Only In Israel

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Red Cross comes to visit.

Last week I was in a checkpoint commander's course. It's a course the IDF has to train it's checkpoint commanders, you train on both operational aspects (threats on the checkpoint, how to identify fake IDs) as well as on moral ones.
One of the lessons we had to pass was passed by a Red Cross volunteer. A guy in his 20s, who volunteers for the International Red Cross. I immediately knew this was going to be my chance to ask a few hard questions and try to get them answered. It's my understanding that the International Red Cross regularly passes classes to Israeli combat soldiers, and I was wondering what kind of info do they teach on those lessons.
I've debated quite a few people I've disagreed with in the recent years, this one was one of the hardest to debate. First of all, the guy was Israeli. Secondly, he served in the IDF, in the Intelligence, no less. Thirdly, he now lives in Tel Aviv, he has witnessed terror attacks and knows what its like to live around here. So this is no foreigner, who doesn't understand Israelis, this is an Israeli who voluntarily reached the conclusions he has.
The beginning of the class was fine. A little background on the International Red Cross, a little history, why the symbol ETC. The guide made quite a point of indicating the symbol isn't religious and that it's just a Swiss flag invented (to tell you the truth, I've never heard that explanation). That's when I asked how come Israeli Magen David Adom isn't a full member in the ICRC.
To those of you who don't know, the ICRC has repeatedly refused to accept the Israeli Magen David Adom which symbol is a red star of David. This organization has been providing Israelis with medical services since the 1930s, and yet, the ICRC refused to accept it as a full member, thus cutting it out of votes, certain funds, and other privileges reserved to member. The official excuse was that they don't accept other symbols except the red cross and the crescent. Once I pointed out the red sun and lion used until recently by Iran as an emblem of its medical personnel, he had nothing to answer and said he had to research the topic. He looked a bit disgruntled.
He moved on to explain the Geneva conventions and when they were written, and their contents. He then stated, just like that, that targeted killings are a war crime. Another soldier asked him whether Israel is allowed to bomb an explosives factory, he answered no. I jumped immediately. The Geneva convention supports the right of a country to bomb military installations, as long as it uses proportional force.

(a) An attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects; and

(b) An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

Boy oh boy did he not like me pointing that one out. He immediately began saying that Palestinians have no military, and that Hamas and Al Aqsa martyrs and other terrorist organizations don't count. This is when other soldiers got into the conversation. It is a really warped view of reality, to suggest that one military target is different from the other, and people began realizing that. Just then another soldier asked him a question: What is the position of settlers according to the ICRC's ideas?
The guy immediately responded that while settlers are considered civilian, settlements are a war crime and a violation of the Geneva convention. Everyone sat there quietly and apparently, I was the only one in the room who knew the answer to that. I said "uh, NO, they aren't illegal, that's twisting the Geneva convention."
What the Geneva convention really says is this:
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Settlers were neither deported nor transferred to the West Bank and Gaza, they moved there. The government didn't force them to, they CHOSE it. The guy was clueless on how to handle it. This continued for a little longer, and then he just apologized and said he had to leave, not before a soldier sitting next to me got a chance to pound him on the ICRC missing out Auschwitz and Terezin, and suggesting that the conditions Jews were held in were satisfactory.
Here are my conclusions for that day:
First of all, it's sad that the IDF allows ICRC to spew such nonsense among its soldiers, not providing any way to refute such ridiculous claims. Secondly, it's sad that the ICRC and its volunteers, knowingly twist the Geneva Convention to fit their needs. The guy knew the paragraph about settlers, he knew about the Red Star of David not being in the ICRC, if this wasn't raised by the guys in the class, he would've never answered those questions. And if people in the class wouldn't have known better, we might have as well left the class thinking we're all war criminals.
This is why it's important to educate yourself on politics. You have to know your stuff.


  • Hello .. Having just found your blog via Iraellycool, I just wanted to say hi from an American grandmother with one son in Iraq and other family members in the military all over the world - and I'm very interested in a young person's view of what is happening in your part of the world right now. And why. Since the death of Arafat and the new more positive/hopeful feeling toward ending the terrorism (fact or fancy?) we're truly anxious for news from people in Israel, not our mainstream media. It's 2:30 in the morning here so I'll have to "catch up" on your blogs little by little, but find myself nodding in agreement with what I've seen so far. BTW, we in the US do not and have never trusted the Int'l RC. Best wishes.

    By Blogger betsy, at 9:34 AM, February 27, 2005  

  • I have been visiting your blog occasionally for a while. I have learnt a lot, and you often know of the details really well.

    Now, I agree with you on many things, but I don't know exactly how I feel about the settlements. Part of me thinks that those in PA territory should stay there, and they should be Jewish Palestinians, citizens of a state of Palestine.

    Anyhow, what really prompted my comment, is the guy didn't argue that the tax incentives for settlers are part of a program to transfer population to the occupied territories. I think that idea is worth exploration. I live in a very very liberal area (I call it uber-liberal), I usually find myself in a position of defending Israel to people who don't know the history at all, and have usually only heard the Palestinian side (often full of lies and mis-truths, and a total lack of understanding of simple facts). The settlements is usually an issue I just concede in argument, basically saying, of course most of them will be removed as part of a final agreement, but at the same time I know that that will cause many issues.

    Just a Voice (ann arbor, mi,usa)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:06 PM, February 27, 2005  

  • kol hakavod ahi.

    I've never heard of the int'l red cross (and crescent) giving "classes" to soldiers. Did he just tell you about the red cross or did he give you a lecture about how you have to behave?

    great blog, by the way. I mitgayes in a few weeks and am really nervous. I'm an oleh, will have to do 24 months. If you have the time could you write something about olim in the army?

    To: Just a VoiceThe real argument regarding the settlements is that Israel is not an occupying power according to the GC because:

    a) The governments from whom Israel took the territories (Egypt & Jordan) have relinquished their claim to the territories.

    b) The territories were seized as a result of a defensive war (especially true regarding Jerusaelm and Judea & Samaria, since Jordan clearly attacked first in 1967)


    But it all boils down to one thing: either you believe that the Land of Israel is the homeland of the Jews, or you don't. If you do then Jews have a right to settle on the land. If you don't then Israel's existence is a war crime and an occupation.

    After all, huge territories were captured in 1948 from the Arabs which were not given to Israel by the UN partition. Take a look at the partition map:

    So what's the difference between the "settlements" built on those lands and the settlements built on lands captured 19 years later? There is none.

    Avi, Jerusalem

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:55 PM, February 28, 2005  

  • Any chance giving this piece a wider audience? It certainly deseves it. While I knew about the ICRC vs Israel issue, I had no idea that the ICRC had "adherents" in the IDF. This must be urgently brought to the attention of the public.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:41 AM, March 05, 2005  

  • Thank you all for your comments.
    To Just a Voice. I do not agree with settlers, and I wouldn't live in a settlement, were it up to me, but I DO support the right of those people on lands they legally bought from Palestinians.
    You have to separate between legal settlments built on lands rich jews bought from Palestinian farmers in the late 70s (and most settlers live in such places) and illegal outposts, often built on private land, and which have to be evacuated.
    The land the settlers live in is OWNED by them. and under any peace deal, that land will remain theirs, and I think, that those of them who wish to remain there, and many of the Gaza settlers have joined an initiative asking to remain in their homes under the Palestinan authority, should be allowed to. They should be Palestinian citizens of a future state, allowed full rights, and have their security guaranteed by the Palestinian security forces.
    The land is theirs, as they bought it. there's no doubt about it. I think they should be allowed to stay, just like Israeli arabs.
    To Avi, no prob, will do, either this time home, or the next one.
    To q, It's not ICRC adherents, it's ICRC volunteers, civilians, who come to the army to pass classes.
    I believe and hope, that if all sides get those lessons, the conflict would be a less bloody one, but the thing is, I don't think they pass any lessons to the terrorist organisations. Another point is, that those lessons are terrible warped and filled with lies, and lack of knowledge. And THAT is the real problem, not the ICRC passing classes in the IDF.

    By Blogger OnlyInIsrael, at 11:31 AM, March 14, 2005  

  • Brilliant Post.

    You need to one day get involved in Politics.

    If you ever visit South Africa, please let me know as the SA Zionist Fed would love to know about you.

    You can get in touch with me through my blog.

    By Anonymous Steve, at 1:25 PM, March 22, 2005  

  • Baby boy, not only are you intelligent, witty, and insightful, but bloody brilliant as well.

    I'll bet you're gorgeous, too. G-d bless you and your family.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:50 AM, March 26, 2005  

  • Thank you for reading the blog Steve you've got a good blog of your own. good luck with it.
    And thanks to the other reader as well, that's a morale booster. *blush*.

    By Blogger OnlyInIsrael, at 8:46 PM, March 27, 2005  

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