Earlier this month, a United Nations investigation into the Israeli war in Gaza found that the Israeli army was responsible for at least seven attacks on UN installations which included schools and medical facilities. The war resulted in the death of around 1,400 Palestinians, and 13 Israelis. The report said that the Israeli army used disproportionate force and had intentionally attacked UN facilities and civilians who had sought refuge in them. Even when the Israeli army was alerted by UN personnel, the attacks continued for two more hours.
The report also stated that a World Food Programme warehouse that was damaged, was “most likely” hit by rockets fired by Hamas or another Palestinian organisation, and condemned the action.
The report concluded that the Israeli army acted with “negligence or recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and to the safety of UN staff and other civilians within those premises”.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said there would be no further investigation despite the report’s recommendation that a full, impartial inquiry be conducted.
Israel dismissed the report as tendentious and out of touch with reality. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, said that the report was one-sided.
But the most interesting reaction came from Israeli Minister of Defence Ehud Barak, who claimed that the Israeli army was “the most moral army in the world”.
This claim has been one of the cornerstones of the remarkably successful hasbara (propaganda) campaigns that Israel has waged along with its endless military campaigns against the Palestinians and against its Arab neighbours.
If this were true, how do we explain the involvement of the Zionist and later the Israeli military in so many massacres of innocent civilians and so much lawless and immoral behaviour?
These include the Deir Yassein massacre in 1948, where the terrorist band Irgun – led by Menahim Begin, who would become prime minister in the 1970s – attacked this peaceful Palestinian village, massacred 240 men, women, and children and kept a few inhabitants alive to parade as captives. There was also the Qibya massacre in 1951, perpetrated by an Israeli army unit led by Ariel Sharon, also a future prime minister.
In his book The Iron Wall, the Israeli historian Avi Shlaim wrote: “The village had been reduced to a pile of rubble: 45 houses had been blown up, and 69 civilians, two-thirds of them women and children, had been killed.”
Less well known atrocities include the Kufr Qasim massacre in 1956, when 49 Palestinian villagers returning from their fields unaware of an Israeli army-imposed curfew were shot at close range, their bodies thrown into a truck and dumped in a nearby thicket.
The events at Sabra and Chatila are more infamous. During the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, then Israeli Defence Minister Ariel Sharon allowed his Lebanese Phalangist allies into the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps, where they massacred an estimated 1,800 Palestinian men, women and children, as Israeli forces stood guard.
The “most moral army in the world” has also directed its rage against the UN, whose 1947 Partition Resolution was used by the Zionists to justify the establishment of Israel.
The year 1948 saw the assassination of UN peace mediator Count Folke Bernadotte – who had recommended that occupied Jerusalem be placed under Jordanian jurisdiction – by the Stern Gang, whose leader Yitzhak Shamir would also become prime minister of Israel in 1983. Another example was the Qana massacre in 1996, when a compound of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon came under sustained fire from Israeli forces, resulting in the deaths of 100 Lebanese villagers who had taken refuge in the UN compound.
A UN investigation into the Qana massacre concluded that “it is unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors.”
During its confrontation with the children of the 1987 Intifada (uprising), the Israeli army routinely broke the bones of children caught throwing rocks to protest the occupation.
During its 2006 war in Lebanon, “the most moral army in the world” bombed civilian population centres, used banned cluster bombs, and refused to give the Lebanese authorities maps of the land mines it planted before leaving Lebanon.
The record is a bloody one; reckless and ruthless. If there is evidence that outweighs the above facts to lend credibility to the claim that Israel has “the most moral army in the world”, let the Israeli minister of defence produce it. Otherwise, the facts speak for themselves; and they do not support the outlandish claim of moral superiority.
Adel Safty is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Siberian Academy of Public Administration, Russia. His new book Might Over Right: How the Zionists Took Over Palestine, is endorsed by Noam Chomsky, and published by Garnet, England. 2009.