The IDF Can't Play the Victim on Its Actions in Gaza

Two soldiers convicted of using a Palestinian child as a human shield appeared in court wearing T-shirts claiming, 'We are Goldstone's victims'.

The brothers-in-arms of the two Givati soldiers who were convicted on Sunday of using a Palestinian child as a human shield during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza went to court wearing T-shirts claiming, "We are Goldstone's victims." They described their comrades' conviction as "a stab in the back," and some even declared they would no longer serve in the reserves. They thereby proved that they have not learned the lessons of Cast Lead, which include the court's conviction of their friends.

The two convicted soldiers, who in the meantime had been demobilized from the Israel Defense Forces, forced an 11-year-old child to open bags in his home to ensure that they were not booby-trapped. The military court convicted them of exceeding their authority while endangering human life and of conduct unbecoming a soldier.

This justified conviction began with a report by the UN secretary general's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. This once again shows that not all the international reports published after the operation were false.

The Supreme Court has ruled the use of human shields illegal. But the use of a defenseless child is particularly grave. The two convicted soldiers, their comrades and the public must internalize this fact. And anyone who wishes to pride himself on the IDF's morality must also know how to recognize its ethical and legal lapses and bring those responsible to justice.

In Cast Lead, like in every other military operation, not everything was permissible. The fact that 150 complaints about soldiers' conduct during Cast Lead, including 36 for alleged war crimes, have produced only 47 criminal investigations - most of which have since been closed - is suspicious. But the fact that these two soldiers were tried and convicted redounds to the IDF's credit.

The real victim in the case the court just concluded was the 11-year-old child from the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, who was forced to risk his life in front of his terrified family. The convicted soldiers are not "victims of Goldstone," but soldiers who committed a crime and therefore should have been tried and convicted - both to make them pay for their actions and to deter other soldiers from similarly unacceptable behavior in the future.