An inquest into rumored abuses against Palestinian civilians by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during January’s Gaza incursion has been closed.

The investigation came about as a result of press rumors the IDF had killed several Palestinian women in cold blood during military action in Gaza, following the publication of transcripts in the major press from a February conference that was held at the Rabin Pre-Military Academy.

The conference was attended by Israeli soldiers who had taken part in the Gaza operation in January, and the allegations were made about the unjustified shooting at innocent civilians at that time.

Israel’s judge advocate general, Brig. Gen. Avi Mendelblit, decided to close the Israeli Military Police Corps’ investigation after he determined the underlying evidence had been based on rumors and innuendo rather than hard evidence. The decisive portion of the investigation into the IDF’s having allegedly killed the noncombatants was undermined when the judge and investigators determined the rumors were not based on personal knowledge emanating from two Israeli soldiers who had started the rumors.

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No corroborating evidence surfaced at the Rabin Pre-Military Academy, where the rumors first arose. The Military Police Corps interviewed all of the soldiers who spoke at the February conference at the academy and found none of those who spoken there had been involved in combat during the Gaza offensive. Consequently, none of them had first-hand knowledge of what had allegedly happened.

The soldiers further said they had then exaggerated the content of those rumors and had made them more extreme in order to convey a message to the people attending the conference.

“It turned out that soldiers at the conference [held at the academy] either hadn’t been precise in their statements and that is why a different impression was formed or they made complaints that were then published by media outlets,” the IDF said in its review. “In that context no evidence was discovered to warrant additional legal measures. As soon as the case failed to provide evidence, the decision that was made was to close it.”

In the conclusion of his decision regarding the findings of the Israel Military Police findings, Brig. Gen. Mendelblit wrote:

“One ought to regret that none of the speakers took precautions while presenting assertions in the context of a conversation among veterans and, furthermore, that none of the veterans chose to present different factual situations of an egregious nature, despite the fact that they were aware of the fact that they had no personal knowledge about them.

“It is difficult to measure the damage that these things caused the IDF in Israel and around the world in terms of its image and ethics.”

IDF officials are furious with the head of the academy, Danny Zamir, whom high-ranking officers accuse of having goaded the soldiers into saying what they said and then for having recorded them without their knowledge, as well as for having brought their remarks to light in the press.

“He can’t be principal of a pre-military academy,” said one officer in the IDF General Staff.

Those on the Israeli left, however, are outraged with the closure of the investigation.

The Jerusalem Post quoted left-leaning groups including B’tselem, Adalah, Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel having said in a joint statement, “The speedy closing of the investigation immediately raises suspicions that the very opening of the investigation was merely the army’s attempt to wipe its hands of all blame for illegal activity during Operation Cast Lead.”

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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