Israel’s Moral Principles In War

In my last blog, “The Israel ‘Apartheid’ Libel”, I promised to share a deep lesson that the Lord had given me in terms of the rampant and virulent anti-Israel propaganda that the world is so ready to believe. To tell it, you’ll have to come back with me to 1982. In order to understand the scenario that I will present to you, again you have to remember how very small Israel is and that in time of war, reservists are called to the front from their jobs and families across the nation.

One night, in June of 1982, I was travelling late at night with friends from Haifa along the coastal road on our way up to Jerusalem. We noticed at once that travelling in the opposite direction towards Lebanon were all sorts of military equipment. We passed busloads of soldiers, many tank carriers, a steady stream, all heading for the north. As we passed each tank, jeep, or military vehicle, we felt such an urgency to pray, and often were moved to tears. We reached Jerusalem well past midnight, and could not help but notice the unusual flurry of activity. Busses were picking soldiers up at many places throughout the darkened streets. We were therefore some of the first to be aware of the military activity, as Israel that night entered Lebanon in “Operation Peace for Galilee”.

I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. (Isaiah 62:6)
At that time, the towns and villages and settlements in the north of Israel had been under bombardment for years. A whole generation of Israeli children on the northern borders had grown up under the constant threat of bombs, air raid sirens, and frantic dashes to the bomb shelters—a regular part of their lives. I don’t believe that there are many nations in the world that would have allowed the enemy on its very border, continually killing its civilians, and wait all those years before defending itself, just for the distant hope of ‘peace’.

When Israel finally entered southern Lebanon that June night, there was no other alternative. The PLO had stockpiled so many tons of weaponry that Israel’s very existence was threatened. (The store of weaponry was so vast that it would have taken 150 trucks working a full month on a daily basis to cart away all the war materials discovered only at the start of the war, which did not count vast stores hidden elsewhere in underground bunkers). The weaponry had become so sophisticated and of such vast quantities, that it was far more than just the northern settlements that were in danger, but the whole of Israel itself.

It was touching to see how the people of southern Lebanon welcomed the Israeli soldiers as the tanks rumbled across the borders. They had requested Israeli intervention for a long time already, as by then over 100,000 southern Lebanese Christians had been killed at the hands of the PLO over an eight year time period. Crowds of people gathered to cheer the troops, small children presented them with flowers, and the women prepared coffee and tea for them.

It was also very moving to see how carefully the Israeli solders tried in every way possible to protect civilian lives, often at the risk of their own lives. The Israeli people do not have a heart for war, as they have suffered too much themselves to have anything but respect for the dignity of human life.

Unfortunately, war is war, but I don’t think that an army has ever acted in such a humane and caring way. And that is the hallmark of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). Unfortunately, our enemies know this well and therefore hide themselves and the bulk of their weapons in the middle of their own civilian populations, using them as a shield.

The following is a portion of a letter written to the IDF soldiers from the IDF’s Chief Education Officer, 11 June, 1982:

“Every war stirs up feelings of hatred, revenge and disrespect for enemy life and property. Despite these feelings, every one, as a human being, must observe those morals and principles on which the existence of human society is based.

This time, the IDF is fighting a cruel enemy, who systematically used terror against defenseless civilians.

The IDF must not act according to the standards accepted by our enemies; we must not allow feelings of revenge to guide our behaviour towards the civilian population in Lebanon. Our uniqueness and our power derive from our behaviour as decent human beings. Deterioration of the rules of moral conduct in the IDF, which is a ‘people’s army’, will hurt you as a man and a citizen, and will have its effect on the moral level of Israeli society and on its quality of life.

You must see yourselves as having personal responsibility for the image of the IDF and of the State of Israel in the eyes of the citizens of Lebanon and of world public opinion.

The principles of morality are basic to the Jewish heritage. Even in wartime, it must be remembered that a human being is a human being.”

General Rafael Eitan, then Commander of the Northern Forces, reconfirmed the moral responsibility of the IDF in a very moving speech given to the soldiers, reminding them that they were about to enter foreign land, and to be so careful—not only of human life—but not to even step on the flowers if they didn’t have to! And the subsequent behaviour of the IDF made all of Israel proud to be represented by them. The Israeli soldiers many times risked their lives to try to preserve the lives of Lebanese civilians.

Just after the conclusion of the operation, I left Israel, traveling first to Norway, then to the United States and finally to New Zealand. Listening to the news reports in those countries, I was horrified when I heard the blatant anti-Israel propaganda disseminated by the PLO. They greatly, greatly exaggerated the number of casualties, listing as dead at one time more than the whole population of Lebanon! They showed footage of terrible destruction from bombings and the suffering that resulted from it. The journalists that so willingly reported it all as fact only discovered later that the footage was actually from destruction perpetrated by the PLO itself against Lebanese civilian’s years earlier, and had nothing whatsoever to do with Israel! Even the Red Cross, which has consistently refused to recognize Israel, reported that 10,000 were killed as a result of the Israeli action in Lebanon, when the actual figure was 460 dead.

What horrified me the most as I travelled and heard the incredible distortions of the truth was to see how ready the world was to believe it! I knew how careful the Israeli soldiers had been. I knew of the cruelty of the PLO that not only targeted innocent Israeli citizens, but also people in Lebanon as well. It made me so angry and so sad!

But finally, the Lord said something to me that made all the difference in the world. “I know the truth,” He told me, “and that is all that really matters…”No matter what the nations of the world may choose to believe, the Lord saw the heart of the Israeli soldiers, and it is His opinion that counts. And from then on, it has helped me to deal with the anti-Israel bias that has continued without end….

That is true in our daily lives with the Lord as well. He knows the truth. He also knows that we’re far from perfect. But the wonder of it is that He loves us anyway…