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Dec 7, 2015
Presented by
Colonel Richard Kemp

Is the Israeli military a paragon of morality and wartime ethics? Or is it an oppressive force that targets innocent Palestinian civilians and commits war crimes as a matter of policy? Colonel Richard Kemp, who was the commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, was in Israel during its war against Hamas in 2014, and analyzes whether Israel's military is ethical, evil, or somewhere in between.

Israel goes to previously unheard of lengths to protect enemy civilians.

  • No military in the world does more to safeguard the rights of citizens in a combat zone than the Israeli military. The Gaza War of 2014 is one such example.View Source
  • Hamas—officially designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department—instigated the war by launching hundreds of rockets towards Israeli towns and cities for months on end.View Source
  • Despite having the military might to level the entire Gaza Strip with air power alone, Israel launched limited and targeted airstrikes against Hamas terrorists for months, only deciding to use ground forces after discovering that Hamas dug a sophisticated network of terror tunnels into Israeli civilian areas in order to kill and kidnap as many Israeli civilians and soldiers as possible.View Source
  • During the seven-week war, the Israeli military went to previously unheard of lengths to warn Gaza citizens about impending Israeli airstrikes and ground incursions—including calling them on their cell phones and dropping leaflets in civilian areas near Hamas locations that were targeted for bombing.View Source
  • The Israeli military even aborted many operations that were strategically necessary in order to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties.View Source

The Gaza War of 2014 demonstrates just how much the Israel military strives to protect human life—even the lives of its enemies. 

  • Hamas—officially designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department—instigated The Gaza War of 2014 by launching hundreds of rockets towards Israeli towns and cities for months on end.View Source
  • Despite having the military might to level the entire Gaza Strip with air power alone, Israel launched limited and targeted airstrikes against Hamas terrorists for months, only deciding to use ground forces after discovering that Hamas dug a sophisticated network of terror tunnels into Israeli civilian areas in order to kill and kidnap as many Israeli civilians and soldiers as possible.View Source
  • During the seven-week war, the Israeli military went to previously unheard of lengths to warn Gaza citizens about impending Israeli airstrikes and ground incursions—including calling them on their cell phones and dropping leaflets in civilian areas near Hamas locations that were targeted for bombing.View Source
  • The Israeli military even aborted many operations that were strategically necessary in order to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties.View Source

Who is to blame for the civilian casualties in the Gaza War of 2014? The ones who forced the war: Hamas. 

  • Hamas—officially designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department—instigated the Gaza War of 2014 by launching hundreds of rockets towards Israeli towns and cities for months on end.View Source
  • Israel went to great lengths to avoid fighting in Gaza; however, Hamas forced Israel’s hand, thereby putting its own civilians in harm’s way.View Source
  • Civilian casualties occur in every war—and they are ultimately the fault of the side that prompted the war. In the Gaza War of 2014, civilian casualties were a tragic result of terror group Hamas’s aggression, personal choices by civilians to not heed Israeli warnings, and mistakes—not war crimes—by the Israeli military.View Source
  • Related reading: Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas – Alan DershowitzView Source
  • Related reading: Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict – Mitchell G. BardView Source
  • Related reading: Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel – Joshua MuravchikView Source

Israel has consistently demonstrated that it only resorts to war when all diplomatic options have failed to stop its enemies’ violence.

  • War is a tactic of last resort for Israel. It’s a country founded on the moral principles of Judaism and, like other Western nations, it prefers to live at peace with its neighbors. The country’s military leaders follow these principles and actively work to promote peace through dialogue, deterrence and de-escalation.View Source
  • When Israel (or any free nation) feels the need to use military force to defend itself, it’s important to keep in mind that the right to use military force in self-defense is broadly recognized as legitimate, and this includes defending the right of citizens to live in a way of their choosing, free from fear of terror attacks and free to go about their day without rockets and rocket sirens grinding everything to a terrifying halt.View Source
  • Related reading: Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas – Alan DershowitzView Source
  • Related reading: Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict – Mitchell G. BardView Source
  • Related reading: The Case for Israel – Alan DershowitzView Source

If Israel’s enemies were as strong as Israel, they would destroy Israel instantly.

  • In its 2014 war with Israel, terror organization Hamas purposely broke internationally recognized laws of war, positioning rocket launchers and weapons caches among civilians, hiding weapons in schools and hospitals, and ordering civilians not to evacuate war zones, threatening to shoot those who left targeted areas.View Source
  • Although Hamas exploited Israel’s ethical code against it, Israel still did not change its civilians-first policy, going to unprecedented lengths to protect citizens, even endangering its own mission, and thus its own civilians.View Source
  • Related reading: Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas – Alan DershowitzView Source
  • Related reading: Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict – Mitchell G. BardView Source

Israel has the power to easily destroy the Gaza Strip and Hamas. Why doesn’t it do so? Because the Israeli military is fundamentally moral.

  • No military in the world does more to safeguard the rights of citizens in a combat zone than the Israeli military. The Gaza War of 2014 is one such example.View Source
  • Hamas—officially designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department—instigated the war by launching hundreds of rockets towards Israeli towns and cities for months on end.View Source
  • Despite having the military might to level the entire Gaza Strip with air power alone, Israel launched limited and targeted airstrikes against Hamas terrorists for months, only deciding to use ground forces after discovering that Hamas dug a sophisticated network of terror tunnels into Israeli civilian areas in order to kill and kidnap as many Israeli civilians and soldiers as possible.View Source
  • Related reading: Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas – Alan DershowitzView Source
  • Related reading: Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict – Mitchell G. BardView Source

In the Gaza War of 2014, terror group Hamas broke several laws of war, including placing weapons in schools and hospitals. 

  • In its 2014 war with Israel, terror organization Hamas purposely broke internationally recognized laws of war, positioning rocket launchers and weapons caches among civilians, hiding weapons in schools and hospitals, and ordering civilians not to evacuate war zones, threatening to shoot those who left targeted areas.View Source
  • In order to use the Western media for its gain, Hamas lied about civilian deaths, and even staged fake scenes of dead Palestinians, who suddenly “woke up” after the cameras and reporters left. The practice was so common that it earned them the nickname “Pallywood.”View Source
  • Although Hamas exploited Israel’s ethical code against it, Israel still did not change its civilians-first policy, going to great lengths to protect citizens, even endangering its own mission, and thus its own civilians.View Source
  • Related reading: Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas – Alan DershowitzView Source
  • Related reading: Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict – Mitchell G. BardView Source

In its 2014 war with Israel, Hamas placed rocket launchers among civilians and threatened to shoot those who tried to flee to safety. 

  • In its 2014 war with Israel, terror organization Hamas purposely broke internationally recognized laws of war, positioning rocket launchers and weapons caches among civilians, hiding weapons in schools and hospitals, and ordering civilians not to evacuate war zones, threatening to shoot those who left targeted areas.View Source
  • In order to use the Western media for its gain, Hamas lied about civilian deaths, and even staged fake scenes of dead Palestinians, who suddenly “woke up” after the cameras and reporters left. The practice was so common that it earned them the nickname “Pallywood.”View Source
  • Although Hamas used Israel’s ethical code against it, Israel still did not change its civilians-first policy, going to great lengths to protect citizens.View Source
  • Related reading: Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas – Alan DershowitzView Source
  • Related reading: Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel – Joshua MuravchikView Source

In the 2014 Gaza War, Israel took unprecedented steps to warn Gaza citizens about air strikes, including calling them on their cell phones.

  • No military in the world does more to safeguard the rights of citizens in a combat zone than the Israeli military. The Gaza War of 2014 is one such example.View Source
  • Hamas—officially designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department—instigated the war by launching hundreds of rockets towards Israeli towns and cities for months on end.View Source
  • Despite having the military might to level the entire Gaza Strip with air power alone, Israel launched limited and targeted airstrikes against Hamas terrorists for months, only deciding to use ground forces after discovering that Hamas dug a sophisticated network of terror tunnels into Israeli civilian areas in order to kill and kidnap as many Israeli civilians and soldiers as possible.View Source
  • During the seven-week war, the Israeli military went to previously unheard of lengths to warn Gaza citizens about impending Israeli airstrikes and ground incursions—including calling them on their cell phones and dropping leaflets in civilian areas near Hamas locations that were targeted for bombing.View Source
  • The Israeli military even aborted many operations that were strategically necessary in order to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties.View Source

There are two views of the Israeli Military -- what you hear in most of the media, and the truth. I’m going to tell you the truth.

I was the Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan. I have fought in combat zones around the world including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Macedonia and Iraq.I was also present throughout the conflict in Gaza in 2014.

Based on my experience and on my observations: the Israel Defense Force, the IDF, does more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Why is this so?

Firstly, Israel is a decent country with Western values, run on democratic principles. Israel has no more interest in war than Belgium does. In fact, Israel has never started a war. The only reason it ever goes to war is to defend itself. And it has to defend itself because, unlike Belgium, it is surrounded by countries and armed groups that want to destroy it.

Secondly, Judaism, with its unsurpassed moral standards, remains a major influence on the citizens of Israel. I say this as a non-Jew.

Thirdly, the army is composed overwhelmingly of citizen soldiers.

Israel is a small country with a small professional army. To fight a war it depends on its conscripts and its reservists. These are ordinary citizens, from professors to plumbers, called upon to defend their homes. They don’t want to be fighting and they don’t want to harm others.

Nowhere was the essential morality and decency of the IDF more evident than in the Gaza War of 2014. If ever there was a purely defensive war, this was it.

The war was started by Hamas, the terror organization, designated as such by the US State Department, that runs the Gaza strip. In the first six months of 2014, Hamas launched hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians.

After repeated warnings from Israel to stop, the Israeli Air Force finally conducted precision strikes to halt the rocket-fire. And the IDF advanced into Gaza to destroy a network of terror tunnels that Hamas had constructed to attack Israeli communities near the Gaza border.

The IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping millions of leaflets, broadcasting radio messages, sending texts and making tens of thousands of phone calls. Let me repeat that. The Israelis called Gazans on their cell phones and told them to leave their residences and move to safety. Never in the history of warfare has an army phoned its enemy and told them where they are going to drop their bombs.

Many IDF missions that could have taken out Hamas military capabilities were aborted to prevent civilian casualties, increasing the risk to Israeli citizens and soldiers.

Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. Every war is chaotic and confusing, and mistakes are frequent. But mistakes are not war crimes.

Hamas, on the other hand, committed war crimes as official government policy.

Hamas deliberately positioned its military assets among the civilian population, hiding weapons in schools and hospitals, and placing rocket launchers alongside apartment buildings, then forced those civilians to stay in areas they knew would be attacked. They also instructed their people to report the lie that every Gazan killed was a civilian, even if they were actually fighters.

And if there were no civilian deaths, Hamas made them up! Numerous Internet sites show Palestinians elaborately staging sniper victims and smashed ambulances, among other phony horrors. It’s so common there’s even a term for it -- Pallywood, as in Palestinian Hollywood.

Ironically, it’s the leaders of Hamas themselves who best understand the extraordinary measures the IDF will take to protect innocent civilians. They take full advantage of Israel’s decency and adherence to the laws of war.  

No army takes such risks in order to protect civilians as the Israeli army does. I say this as a professional soldier. I say it because it’s true. And people who care about truth should know it.

I’m Colonel Richard Kemp for Prager University.

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