jewin' the fat

Actions speak louder than words
July 16, 2009, 3:46 PM
Filed under: Comment, Israel, media | Tags: , , , , ,

 “Well, it’s Groundhog Day… again… and that must mean that we’re up here at Gobbler’s Knob waiting for the forecast from the world’s most famous groundhog weatherman, Punxsutawney Phil, who’s just about to tell us how much more winter we can expect.” 
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Fool me once ... The Conduct of IDF soldiers is once again being called into question
Fool me once … The Conduct of IDF soldiers is once again being called into question

‘Breaking the Silence’, a human rights group came out yesterday with a report into the Israeli Defence Forces conduct in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. Using the anonymous testimony of a group of  soldiers, the report condemns the IDF as indiscriminately brutal, and refutes the high morals of the IDF, referring to a systematic “shoot to kill” policy that testimonies describe as enforced across the board.

But haven’t we heard this all before?

* * *

“You want a prediction about the weather … I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.”

* * *

That’s right, not even two months ago, the IDF Rabin Pre-Military Academy was embroiled in a similar scandal that shot around the world. The IDF investigated the claims internally, and found the testimony quoted in an internal document, leaked to the media, was a mixture of heresay and rumour, and the author of the document, and head of the academy Danny Zamir made a public statement saying, “From an internal discussion … the international media turned the IDF into war criminals.”

Why is the international media prepared to fight tooth and nail to validate sources, and thus ensure the credibility of a story, but when it comes to a report, based on the unattributed, unsubstantiated testimony of unknown IDF ‘soldiers’, they are more than willing to drop all journalistic standards of inquiry and investigation?

As IDF spokesperson Avital Leibovich says, none of the accounts can be proven or investigated because of their anonymous nature. “I don’t know who they are. I have no idea in which way they were questioned. When you have a report with no fact whatsoever, we cannot do anything with it,” she said.

In fact, the media have done nothing more than print heresay and conjecture of a report whose authors have a very clear agenda, and the willingness of the international press to run the story without proper proof of the claims is slanderous and unethical.

The IDF has released a statement calling on ‘Breaking the Silence’ to “urge those who made these claims to really ‘break their silence,’ and to present specific complaints to the IDF, and not hide behind general and anonymous statements.”

The report was not even presented to the IDF for verification, as the Rabin Academy accusations were. Instead, intrepid reporters from the English daily The Jerusalem Post, who received the report from ‘Breaking the Silence’ decided to verify it for themselves, as Amir Mizroch reports.

It was as they suspected. Most of the testimonies were anonymous and lacked in any identifying details that would allow the IDF to investigate, confirm, or refute them. Whether the organisation really intends for a credible and thorough investigation regarding the claims to be carried out, as is the norm after accusations of war crimes, is doubtful.

But then again, is the purpose of such reports ever really that black and white? The report’s intention is to punish the IDF by smear ing the reputation of the entire Defence Forces, rather than actually have the offenders brought to account. As Michael Dickson of StandWithUs comments “There is no silence to break. Israel is an open and democratic society that regularly criticizes its own actions but this one-sided and shoddy report fails to stress the context of the war … But this vital context is missing from their account.” Metaphors of bad apples are clearly not applicable (so they say), because this is the second such report to come out.

It would appear the media have forgotten that old adage: Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me.

Israel is stuck again in a twisted Groundhog Day. Nothing they say or do will stop the onslaught of people and organisations prepared to take a tar brush to Israel’s institutions with anonymous and highly defamatory reports, while people like Col. Richard Kemp, has the honour of his name behind his statements to the contrary. Meanwhile, when it comes to the ridiculous and the despairing, all we hear are crickets.

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” 

And just as Ralph answers Phil, That about sums it up for me.


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