A tense and emotional debate

In the last few days four former heads of Israel's security services have issued public statements supporting the group called Breaking the Silence. This group is dedicated to exposing the conduct of Israeli soldiers in Palestinian inhabited territory.

These statements of support are the latest contributions to an emotional debate that has raged during recent weeks over the organization's activities. Some within Israel want it to be silenced; others argue that it actually strengthens Israel's moral posture.

At the core of the issue are the very high standards of conduct that Israel sets for the members of its armed forces, even when those members are fighting enemies with no such standards.

The High Level Military Group – military experts from Germany, Italy, USA, Spain, Australia, India, France, UK and Colombia – has recently reported on the conduct of Israel’s armed forces in the 2014 Gaza conflict. Their report makes fascinating reading.

To quote from their executive summary: ‘We can further be categorically clear that Israel’s conduct in the 2014 Gaza Conflict met and in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations’ militaries.’

‘Hamas in turn not only flagrantly disregarded the Law of Armed Conflict as a matter of course as part of its terrorist-army hybrid strategic concept, but rather it abused the very protections afforded by the law for military advantage. Embedding its entire military machinery in civilian locations and sensitive sites, including those of the United Nations, Hamas indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilians throughout the conflict with extensive rocket fire and wilfully sought to draw the IDF into battle in a prepared urban stronghold amid the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza, for which it located its operational headquarters in Gaza’s main hospital.’