Recently the Los Angeles Times, following the lead of Ha'Aretz, a left-wing Israeli daily, and Maariv, a centrist newspaper that should know better, published two libelous stories about the Israel Defense Forces. The first claimed that IDF soldiers had deliberately shot down civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. The second, a follow-up story based on the same "sources", attributed the alleged atrocities to the influence of right-wing rabbinical chaplains on the soldiers.
Although both Los Angeles Times stories sought to leave the reader with the impression that the sources were first-hand accounts by Israeli soldiers who had fought in Gaza, that was not the case. The stories were based on second-hand accounts, little more than rumors. The stories were spoon-fed to gullible, nay, enthusiastic, reporters by soldiers attendng a forum orgnanized by a pre-army academy with a far-left "post-Zionist" philosophy. This is an institution whose head had served a jail term for refusing to serve on the West Bank. It has a thoroughly anti-Zionist, anti-religious and anti-settler perspective. None of those details were considered worthy of mention by the Los Angeles Times.
A thorough IDF investigation totally discredited the atrocity stories, and the soldiers who were the source of the allegations admitted during the course of the investigation that they had no direct evidence of any war crimes, they had not witnessed any war crimes, and were only reporting "rumors" to the journalists.
Here as reported in is the the Jerusalem Post is the result of the army's investigation of one of the most horrifying of the atrocity stories--that an Israeli sharpshooter had deliberately killed a mother and her two children:
"In the incident of the alleged shooting of the mother and her children, what really happened was that a marksman fired a warning shot to let them know that they were entering a no-entry zone. The shot was not even fired in their general direction... The marksman's commander ran up the stairs of a Palestinian home, got up on the roof, and asked the marksman why he shot at the civilians. The marksman said he did not fire on the civilians. But the soldiers on the first floor of that house heard the commander's question being shouted. And from that point, the rumor began to spread. We can say with absolute certainty that the marksman did not fire on the woman and her children... We know with certainty that this incident never took place."
The Los Angeles Times apparently concluded that this information also was not newsworthy. It has not reported any of those details.
As for the real influence of Orthodox Jewish rabbis and Torah on the soldiers of the IDF, I recommend to our readers an op-ed column that appeared Sunday in the Jersusalem Post, called "Faith in Arms." It is written by "Sgt. S," a soldier whose real name could not be published because of the high-security special forces unit in which he serves. He movingly describes the humanizing influence of the rabbis who were slandered by the Los Angeles Times. Here are his concluding words (although I beg you all to read the entire column):
"The physical battlefield is a place where one meets his Creator pretty often. There are those who lose their humanity there, and there are those who can generate humanity even on the battlefield. If the rabbis were not strengthening soldiers spiritually, if they were not giving some meaning and direction to those teens who hold the power of death in their hands, I would be dismayed. "
I am very proud of the conduct of the Israeli Defense Forces during the Gaza campaign. No army in history, in my view, has made a greater effort during urban, house-to-house warfare to avoid unnecessary civilian casualities. I am especially proud of the role played by Torah-observant soldiers and army rabbis in upholding the highest ethical standards of Torah Judaism under difficult combat conditions. They have shown immense integrity. I only wish the Los Angeles Times exhibited one iota of the same integrity.