Two of the most heinous charges made against the IDF in particular and Israel generally are those of Apartheid and Genocide against the Arabs generally and the Palestinians in particular. Let us start with the Genocide accusation first. Most people, including the enemies of Israel, would grant that the IDF is a fairly proficient modern and well equipped military. Even given this, I would agree with those claiming there is room for improvement, but then show me any organizational group that doesn’t have room for improvement. The soldiers of the IDF, especially in the more elite units, have shown excellent marksmanship and tend to hit their targets with great regularity. Much the same can be said of Israeli Border Police, Shin Bet, and many of the regular police departments. So, for arguments these can be taken for given facts, so what does this tell us about the accusation of Israeli sponsored genocide?
If it was Israeli government policy, simply the policy but not a ranking priority, to commit genocide against the Palestinians inside of Israel, in the West Bank, and in Gaza, would you rate their accomplishment thus far as good, fair, poor, or miserable? Checking the population numbers released by all three counts, Israeli, UNRWA, and the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, all agree, though with differing rates, that the Palestinian population has grown every year since the 1967 War. Except for during periods of intense conflict such as the most recent in Gaza and a few engagements in the West Bank, the Palestinians have yet to release a death count from all manner of death over a couple hundred in the worst of months. So, we can assume that Israel is either does not have a government policy calling for the outright murder and genocide of the Palestinians or the IDF and related services are disregarding orders or failing their orders so miserably as to be charged with neglect of orders. With the choices of Israel is not attempting to commit genocide against the Palestinians or Israel is incapable of fulfilling the orders for genocide due to complete incompetence, it is obvious there is no Israeli attempt to commit genocide against the Palestinians. If such an order existed, there is no way on Earth that such a measure would take over forty years to accomplish.
The other side of the genocide argument is that Israel is opting to commit a slow genocide where it only pursues this goal during times of military actions. The attempts of genocide by Israel take the form of needlessly killing thousands upon thousands of Palestinian civilians during their operations that are aimed to supposedly reduce the level of terror strikes inflicted upon the Israeli civilian population by Palestinian terrorists who also happen to often be members of one of the plethora of Palestinian Security Forces. The most often quoted examples are the mass murder of as many as two to three thousand Palestinian civilians during the Cast Lead Gaza campaign of December 2008 through January 2009, the Jenin massacre of reputedly as many as eight thousand Palestinian civilians and refugees in the Refugee camp in central Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield of April 2002, and the Sabra and Shatila Massacres in the Lebanese refugee camps on September 16 to 18, 1982, and others dating back even before 1948 when Israel was founded. Let’s examine each of the three main examples listed and check the validity that has emerged over time in hindsight.
During the Cast Lead Gaza campaign the casualty lists initially reported approximately 1400 Palestinians and 500 injured according to initial reports from Amnesty International. The worst accusation was that less than 300 of those killed were actual combatants thus accusing Israel of massive intentional targeting of innocent Palestinian civilians. Their initial report, online in PDF format, titled “Israel/Gaza – Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 22 Days of Death and Destruction” also simply belittled any and every Israeli claim thus dismissing them as invalid with no necessity to further investigate the Israeli claims as the Palestinians, UNRWA, Hamas, and later the UN Goldstone Report all agreed with Amnesty International’s report. A subsequent report released by Hamas, which received virtually zero mention, listed that 709 of the reported casualties as Hamas terror operatives from Cast Lead campaign. Other reports also listed casualties from Islamic Jihad and a number of Fatah officers whose bodies had signs of an up close assassination style murders and many attributed these deaths to Hamas, not Israel. When the final reports are considered, including Judge Goldstone’s renunciation of his report which he wrote for the Washington Post, there was not an overt out of proportional loss of civilian Palestinian life during cast lead. Even some of the cases of civilians being caught in crossfire were found to have been the result of Hamas operatives using civilians as shields behind whom they would attempt to conceal themselves. When this resulted in Israeli indirect fire, such as using mortars or artillery in counter-fire of incoming mortar and rocket fire on Israelis, the target is unseen and civilian shields may also be within the area of effect.
Next is the Refugee camp in central Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield of April 2002, where initial reports were of one hundred civilians slaughtered with no military Palestinian resistance used against Israel. Within two days the count of civilians killed rose to five hundred, a thousand, and finally settled at five to eight thousand civilian Palestinians murdered in the central Jenin refugee camp. Other reports came out describing an area that comprised most of the city of Jenin as having been destroyed by Israeli artillery, bombing and tank fire. All of these reports, not some, not virtually, but all of the reports about the Jenin massacre were disproved by, of all people, the United Nations in the Secretary General’s final report on Jenin. The report conceded that the Palestinian death toll at 52, more than half of them armed combatants, and the death toll of IDF soldiers was 23. These numbers absolved Israel of having committed a massacre or even committed war crimes or crimes against humanity in the city of Jenin. As for the reputed near total destruction of the town, the entire area of heavy damage included approximately one square mile, leaving vast areas of the town untouched by damage. So, Jenin too was debunked once objective inquiry was initiated and completed.
Finally, we come to probably the most contentious of the charges, the massacres at the Lebanese refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila on September 16 to18, 1982. All sides of the argument actually agree that these actual attacks were committed by Lebanese Christian Phalangist Militias and not by IDF troops. The argument comes down to two items, did Ariel Sharon order the Phalangist Militias and if he did not, could he have prevented them from making these devastating and cruel vendetta driven attacks. Many claim that the Phalangist Militias were allied and under the command of the IDF. This is untrue; the Phalangist Militias had their own command structure and acted mostly independent of the IDF. Where there may have been some coordination in that they would attempt to make clear general locations and objectives so as to avoid engaging each other by accident, this in no means implies that Ariel Sharon had direct command, control, or even knowledge of exactly what the Phalangist Militias were planning. Another fact that was recognized was the IDF did intervene upon hearing of the unholy actions of the Phalangist Militias in the two refugee camps and ended their campaign of violence. There have been a number of inquiries into the actions of Ariel Sharon and none of them have concluded that Ariel Sharon had any knowledge or responsibility for the actions of the Phalangist Militias in the camps of Sabra and Shatila. Still, the Palestinians, Hezballah, and other Arab sources continue the libel that Ariel Sharon actually ordered and oversaw the slaughter in both Sabra and Shatila by the Lebanese Christian Phalangist Militias despite all the evidence to the contrary.
As far as the charges that Israel practices a form of Apartheid, it is easy to see that such is equally preposterous. Israel has complete equal rights for people of all races, religions, sexual preference, political affiliation or any other criteria one might imply. This is obvious when one considers that Israel has actively brought Ethiopian, Indian, Arab, Russian, European, and any other nationality Jews into Israel and incorporates them into as seamless a society as can be found anywhere. Israel allows all their citizens including Druze, Bedouin, Arab, Christian, Muslim, Bahá’í, Buddhist, Hindu, or any other religion to vote, hold office, work in government, serve in the IDF (only required service for Jews and Druze, Druze do to their insistence to be treated exactly the same as Jews for military service), hold judgeships, work, receive government benefits, and equal treatment under the law. The argument that is used to counter this is that the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza are not availed of these same rights, not that Israel excludes any citizens from full rights. The catch in the case of the refugees and citizens of the West Bank and Gaza is they are refugees from a defensive war in which Israel gained the territory and the peoples living there. This makes these peoples foreign citizens still residing within conquered lands gained in a defensive war. By international law, Israel has no obligation to absorb these peoples, they simply are not permitted to force them from their properties without mutual agreed compensation, but they in no way are owed citizenship or equal treatment with those who have Israeli citizenship. Could these Palestinians be eventually incorporated into Israeli society as full citizens? Oddly enough, the answer is yes, but not as long as they identify themselves as Palestinians under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and claim and demand they be separate from Israel and granted their own country. It is mutually incompatible to demand your own government and independent country and also demand equal rights and citizenship both from Israel. One would have to choose one route or the other. And even should they desire Israeli citizenship, it is Israel’s choice whether or not to grant them the status of citizen, not their choice as a conquered people. In most of history, after the Six Day War in 1967 the Palestinians from Gaza would have been, along with the residents of the Sinai Peninsula, forced across the Suez Canal into Egypt reuniting them with their country of origin. By the same history, the Palestinians of the West Bank would have been relocated across the Jordan River into Jordan, their country of origin. Even those who fled their homes in 1948 under the urgings of the Mufti of Jerusalem and the Leaders of the Arab countries and armies would be left to remain in whatever country to which they fled as they made their choice when leaving instead of assisting in Israel’s defense. Included in these who fled would be any who opposed and fought the forces defending Israel from the attack of the many Arab armies attacking the new nation could also be legally prevented from returning. It seems though that Israel is the only country where the world believes they may decide who is privileged to have Israeli citizenship and who can and cannot live in lands lost to Israel by countries who initiated attacks against Israel. It makes no matter as eventually the rule of law must supersede the world’s prejudices.
Beyond the Cusp