Killing Civilians

Posted on September 30th, 2009

The esteemed Judge Goldstone.

The esteemed Judge Goldstone.

I spoke with a friend of mine who saw combat in Gaza this past January. He told me about having to kill a seventy year old man.

These are the kind of stories that the media love.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission just published the report of Judge Goldstone accusing Israel of war crimes. The report is five hundred pages long, much of it devoted to tales of Israeli atrocities — based almost entirely on Palestinian accounts.

Now, put yourself in my friend’s position and decide if he is a “war criminal.”

Tell me what you would have done:

His unit was in a Palestinian village near the border that separates Gaza from Israel. They had been ordered to take over a house being used by Hamas to fire rockets into Israel. It was a large house with a commanding view of the area. They got into position in front of the house.

Even though, the Air Force had dropped leaflets in Arabic telling the residents to leave the vicinity of the house, there was still concern that innocent civilians might be inside.

Following standard procedure, the soldiers shouted in Arabic for anyone inside to come out of the house. Just to make sure they were heard, the soldiers repeated the command three times.

No one answered.

Next, the soldiers were given the order to shoot into the ground near the house. They did so to minimize the possibility of a bullet ricocheting off stone. Again, they yelled for anyone inside to come out.

No one answered.

At this point, one of the soldiers saw a person’s shadow in the window of the house. Since intelligence had identified this house as a Hamas base, and since the person inside had ignored repeated warnings to come out, the unit was given permission to open fire. Whomever was inside must be a terrorist.

But the commander was hesitant — what if the person inside was deaf? What if the person inside was handicapped and unable to communicate? Even if there was just a tiny chance that the person inside was innocent, shouldn’t they make sure?

At the risk of their own lives, the soldiers stormed the house and withheld their fire. Inside, they found….

Women and children. The men had fled much earlier because they knew the house would be targeted. They left their wives and children in the IDF’s way. Because of the actions of a nameless Israeli officer, the lives of these women and children were saved.


Later on, the soldiers were in position in the house when they saw a lone Palestinian male running toward another IDF position. This time, they could not take the risk. They shot and killed him. It turns out, the IDF position he was running toward had been booby-trapped, and he was trying to light the fuse.

In all likelihood, their quick thinking saved the lives of Israeli soldiers. Yet for folks like Goldstone, whose detailed “findings” were dictated by Hamas support organizations, the incident would read that Israeli soldiers randomly shot an elderly civilian who was unarmed.

At the beginning of this story, I asked you to put yourself in my friend’s position. What would you have done? Would you have risked your life to avoid harming a civilian? (A civilian who would be very happy to learn of your death by the way).

Now, do one more thing for me. Don’t imagine it was yourself in the IDF soldier’s position.

Imagine it was your child.

Imagine it was your child who might come home in a bag because he didn’t want to take any chance at hurting a civilian. Imagine your child risked his life to prevent harm to a Palestinian. Now read Judge Goldstone’s report saying that your child should be tried as a war criminal.

I am an Israeli who will one day have kids in the Army, and I would rather have a million Goldstone reports and UN condemnations than a single funeral of an Israeli soldier.

What about you Judge Goldstone? Before you submit your report to the representatives of Angola, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia why don’t you take a good look in the mirror and answer the question:


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  1. minka goldstein says:

    bravo! well written. i have sent to david axelrod at white house.

  2. Elliot says:

    Great piece Yarden.

  3. Teresa says:

    Excellent article! Personally I wouldn’t have been as patient as the IDF was, especially considering that the Gazans had been firing rockets on Israeli civilians for so many years with no major retailiation on our part. When you’re dealing with terrorists (and I consider those women and children to be included in that group since they enable and support the terrorist position), I say shoot first, ask questions later.

  4. Excellent post – thanks for sharing it!

  5. Tikva says:

    A wonderful piece. I’m sharing this.

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