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January 12, 2023 11:57 am

What Prince Harry’s Taliban Kill Count Claims in Autobiography Reveal About Israeli Warfare

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avatar by Rachel O'Donoghue


IDF materials showing alleged Hamas tunnel infrastructure located beneath schools in the Gaza Strip. Photo: IDF

Prince Harry sparked outrage among UK military leaders over his claim in his newly-released autobiography, “Spare,” that he killed 25 suspected Taliban insurgents while serving two tours in Afghanistan.

Describing his time as an Apache helicopter pilot after being deployed to Camp Bastion in 2012, the Duke of Sussex revealed that he was neither “satisfied” nor “embarrassed” by his actions, explaining: “In truth, you can’t hurt people if you see them as people. They were chess pieces taken off the board, bad guys eliminated before they kill good guys. They trained me to ‘other’ them and they trained me well.”

Several former British army heads have since criticized Harry’s remarks, including retired officer Colonel Richard Kemp, who warned the revelation has the potential to “incite some people to attempt an attack on British soldiers anywhere in the world.”

Kemp also took aim at Harry’s assertion that he had been taught to “other” enemy combatants:

He is suggesting the British Army trains people, including him, not to see the enemy as human beings, which is very far from the truth. The Army is extremely careful to differentiate between innocent civilians and fighters on the battlefield.

Interestingly, Prince Harry’s explosive allegation also reveals a great deal about warfare in another Middle East country: Israel.

In 2014, Colonel Kemp was invited to give evidence to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee about Operation Protective Edge, which saw the IDF strike terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

Discussing issues relating to the ethics and legal implications in a war zone, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan praised the Israeli operation for seeking to minimize loss of life and noted that the conflict saw approximately one civilian casualty per terrorist killed by the IDF, compared to an average of four civilians per combatant in other wars around the world.

“No army in the world acts with as much discretion and great care as the IDF in order to minimize damage. The US and the UK are careful, but not as much as Israel,” he told the Knesset panel, adding: “The IDF’s actions during Operation Protective Edge were very reasonable, especially in light of the fact these actions were meant, first and foremost, to strike Hamas as a military organization.”

Ruach Tzahal, the IDF’s Code of Ethics, states:

The soldier shall make use of his weaponry and power only for the fulfillment of the mission and solely to the extent required; he will maintain his humanity even in combat. The soldier shall not employ his weaponry and power in order to harm non-combatants or prisoners of war, and shall do all he can to avoid harming their lives, bodies, honor, and property.

Despite this, Israel is frequently criticized over how its army responds to threats, including the way in which dozens of media outlets recently spread misleading claims that 2022 had been the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, in almost a decade.

However, as HonestReporting noted, the majority of these Palestinians were killed while perpetrating attacks on Israelis.

Indeed, consider how many more casualties there could be in Israel’s conflicts if IDF soldiers truly viewed the loss of life as flippantly as Harry admitted he did.

While Prince Harry has elicited opprobrium over the crass nature of his remarks and whether they have the potential to endanger British soldiers, many have also defended his kill count amid accusations by the Taliban that he committed “war crimes.”

Given Colonel Kemp’s observation that IDF-caused civilian casualties are four times lower than elsewhere, we can assume commentators will also jump to Israel’s defense the next time it is baselessly accused of war crimes.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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