Social. Political. Economic. Career| Seyed Ibrahim

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Israeli Soldiers: “Religious War”

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Sep 7, 09 Update:

The rise of Israel’s military rabbis

Israel’s army is changing. Its combat units are now filling with those who believe Israel’s wars are “God’s wars”.Military rabbis are becoming more powerful. Trained in warfare as well as religion, new army regulations mean they are now part of a military elite.

July 15 Update:

Soldiers criticise Israeli actions in Gaza, from Financial Times (FT, London)

M, 28, a religiously observant reservist who identified himself only by his first initial, showed copies of pamphlets stamped with the army’s seal that he said were distributed at bases. One included a passage that compared the Palestinians to the biblical Israelites’ enemies, the Philistines.

Israel soldiers speak out on Gaza, from BBC

Original Mar 20 Piece

An Israeli military college has printed damning soldiers’ accounts of the killing of civilians and vandalism during recent operations in Gaza.

The testimonies were published by the military academy at Oranim College. Graduates of the academy, who had served in Gaza, were speaking to new recruits at a seminar

The climate in general [was that] lives of Palestinians are much, much less important than the lives of our soldiers – an infantry squad leader

The soldiers’ testimonies also reportedly told of an unusually high intervention by military and non-military rabbis, who circulated pamphlets describing the war in religious terminology

“All the articles had one clear message,” one soldier said. “We are the people of Israel, we arrived in the country almost by miracle, now we need to fight to uproot the gentiles who interfere with re-conquering the Holy Land.”

“Many soldiers’ feelings were that this was a war of religion,” he added.

BBC : Israel troops admit Gaza abuses


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The New York Times. March 20, 2009: JERUSALEM — In the two months since Israel ended its military assault on Gaza, Palestinians and international rights groups have accused it of excessive force and wanton killing in that operation.

The testimonies by soldiers, leaked to the newspapers Maariv and Haaretz, appeared in a journal published by a military preparatory course at the Oranim Academic College in the northern town of Tivon. The newspapers promised to release more such anecdotal accounts on Friday, without saying how many.

The academy’s director, Dany Zamir, told Israel Radio, “Those were very harsh testimonies about unjustified shooting of civilians and destruction of property that conveyed an atmosphere in which one feels entitled to use unrestricted force against Palestinians

Amir Marmor, a 33-year-old history graduate student in Jerusalem and a military reservist, said in an interview with The New York Times that he was stunned to discover the way civilian casualties were discussed in training discussions before his tank unit entered Gaza in January. “Shoot and don’t worry about the consequences,” was the message from the top commanders, he said. Speaking of a lieutenant colonel who briefed the troops, Mr. Marmor said, “His whole demeanor was extremely gung ho. This is very, very different from my usual experience. I have been doing reserve duty for 12 years, and it was always an issue how to avoid causing civilian injuries. He said in this operation we are not taking any chances. Morality aside, we have to do our job. We will cry about it later.”

Soldiers’ Accounts of Gaza Killings Raise Furor in Israel

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