Soldiers defend IDF’s conduct

IDF soldiers have responded to criticism of the army’s conduct in Operation Cast Lead by producing a website describing how the army did everything in its power to minimise civilian casualties.

Soldiers Speak Out was created by Stand With Us, a Los Angeles-based pro-Israel advocacy organisation, and includes videos of IDF reservists who fought in the Gaza operation.

They decided to promote their stories after the international media last week published testimony gathered by Israeli group Breaking the Silence, in which 26 soldiers claimed there had been excessive violence and the use of human shields.

Michael Dickson, the Israel Director of Stand With Us, explained that “soldiers felt their experiences weren’t being reflected in the media and those who spoke to Breaking the Silence were the few, not the many”.

Mr Dickson described the critical report as “a shoddy piece of work” constructed to defame the IDF.

He attacked Breaking the Silence for citing only anonymous claims: “If they wanted to have these cases investigated they would have published more facts and identified their witnesses.”

Michael Menkin, co-director of Breaking the Silence, responded: “Don’t forget that these are soldiers who are still serving in combat units right now, risking their lives and giving their all for the nation’s security. ”

He explained that “we brought only 26 soldiers’ testimonies though there were more because we are a small organisation. They present a narrative that challenges the official IDF version and points at wider issues that need addressing.

“The anonymity is understandable when you take into account the atmosphere towards any kind of criticism within the IDF and in the general public. If there was more openness for listening to their story, they could reveal their identities.”

    Last updated: 4:23pm, July 23 2009