In the November 15, 2013, issue of The New York Times, there was a piece by Jodi Rudoren titled, “To a Philosopher-General in Israel, Peace Is the Time to Prepare for War.” This article was about Israeli general Herzi Halevi, who at the time was a brigadier general and commander of the Northern Galilee region. Earlier this month, Israel’s Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz announced that he chose Levy to be the new IDF Chief of Staff. As the Israeli press extolled the general’s virtues, the Times piece was also mentioned.
So what exactly are the virtues that this Israeli general possesses, which made him worthy of a New York Times exposé in 2013 and the new IDF Chief of Staff in 2022? Rudoren listed a few in her piece:
General Halevi, 45, a triathlete and father of four who said his university studies in philosophy proved more salient to military leadership than courses in business administration. Considered a top candidate to someday lead the military as chief of staff, General Halevi is a former paratrooper and commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit.”
If words on a page made noise, Rudoren’s description of Halevi would certainly sound like a standing ovation. One may expect that now that he was selected, she feels that her view of him was indeed insightful.
A history of war crimes
As a career officer in the Israeli infantry, there can be no doubt that he participated in countless attacks on civilians, and has no experience whatsoever in facing an actual army.
The Israeli papers had mentioned his participation in the 1994 abduction of Mustafa Dirani, a Lebanese Shi’a leader of what was then the Amal movement. He was taken from his home in Southern Lebanon during a commando raid. The Israelis were expecting that under interrogation, Dirani would tell them the whereabouts of Air Force navigator Ron Arad, captured eight years earlier after his plane was downed in Lebanese territory. Dirani told them nothing and after ten years of being held in Israel jails without charge, he was released in a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah. While some may view this abduction of a foreign national by Israeli commandos as some kind of heroism, it is in fact an act of piracy and a severe violation of international law.
As commander of the IDF paratrooper brigade, Halevi participated in the 2008-massacre in Gaza which Israel refers to as “Operation Cast Lead.” It was an unprecedented assault against a defenseless civilian population; close to 1500 people were killed. Thousands more were injured and an estimated twenty thousand people were made homeless. The assault ended the day before Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States. Obama did not condemn the assault or the killing of civilians. One has to wonder why Jodi Rudoren did not ask him about this massive war crime, especially as he was a leading commander in its execution.
On June 6, 2018, Halevi became the head of Israel’s Southern Command, which oversees the IDF activity around the Gaza Strip. In November 2019, he commanded an assault on Gaza in which more than twenty people were killed, including several children.
The list of the Philosopher General’s accomplishment includes the First Intifada, the Second Intifada, and “Operation” Defensive Shield, in which Israeli forces attacked, killed and destroyed Palestinian cities throughout the West Bank, including the famous battle and massacre at the Jenin refugee camp. He also participated in the Second Lebanon War, where Hezbollah soundly beat Israeli ground forces, yet still resulted in over one million refugees in Southern Lebanon. The list continues to the present day, every massacre, every brutal assault against Palestinians – whether they were fighters or civilians – Halevi was there. It was on the backs of Palestinians that he earned his stripes, so to speak.
Yet none of this was mentioned by the New York Times. Indeed, if one was to believe Jodi Rodoren, this was a deeply thoughtful, perhaps even moral general with a philosophical outlook on life, which allowed him to carry his important work. What she should have said is that this is yet another Israel war criminal with hands soaked in the blood of innocent Palestinians.
Six Brigade Commanders
Earlier this month, six brigade commanders, all holding the rank of colonel, were interviewed by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot. The interview was published on Ynet, the paper’s internet edition. They addressed among other things the rules of engagement, or in other words, the rules under which a soldier is permitted to open fire. Israel came under attack with claims being made that the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh was possible because the rules were too lax.
However, Prime Minister Lapid and Defense Minister Gantz defended the military’s rules of engagement, highlighting that soldiers must not be afraid to pull the trigger – as though they ever were – and that the military establishment will stand by the men and women in the front lines.
The report quotes Israeli military sources that in 2021, seventy-nine Palestinians were killed. However, by August 2022, eighty-five had already been killed, and this, according to one commander, “is an accomplishment.” The brigade commanders state clearly that the “soldiers are not afraid to shoot,” “look how many Palestinians were already killed in 2022,” states Colonel Elbaz, commander of the Binyamin Brigade. His command includes the cities of Ramallah, El-Bire, Bir Zeit, the towns of Silwad and Kufr Aqab.
Colonel Moyal, commander of the Menashe Brigade, seconds his friend’s opinion. “In my command, we killed twenty-nine Palestinians this year, compared with only nine in 2021.” The Menashe Brigade includes the cities of Jenin and Tul-Karem as well as Ya’bed, Barta’a and Kabatiya. It also controls the refugee camps Jenin, Nur El-Shams and Fahma.
According to the Ynet report, due to the increase in “activity” in the regions of “Judea and Samaria”, these six commanders are now the busiest in the Israeli army. The increase in Palestinian deaths is considered an accomplishment.
Both the New York Times story about General Halevi and the Ynet article about the six brigade commanders fail to point out a few details. For many decades, the Israeli military has been engaged in nothing but killing Palestinians who are either unarmed or armed with little more than semi-automatic rifles, that are usually old and ineffective. Whatever accomplishments the armed fighters have to show are due to their courage and willingness to engage with the enemy, and not due to military hardware.
Any person who rises to the rank of Colonel or above has to have been engaged either directly or closely in support of war crimes – certainly the subjects of the stories mentioned here. Yet no mention is made of this in either report. Furthermore, Palestinians are fighting against a massive, well armed, well-fed and extremely well financed military force that has nothing to do but kill them. When the Israeli military faces off with Palestinians, they “come heavy” with everything they havve got. Israeli forces use intelligence, reconnaissance, air support, evacuation capabilities, medical units, logistical support, and when all is done they have a warm meal and a safe bed to return to.
Palestinians, if they manage to survive, are left to live in fear of the next assault on them, their children, their towns and their homes. Yet the world looks at the two sides and still, shamelessly, dares to glorify the killers and the oppressors.
Feature photo | Palestinians carry the bodies of three toddlers killed in an Israeli strike, Jan. 5, 2009 during Operation Cast Lead. Hatem Moussa | AP
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”