilians in danger.”
A further inquiry into what leading international experts say on the matter reveal some interesting conclusions:
1.In the Gaza war of 2014, during an operational mission in the Shejaiya neighborhood, Israeli soldiers found a Hamas “doctrine manual” which documented how the terror group urged its fighters to embed themselves among civilians in hopes that the “IDF will kill civilians.” Members of Hamas are acutely aware of the IDF’s rules of engagement and the Israeli fighting ethic – to do the utmost to avoid civilian casualties – and they exploit this moral stance by using their citizens as human shields, in direct violation of human rights and the Geneva Convention.
2.On a fact-finding mission into the Gaza war in 2014, professor of international law, Willy Stern of Vanderbilt Law School reflected, “It was abundantly clear that IDF commanders had gone beyond any mandates that international law requires to avoid civilian casualties."
3.During the same battle in Gaza, Wall Street Journal reporter Nick Casey tweeted an image of a Hamas spokesman giving an interview at a Gaza hospital with sounds of the shelling clearly heard in the background. “You have to wonder . . . how patients at Shifa Hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to show the media.” The tweet was later deleted. According to Middle East analyst Matthew Levitt, Hamas had been planting weapons in areas inhabited by vulnerable residents for a long time. “It happens in schools,” he wrote in Middle East Quarterly. “Hamas has buried caches of arms and explosives under its own kindergarten playgrounds…”
4.United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs director, John Ging, reported to CBC News on July 30, 2014 during the fighting in Gaza.
“Yes, the armed groups [in Gaza] are firing their rockets into Israel from the vicinity of UN facilities and residential areas, absolutely.” William Booth of the Washington Post reported during one temporary ceasefire in Gaza 2014, that he saw a “group of men” at a mosque in northern Gaza. They said they had returned to clean up glass from shattered windows. “But they could be seen moving small rockets into the mosque,” Booth wrote. He also reported that Shifa Hospital in Gaza City had, “become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.”
5.Following Operation Cast Lead, the United Nations Human Rights Council set up an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes, headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone. The findings came to be known as the “Goldstone Report.” The initial inquiry accused Israel of, “using disproportionate force, deliberately targeting civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure, and using people as human shields.”
However, almost two years later, following an additional report by a separate U.N. committee of independent experts, Richard Goldstone’s reversed his conclusion in an op-ed piece published in The Washington Post, April 1, 2011. “We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war,” Goldstone admitted. “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” Those investigations, he said, indicate that, “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” In the article Goldstone says that the UN report recognized and accepted the findings of IDF investigations into alleged allegations
6. During Operation Cast Lead, 2008–2009, the IDF dropped more than 2,250,000 leaflets during the fighting and made personal telephone warnings to more than 165,000 Gaza residents.
Caption: IDF medics treat Gazans on the sea
In addition, I found the following information pertaining toward Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian neighbors:
1.The annual Peace Index Survey conducted by the Israeli Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University revealed that for the past 20 years, the majority of Israeli’s (over 60%) want peace with their Palestinian neighbors, although they disagree on how that should be achieved.
2.Several previous attempts to negotiate peace with the Palestinians including the Oslo Accords, Camp David Summit, Taba Talks, the Arab peace talks and “Road Map”, where attempts where made to offer the Palestinians a state of their own, failed miserably and were followed by years of Palestinian terror attacks in which thousands of Israeli’s were killed and injured.
3.Israel currently has peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt and recently signed the Abraham Accords, which has ushered in a fresh era of Middle East cooperation and peace with countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco
4.Since 2000, over 20,000 Palestinian terror rockets were fired indiscriminately against Israeli citizens. These rockets have hit Israeli homes, schools, kindergardens, industrial areas and intend to kill as many as possible. In addition, thousands of other Palestinian terror attacks have targeted Israeli’s including stabbings, vehicle attacks, bombs etc. in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
There are currently no ICC probes against the Palestinian leadership and the various Palestinian terror organizations for these documented crimes against humanity
5.Israel’s security barrier separating Israel from the West Bank was built in direct response to the wave of Palestinian terror attacks during the Second Intifada, a 5-year period between 2000-2005, in which over 1000 Israeli’s were killed in suicide bombings and other terror attacks. The project, which has the overwhelming support of the Israeli public and deemed legal by Israel’s Supreme Court, has by in large been successful in protecting Israeli civilians.
6.Israel saves more Palestinian lives than any other country, nation or entity worldwide – on average over 100,000 Palestinians arrive at Israeli hospitals, annually, for life-saving and other medical treatment, which they cannot receive in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli doctors and nurses including Jewish, Arab and Christians offer them first class treatment, without discrimination.
My findings conclude that there seems to be a disconnect between the ICC accusations against Israel and the reality on the ground. My research brings the motivations and integrity of the ICC court and judges into question. I suggest the ICC take a further look into the matter before going to court.
David Kramer is an educator, entrepreneur and keynote speaker. He is the founder of NU, a social venture garnering support for Israeli organizations and causes worldwide and is the author of State Of The Heart, www.state-of-the-heart.com, a new book on Israel, exploring the benevolent and altruistic side of the people and State Of Israel (Urim Publications 2020.) He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and children.