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 firstname.lastname@example.org