IDF soldiers in Second Lebanon War, Nir Kafri
IDF soldiers in the Second Lebanon War. Photo by Nir Kafri
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Activists set up a new organization to counter human rights groups criticizing the Israel Defense Forces and to support soldiers' civil rights. The group seeks to fight the "unholy trinity of left-wing organizations' pressure on the army, the military prosecution going where it shouldn't, and legal advice influencing orders in the field," said founder and spokesman Aryeh Arbus.

Although the new group, Bein Hakavanot (In the Sights ), doesn't have a Web site, it has already compiled a report, on an incident in March when Kfir Brigade soldiers went jogging in Hebron and strayed into the city's Palestinian area, where they were attacked by a crowd.

The report concludes that the soldiers' fear of legal repercussions was the main reason they did not open fire, even though their lives were at risk.

The quality of analysis in the paper testifies to considerable professional knowledge, while the quality of the printing testifies to funding.

"A group of officers on active duty and in the reserves is advising us," says Arbus, a 22-year-old law student at Ono Academic College in Kiryat Ono. "Naturally, they don't want to be identified by name at the moment."

Arbus himself is no stranger to publicity; he was one of the soldiers who caused a storm last year by holding up protest signs at his battalion's swearing-in ceremony. The signs declared that the battalion would not evacuate settlers to Homesh, a West Bank settlement demolished during the 2005 disengagement.

Arbus was sent to military prison, removed from active combat duty, and within a few months discharged. He has no regrets about his protest but prefers not to talk about it: Conscientious objection is a sensitive issue and he wants to address broader audiences.

Arbus is working on Bein Hakavanot's next report analyzing an incident in which two Givati Brigade soldiers were accused of using Palestinian children to check bags for explosives. The report aims to prove the soldiers acted properly.

Arbus spends much of his time shuttling between IDF units in the West Bank and handing out the group's report and leaflets calling on soldiers to contact Bein Hakavanot if they have been humiliated by Palestinians, interrogated by the military police, "harassed" by human rights activists or simply felt their commanders weren't showing enough determination in fighting terrorism.

He also films activists from Machsom Watch, a women's group monitoring the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints; he says he wants to prove they harm soldiers. Arbus says he receives much support from the IDF rank and file for his group's message.