Operation Cast Lead was the name given by the IDF for its 3-week long conflict with Hamas from 12/27/2008 to 1/18/2009. Just like the Gaza war which was paused by a cease fire earlier this week, Cast Lead lead to false charges of war crimes against Israel. In March 2009 my friend and teacher Barry Rubin, of blessed memory, wrote the essay below which could have been written yesterday. It is worth re-reading today.
By Barry Rubin
A group of young Israeli soldiers met to evaluate their experiences in
the Gaza war to see what could be learned from them. The next thing you
know, there is a global news story about Israel committing war crimes.
Given the eagerness to find Israel evil and guilty, it falls into the
category of a “blood libel”, the historic allegation that Jews murder
Christian children to use their blood for matzo.
The charges of war crimes and murder rest almost entirely on two
stories. First, a Palestinian mother and daughter were being evacuated
from their apartment. An Israeli officer told them to go one way; they
went another. A sniper shot them, as instructed by the rules of
engagement, which were formulated to protect soldiers from attacks by
In the second story, an officer told soldiers to shoot an old woman —
again in the belief she might be a suicide bomber — and an argument
broke out among the Israelis over whether or not to do it.
These stories have been used to suggest bloodthirsty war crimes.
In the first case, an Israeli television station interviewed the soldier
who had told this story and he stated that he had simply heard it as a
In the second case, it is not even clear that the woman was shot. And it
highlights the caution and humanitarian standards of the Israeli army:
enlisted men argued with an officer over obeying an order that soldiers
in most armies would have obeyed without hesitation.
While Israel’s soldiers are accused of being “baby-killers,” they are in
fact defending their country against those who are conscious and
deliberate baby-killers. That is what terrorists like Hamas do.
Hamas deliberately uses civilians as human shields and disguises its
fighters as civilians. Suicide bombers so dressed have constantly
approached Israeli soldiers. Given such tactics, a wide range of
security forces from Western troops in Iraq to British police in London
have shot civilians thinking they were acting in self-defence.
This situation creates a genuine dilemma: What do you do if someone who
appears innocent keeps walking toward you and refuses to halt? During
the Gaza war, officers urged their men not to take risks.
Much of the media has not learned from earlier experiences of being
tricked by deliberately concocted stories about Israeli atrocities.
These include, for example, the Muhammad al-Dura affair in which charges
that Israeli forces murdered a little boy in Gaza a few years ago were
shown to be false. Several terrorist attacks were staged and Israeli
civilians killed in seeking “revenge” for this media-generated blood
The fact remains that there is not a single documented case of any
Israeli soldier violating international law or committing a war crime in
Gaza — or Lebanon in 2006. And it isn’t as if a lot of people haven’t
tried to find or manufacture such an event. Indeed, things have gone so
far that reputable newspapers are repeating the claim that Israel used
phosphorus shells in Gaza against international rules when even the UN
has already said this accusation is baseless.
On May 8, 1886, a little Christian boy named Stanislav Krasovsky
disappeared in my grandparents’ town in Russia. He was later found dead.
One of my ancestors was accused of kidnapping him and draining his
blood. One month later, fortified by vodka, a mob, on June 12, came
looking for him and the results were rather tragic. It would be tragic
today if false media incitement took the part once played by vodka.