The Israeli Supreme Court forbade the IDF to use the “neighbour protocol” four years ago.
But everyone understands that, in some circumstances, Palestinian civilians are ordered to make sure that a building’s inhabitants are aware that they are surrounded.
“There is a very stark choice,” says one field commander. “Either you abide by the law or you go into a building knowing that innocent bystanders may be killed.”
In cases when the IDF has been faced with incontrovertible proof that the “neighbour protocol” was used, officers, even senior ones, have been prosecuted. In other cases, when the allegations were made by Palestinians or human rights groups, the army dismissed them as “unsubstantiated hearsay”.
While the orders from on high are clear, senior officers admit that “at the field level, a lot of our men have a major problem with that order”. Many claim the tactic is used to save the lives of innocent Palestinians.
But in the long series of reports compiled by human rights organisations detailing war crimes allegedly committed by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, the latest report by Breaking the Silence stands out.
The IDF spokesman’s automatic response that these are “anonymous, unverified and general allegations” will certainly not cut much ice with the international media. The fine print in which the army admits that it is investigating a small number of cases in which illegal actions were carried out will remain unnoticed.
Public support for Operation Cast Lead is still sky-high. Most Israelis continue to believe that despite a few rotten apples, the IDF is still the most moral army in the world.