Sunday, October 05, 2008

Purity of Arms - RIP

Tahart HaNeshek - 'Purity of Arms' - is a phrase used in the Israel to depict the morality of the Israel Defense Forces. It defines the rules of engagement that tell Israeli soldiers they may not kill of brutalize "enemy non-combatants" (i.e. civilians.) The IDF used to be very proud of its taharat ha neshek. It distinguishes "us" from "them". They target civilians - we never do. They shoot prisoners and ignore the Geneva conventions - we never do.

One of the shameful tragedies of the second Israel - Lebanon War was the IDF's massive use of cluster bombs. Cluster bombs explode about 100 meters above the ground, and scatter hundreds of smaller 'bomblets' around a large area. These, in turn, explode - or are supposed to explode - on contact with the ground. It is the 'bomblets' that do the intended killing. Cluster bombs are designed to be used against personnel - when you "don't have an exact target". They kill or maim anyone vaguely close to the target. With cluster bombs, "collateral damage" is a known and planned effect. But not only are cluster bombs designed to kill anyone within several hundred meters of the "target", they leave a deadly legacy - not dissimilar to land mines - that kill and maim civilians for months and even years after the war is over. The U.N. has estimated that there were over 1 million (that's not a typo!) unexploded cluster 'bomblets' left scattered around southern Lebanon after the last war: just waiting for a child to kick one, or pick one up, or an unsuspecting adult to accidentally step on one.

There is a growing chorus of countries demanding that cluster bombs be banned. Over 100 countries, so far, have agreed to banning them. America, Russia, China, and Israel have refused. (Oh, how proud we are to be among the "Big Boys"!)

But Israel has not done nothing. It has built a better cluster bomb! - to salve its conscience perhaps, as well as to be more effective in the initial blast. According to this story from Reuters, the new Israeli manufactured cluster bomb leaves only 10% of its 'bomblets' on-exploded: as opposed to about 35% in the American made munitions Israel has been using until now. So that means only 300,000 unexploded bomblets next time around. Praise the Lord!

Is this the tshuvah Israel is doing for the excesses of the second Lebanon War? If so we better hope God has lowered his standards. To quote Isaiah from the Yom Kippur Haftatah: "Is this the fast I require?"

* * *

As if to underscore it's now complete abandonment of the concept of taharat ha neshek, - civilians and civilian infrastructure are now declared legitimate targets of the IDF.

A recent interview with the IDF's GOC Northern Command Gadi Eisenkot, as well articles written by two senior reserve officers, emphasize that the next Lebanon war will be just like the last - only more so. The IDF will increase its "firepower" and target Lebanese civilians. The details can be found in this article from Haaretz. Some typical quotes:

Eisenkot presented his "Dahiyah Doctrine," under which the IDF would expand its destructive power beyond what it demonstrated two years ago against the Beirut suburb of Dahiyah, considered a Hezbollah stronghold.


"We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. ... This isn't a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized."


"[The IDF will deal] a disproportionate strike at the heart of the enemy's weak spot, in which efforts to hurt launch capability are secondary. ...

"This strike has to be carried out as quickly as possible, through prioritizing strikes at its assets, rather than chasing after launch sites.


Israel [should] pass a clear message to the Lebanese government, as soon as possible, stating that in the next war, the Lebanese army will be destroyed, as will the civilian infrastructure.

"People won't be going to the beach in Beirut while Haifa residents are in shelters,"


While Eisenkot and Siboni deal primarily with striking Shi'ite strongholds, Eiland sees Lebanon's infrastructure as a primary target, in a plan highly reminiscent of the one proposed by then-IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz, which was eventually shot down by U.S. opposition.


What the three officials have in common, surprisingly, is their emphasis on air power. Anyone who thinks the Air Force will step aside given the results of the last Lebanon war will likely be proven wrong.
* * *

Can anyone stop this madness? Whatever happened to:

"When you shall besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by forcing an ax against them" (Deut 20:19)


"Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts." (Zezhariah 4:6)

or just the official IDF doctrine (though poorly enforced) of the 40's, 50s, and 60s?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of spreading mis-information, it would be better to check your facts. The Mine Action Clearance Center has a tally of UXO cluster munitions, and it isn't likely that they will much exceed 150,000 found in Lebanon. If in fact 4 million were dropped, that amounts to about 3.75% dud rate which is significantly different than the 35% you mentioned.

12:02 pm  
Blogger Sydney Nestel said...

Dear Anonymous

I hadn't checked the Mine Action Clearance Center before writing this posting. My sources where the Reuters article referenced in the posting, and an article I had read in Haaretz about 1 year ago.

So I googled Mine Action Clearance Center Lebanon and I found it confirmed waht I wrote, and not the figures you site ! In fact the numbers are worse that whatI wrote. The failure rate in Lebanon is estimated to be 40% !

The url I found this at is,%202006.pdf .

If the failure rate had been as low as you suggest - 3.75% - than Isreal would not be touting its "Better Culster Bomb" with its significantly lower failure rate. Indeed in the Reuters article Israeli officials admit to a failure rate in the American munitions of 15% (lower than the above cited report's 40% but still disasterous for Lebanese civilians.)

12:35 pm  

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