Authors of IDF Ethics Code Demand Gaza War Probe

Avi Sagi: Israel must examine some Gaza incidents even if it chooses to reject Goldstone report.

Two academics who authored the military's ethical code are now calling on Israel to investigate some of the claims raised in the Goldstone report over its military offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter. While the scholars level harsh criticism at the report, they believe there is no alternative to probing several specific conclusions contained in it.

Prof. Moshe Halbertal and Prof. Avi Sagi were two of the authors of the "Spirit of the IDF," a military code of conduct released in 1992.

Last week Halbertal authored an article entitled "The Goldstone Illusion" in U.S. news magazine The New Republic, and Sagi posted an article on the Web site of Jerusalem's Shalom Hartman Institute. Both pieces called on Israel to examine some of the findings of the report, flawed though they believe it is.

Halbertal's article described the Goldstone report's objective as "to prepare a general indictment of Israel as a predatory state that is geared toward violating human rights all the time."

Nonetheless, Halbertal wrote that Israel should respond to the report and present the guidelines by which it waged Operation Cast Lead. Israel, he wrote, must conduct an investigation that would restore perceptions of the legitimacy of its right to self-defense.

Among the report's claims which he believes merit an Israeli response are those of troops opening fire on a Palestinian mother and daughter carrying white flags, the destruction of homes in the conflict's final days, and harming civilian infrastructure such as power stations and water facilities.

In his article, Sagi wrote that the "Spirit of the IDF" sets a high bar for troops' conduct, requiring soldiers to do everything in their power to avoid harming unarmed individuals.

Sagi stated that even if Israel rejects the Goldstone report as a distortion of justice, "the question remains over whether in fact IDF troops operated everywhere as required, according to the values to which they are committed."

"I'm certain that no one instructed an IDF soldier to harm civilians," he wrote, adding: "In my heart there is a deep suspicion that in some of the military operations, soldiers and commanders did not adopt the highest [ethical] standard, and did not do everything in their power to avoid harming unarmed individuals."

Sagi added that he is concerned that the primary investigation into the Gaza conflict is being conducted within the legal system. The law, he wrote, sets a minimal standard for behavior, and everything below that standard is considered criminal. He wrote, however, that even some military behavior sanctioned by law can lead to an ethical "slippery slope."