Former IDF General: We Are Not the Palestinian Defense Forces
“Anyone who thinks it necessary to give higher priority to the mother of a Palestinian than to the mother of an Israeli soldier has a moral problem… the Israel Defense Forces are not the Palestinian Defense Forces” a former IDF brigadier general said on Monday, the Hebrew news site nrgreported.
According to the report, Shmuel Zakai made this comment during an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, following the scandal surrounding the release of 10-year-old recordings of IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan. In the tapes, Golan – who made headlines on Holocaust Remembrance Day for comparing Israel to 1930s Germany – said that “soldiers must put themselves at risk to prevent injuring innocent civilians.”
Though Zakai, who today serves as the general director of Ben-Gurion Airport — did not mention Golan by name in the interview, he referred to and rebutted his positions.
“Theoretically, everybody wants everything – to execute missions with no harm to IDF soldiers or innocent civilians,” he said. “But when you are in a combat situation, you have to choose between values. This choice brings us back to the foundation on which the army is built… Its essence is to protect the citizens of the state of Israel. All citizens of the state swear the soldier’s oath to carry out their missions and to protect [Israeli] civilians while risking their own lives. In other words, it is not only permissible to risk their lives to protect their civilians, it is their duty to do so.”
On the next rung on the value hierarchy, he said, “lies the obligation to perform military tasks with minimum harm to the soldiers themselves. On the third is the moral obligation to perform these tasks, while striving to minimize injury to innocent civilians.”
He continued, “This discussion has to take place between commanders and their soldiers. Everything is a question of degree, of balance and of exercising judgement. The IDF is not a gang, and it doesn’t go out with the intention to kill civilians. When civilians get killed, it is because of battlefield situations and sometimes mistakes.”
Zakai recounted an incident in which an IDF officer was killed as a result of the decision to help a Palestinian family while fighting was going on. “After the explosion of an APC in Rafah [in the Gaza Strip] in 2004, a Givati Brigade [infantry] force took position in the
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