Soon-to-Be-Released Document Instructs Israeli Soldiers in ‘Ethics’ of Engagement With Palestinians, Humane Behavior Under Volatile Circumstances
A new document that aims to prepare IDF soldiers for ethical dilemmas they are likely to encounter while serving in the West Bank is in the final stages of formulation, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Sunday.
According to the report, the IDF believes that enhancing ethics is a necessary supplement to soldiers’ training, particularly among those whose units have not yet been stationed in areas where daily friction with the Palestinians is the norm.
“We have to give soldiers the tools to deal with tricky situations,” a senior officer told nrg. “The ‘spirit of the IDF’ document provides not only the rules of engagement, but also guidelines for treating other human beings with respect and for exhibiting professionalism.”
One impetus for the new initiative was a lesson learned during interrogations of Palestinian terrorists in the many months since the beginning of the “lone-wolf intifada” a year ago in September. A number of perpetrators claimed that they had been motivated to commit stabbing and other attacks out of revenge against IDF soldiers, whom they said had treated them or their friends harshly at checkpoints.
The Central Command said it hopes that the new document will cause soldiers in the field — whose superiors say are already feeling burned out from the difficult job they have to do every day – to behave in a more humane manner towards the Palestinians they encounter.
Among other things, nrg said, the document — written by Efraim Brigade Commander Col. Roi Sheetrit, under orders from Judea and Samaria Division commander Brig. Gen. Lior Carmeli — will teach soldiers how to conduct arrests; will detail the best way to enter and search the homes of Palestinian suspects and their families; and will instruct them on how to treat detainees.
“These are the things soldiers don’t learn during their combat training,” the officer said. “During events that are ethically problematic, even outstanding soldiers sometimes get out of line. In other words, this is not always about bullying; it is often a lack of ability to assess a situation properly.”
The officer then alluded to an IDF tutorial clip — reported on by The Algemeiner earlier this month — instructing soldiers to avoid shooting female terrorists whenever possible, and to use Krav Maga instead.
“An officer can show his soldiers endless videos,” he said. “But when the battalion arrives in the field, I want its members to be able to connect with the residents of the territories and know how to behave with them.”
The number of events referred to by the IDF as “problematic” from an ethical point of view is relatively small, nrg said, despite the impression that the new initiative might be making on those hearing about it. Nor is the frequency of ethically questionable occurrences on the rise. The Central Command thinks, however, that all should be prevented before they occur, as the potential for them under such volatile circumstances is great.
A recent case in point was that of two IDF soldiers who set a wood shed in Nablus on fire for no apparent reason. Both outstanding soldiers in the Nahal Brigade, they confessed to their crime and took full responsibility for it. They were convicted of exceeding their authority to the point of endangering someone’s life, were sentenced to two months in military prison and demoted in rank. During their interrogation, they said they had acted out of boredom, recklessness and stupidity.
One of them said, “I harmed the name and honor of the brigade, the IDF and even the state of Israel. It was a grave mistake and if I had thought about it a bit more, I wouldn’t have done it…I am disappointed in myself.”