The Israeli Defense Forces in the 21st Century: Humanitarian Complier or Human Rights Violators? An assessment of IHL compliance in the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead
My reasons behind writing this paper are very personal and its conclusion will have a direct impact on my future. I am Jewish by blood and have always have had a strong connection with the tradition even though I do not consider myself religious. I have respected more so the traditions and culture that have come from the faith of my mother. The fact that my grandfather, great grandfather, and the dozen more before him, carried on these same rituals that I carry out on Shabbat or on the high holidays, is beyond the realm of being special. Many cannot say that they can share something so similar with their ancestors. It is rare that you have an identity as an American outside of sharing your American citizenship with another 310 million people. Not that I am not proud to be an American, I am very much so, I just have always felt however that I was a Jew before an American. There are only around 16 million Jews on the planet out of 7 billion people. It’s a very unique identity. Yes, like many others I stand for American democracy, the freedom it brings, and its attempt to do the right thing around the globe (keyword “attempt”). I would die for my country if necessary but it is not so urgent that I come to America’s aid as quickly as possible. Israel is a different story.
As I write this right now hundreds of rockets and mortars have been raining down upon the civilian population of Israel from terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah waits to the north bent also on the destruction of Israel. Their benefactor Iran wishes for the Jewish state to be wiped off the face of the earth. It is not such a friendly place for Israel to be located. But it is there and it’s not going anywhere. I will never forget something one of uncles said to me this summer when I was in Israel serving in an international volunteer Israeli Defense Forces program, Sar-El. He said “my grandfather told my father when he was a boy that he was going off to war so that he would never have too in the future. My father said the same thing to me in yet I still had to fight. I told my kids that, but I know they will still have to serve and risk their lives and there isn’t much hope that their kids will not have the same fate.” I looked at his young kids, my other cousins, playing in the yard and couldn’t imagine saying that to my kids or anyone in my family. There is something that is deeply wrong when everyone has serve in the military because the defense of the country demands it. It’s not like Switzerland where they never have to actually spill blood to protect their way of life. I felt like it was my obligation to protect something that is in my heart and soul permanently in order to try to make it so that the next generation doesn’t have to serve to risk their lives. I wanted to make that sacrifice so that they don’t have to just because of the location of their home or what name they call G-d. I would think that anyone who was human would think that that is wrong in the world we live in today. Just as its wrong that Palestinians care under occupation in West Bank, essentially in a big prison. Many evil men have tried to exterminate the entire Jewish population throughout their 3500 year history and to think that there are still many men who wish to still do the same is unacceptable. Leaving out the politics of the situation in Israel and just focusing on the principle is very important. I have a strong sense of honesty and morality which is why the answer to this paper is vital to my decision of serving in the IDF after I graduate in May. I want to be a part of something that is noble and just. Protecting those who can’t protect themselves is a call to service and I hear that call to defend those that share my identity. No decision is emanate or final. This paper will examine modern history with an emphasis on the IDF’s cooperation with the noble principles of International Humanitarian Law and will attempt to answer the question of how they conduct the defense of Israel against an enemy who hides among its own population, essentially holding them hostage. I do not agree with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and do believe the Palestinian people should have the right for true self-determination. The issue is complex but the fact of the matter is clear to me, no child born into any society should be condemned to serve in the military in order for his existence to continue. I want to do my part to ensure that my cousin doesn’t have to pick up a weapon to defend himself and his family. Israelis and Palestinians deserve that chance to be born into a world without being threatened, just like every American gets that opportunity.
The IDF has had a difficult mission to accomplish in their last two conflicts. Dealing with a much stronger force than expected in 2006, that force being Iranian trained, funded, and armed Hezbollah, hidden amongst the population of southern Lebanon. In December of 2008 increased rocket fire at the Israeli civilian population from within the sixth most densely populated place on earth was at the hands of Hamas. Both groups are political and social organizations in addition to their militant arm. The fighting environments were very difficult and the IDF walked a thin line distinguishing the combatants amongst the bystanders. The IDF made major mistakes that cost lives in both conflicts. However, at the same time, they went to extraordinary efforts to ensure that civilians weren’t harmed. This is an assessment of those conflicts and how they should be looked at. War is chaos and we are all geniuses after the fact. This paper will attempt to properly identify the relationship the Israeli Defense Forces’ and International Humanitarian Law had during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.
Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | International and Area Studies | International Relations | Jewish Studies | Peace and Conflict Studies | Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology
Scoggan, Skyler, "The Israeli Defense Forces in the 21st Century: Humanitarian Complier or Human Rights Violators? An assessment of IHL compliance in the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead" (2012). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. 1444.
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