The myth of morality of the Israeli Defense Forces shattered

It is almost always the case that in wars, soldiers behave abominably, committing all manner of crimes against civilians. Every government defends its troops from accusations of atrocities but those claims are disingenuous.

The Israeli government’s claims of the morality of the Israeli Defense Forces, that its troops do not commit atrocities and that any deaths of innocent people were ‘tragic mistakes’ that occurred while they were targeting Hamas fighters, are being seen around the world as increasingly hollow, and their boast that the IDF is the most ethical armed force in the world would be laughable if the whole thing were not so tragic. If someone were to spray automatic weapon fire in a crowded shop resulting in many deaths and injuries, we would not excuse that action because that person was trying to kill just one person in the crowd. And yet, that is what we are being asked to do by the government of Israel and the IDF, who have been indulging in massive air and ground attacks in Gaza, what has been rightly described as the worlds’ largest open-air prison.

Amnesty International has castigated the IDF for standing by while armed settlers attack Palestinians in the West Bank.

An alarming spike in violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians across the occupied West Bank in recent days highlights the urgent need to dismantle illegal settlements, end Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and its longstanding system of apartheid, said Amnesty International.

Between 12 and 16 April hundreds of Israeli settlers went on a deadly rampage launching violent raids on Palestinian villages in the West Bank including in al-Mughayyir, Duma, Deir Dibwan, Beitin and Aqraba. In these attacks, in which settlers set fire to homes, trees and vehicles, at least four Palestinians were killed by either settlers or Israeli forces, including 17-year-old boy Omar Hamed near Ramallah, and two men shot dead near Nablus– Abdulrahman Bani Fadel and Mohammed Bani Jami’. In the latest violence, a Palestinian paramedic was shot dead in the village of al-Sawiya south of Nablus on 20 April. 

Videos verified by Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab show Israeli forces were present and failed to intervene during attacks by settlers in Deir Dibwan, east of Ramallah. Witness testimonies gathered by the organization also indicate members of the Israeli military either joined in the attacks or stood by, failing to prevent the violence in Aqraba, southeast of Nablus and Kufr Malik, northeast of Ramallah.

“The appalling spike in settler violence against Palestinians in recent days is part of a decades long state-backed campaign to dispossess, displace and oppress Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, under Israel’s system of apartheid. Israeli forces have a track record of enabling settler violence and it is outrageous that once again Israeli forces stood by and in some cases took part in these brutal attacks,” said Heba Morayef, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

Even the US government, that tries to find excuses for Israeli atrocities, has documented abuse by IDF forces.

The US has found five units of the Israeli security forces responsible for gross violations of human rights, over incidents in the West Bank before the current Gaza war, the state department has said.

The findings come at a time when Israel is facing potential accountability from the international criminal court and the state department for its conduct of the conflict in Gaza, in which more than 34,000 people have been killed.

The units found to be involved in abuses in the West Bank are mostly from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) but include at least one police unit. They have not been sanctioned, however, the state department said.

Human Rights Watch has also documented attacks of aid trucks and aid workers by IDF forces.

Israeli forces have carried out at least eight strikes on aid workers’ convoys and premises in Gaza since October 2023, even though aid groups had provided their coordinates to the Israeli authorities to ensure their protection, Human Rights Watch said today. Israeli authorities did not issue advance warnings to any of the aid organizations before the strikes, which killed or injured at least 31 aid workers and those with them. More than 250 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since the October 7 assault in Israel, according to the UN.

We also have Israeli extremists attacking aid trucks and destroying badly needed food while IDF forces did nothing to stop them.

Israeli protesters blocked aid trucks destined for Gaza on Monday, throwing food packages onto the road and ripping bags of grain open in the occupied West Bank.

The lorries, which were set upon at the Tarqumiya checkpoint west of Hebron, came from Jordan and were headed to the Gaza Strip, where people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

The White House has condemned the attack, describing the “looting” of aid convoys as “a total outrage”.

In some cases, the IDF is actually giving the settlers information about the aid trucks to help them launch attacks.

Individual members of Israel’s security forces are tipping off far-right activists and settlers to the location of aid trucks delivering vital supplies to Gaza, enabling the groups to block and vandalise the convoys, according to multiple sources.

Settlers intercepting the vital humanitarian supplies to the strip are receiving information about the location of the aid trucks from members of the Israeli police and military, a spokesperson from the main Israeli activist group behind the blockades told the Guardian.

The claim of collusion by members of the security forces is supported by messages from internal internet chat groups reviewed by the Guardian as well as accounts from a number of witnesses and human rights activists.

Israel’s behavior is now before the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. It is long overdue.


  1. raven says

    The other myth of Israel and the Israeli armed forces is also dead.
    The one that they are competent and know what they are doing.

    Israel and the IDF were warned about the Hamas prison breakout of October for almost a year before it happened by many people many different times.

    The Women Soldiers Who Warned of a Pending Hamas …
    Haaretz › Israel News

    Nov 20, 2023 — Over the Past Year, the Israel Defense Forces’ Spotters Situated on the Gaza Border, All Women, Warned That Something Unusual Was Happening.

    They ignored all the warnings and were caught completely unprepared.

    The IDF response was also haphazard and not particularly effective. They were late allowing 1300 civilians to be slaughtered. A lot of the first responders were civilians with guns who weren’t too careful who they shot. It’s probable that at least some of those civilians were shot by other Israelis by mistake.

    The whole idea of the Gaza prison camp wasn’t thought out that well. They had a fence and sensors. It wasn’t enough.
    If the Israelis want to run a prison with 2.3 million people, they have to at least guard it well enough. There are always going to be prison riots and prison breakouts.

    And, there wasn’t any sort of accountability. They bypassed that stage and went straight to revenge.

    At least the IDF can do one thing well.
    When they are confronted with largely unarmed Palestinian civilians, most of which are women and children, they somehow manage to always…”win”.
    They are ahead 30 to 1 in the metric of dead body counts.

  2. raven says

    FWIW, the attacks by the Israeli settlers and the IDF on Palestinian civilians has a name.

    At the very least, it is blatant, plain old terrorism.

    And the ultimate goal of at least some of them, often stated by them, also has a name. Genocide.


    A week before Dichter’s comments, Israeli Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu sparked outcry after he suggested that dropping a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip was “one of the possibilities” in the current conflict.

    Amihai Eliyahu is your basic right wingnut internet troll. He is also a member of the Israeli government.

  3. Matt G says

    raven@1- Echoes of Condi Rice, George the Lesser, and 9/11. What did they know and when did they know it? And what -- if anything -- did they do about it? And were they hoping something might happen that would justify them doing what they wanted to do all along?

  4. Dunc says

    The only people who still believed in the morality of the IDF were people who weren’t paying attention anyway. I doubt any of this will register with them either.

  5. Allison says

    IMHO, this is the path the State of Israel has been on since the founding of the State. The elevetor speech version of Zionism is that this is the land that belongs exclusively to the Jewish people by right (the “promised land”.) The presence of Palestinians contradicts this vision, as does any claim that the Palestinians have any rights at all. Sooner or later, all Palestinians in Greater Israel would have to be evicted or killed to fulfill the vision.

    There might have been other paths, but they would all have required that Israel (the State) make room in their vision for non-Jews, especially those who have lived there since before the founding of Israel. Which, I suspect, would have seemed to many Israelis as giving up the vision.

    We in the USA should be familiar with this: our version of “Zionism” was “Manifest Destiny,” which justified the Europeans and their descendents performing literal and cultural genocide on the people who were here before them. While we (the European-descended) no longer practice large-scale massacres, we still do not respect their right to even the bits of land we supposedly granted them, if we have a use for it. Murder of Native Americans is mostly ignored by the governments of the conquerers.

  6. alfalfamale says

    I haven’t been keeping track but I remember reading about some additional information. In at least two places reports have claimed that Hamas was financially supported by Netanyahu or his coalition. In one place the claim was that the purpose of supporting Hamas was to prevent a Palestinian state from being formed (the presence of a terrorist organization would poison negotiations).
    Who benefits from Hamas’ invasion and Israel’s counterattack? Netanyahu, among others.
    What is the goal, besides keeping Netanyahu in power? Make Gaza unlivable, secure Greater Israel for Jews, open up beach front property for development (Jared).
    Also, my speculation: Russia and other rivals benefit by the divisions caused in the US.
    This is my recollection of reporting on a complex situation and of course we don’t have all relevant information.

  7. jenorafeuer says

    My understanding is that Israeli government support of Hamas (generally via middle-men so it wasn’t obvious) predates Netanyahu becoming Prime Minister, and mostly started when Yasser Arafat was trying to go full ‘elder statesman’ and take the PLO to the U.N. as a legitimate Palestinian government; the purpose was to reduce any serious international pressure for a two-state solution by ensuring that there was nothing that could be considered a ‘legitimate’ Palestinian government. (Which is pretty close to what you said. but it dates back something like 30 years. The Oslo Accords which led to the Nobel Peace Prize for Arafat, Rabin, and Peres were in 1993; by 1994 Hamas was starting to get more Palestinian support than Fatah. Netanyahu became the leader of the Likud party in 1993. That year, 1993, was essentially the peak of the serious Palestinian push for statehood, and being actively undermined by many members of the Israeli government even while the PM was attempting to negotiate peace treaties was part of that.)

    It’s also worth remembering that former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who shared that Peace Prize with Arafat, was assassinated because he was seen by some people as being ‘too accommodating’ to the Palestinians. While that was probably a case of stochastic terrorism rather than an explicit conspiracy to kill him then, yeah, the hardliners have been around since before the modern state of Israel was founded.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    @raven, 2: what the settlers and IDF are doing doesn’t feel like terrorism, because in most of the world and for most of history terrorists are attempting to achieve a political aim (e.g. a unified Ireland) by means of deadly force from a position of weakness. The IRA had to operate in secret, and if caught they’d be either shot or imprisoned, because they were the weak side.

    The settlers don’t operate in secret. The IDF don’t operate in secret. They know nobody will ever dare hold them to account, because, y’know, antisemitism. That level of confidence is obvious and terrifying. Also, the “political aim” they’re fighting for is, er, genocide. “Ethnic cleansing”, if you like.

  9. garnetstar says

    Dunc @4, you are right. Also, I don’t think that anyone who was paying attention could ever even have believed that the IDF is “moral”.

    All armies, all down through recorded history, have comitted atrocities, mostly against civilians. It’s been SOP in many conflicts. Even if some armies managed to commit only a few, that’s still some.

    So, are we to think that somehow the IDF was trained or especially blessed by Yahweh, or something, to be “moral”? Or, to think that the IDF is the sole exception to millenia of recorded history?

    What’s the most parsimonius explanation? That the IDF is behaving just like all armies have ever behaved.

  10. anat says

    Allison, I disagree with you on the definition of Zionism. Zionism minimally is the claim that Jews are a people and as such they have a right to self-determination in their historical homeland. Whether this right is exclusive to Jews has always been up to debate within Zionism, though the non-exclusivists were always a minority. Back in the day Meir Yaari, founder of Mapam believed in a single, binational (and ideally socialist) state for all its inhabitants. Nowadays the Meretz party states in its platform

    The State of Israel The State of Israel is a democratic country, the country of the Jewish people and all its citizens. • The national home for the Jewish people and for all its citizens. Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, the country in which the Jewish people realizes its right to collective self-definition, and in addition it is a country belonging equally to all its citizens. All citizens of the country are entitled to equal status, without distinction on the background of religion, nationality, sexual preference, gender identity, or any other difference. The right of the members of the Jewish people to a national home, and the right of all of Israel’s citizens to full partnership in the sovereignty of their country do not negate each other, and they are both subject to the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, in which it was declared that the State of Israel: “Will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

    Unfortunately Meretz failed to cross the electoral threshold in the 2022 election (though have been polling better since the current war started).

  11. says

    All wars are crimes. The myth of the IDF being a moral military was absurd from its inception, any more than that the US was able to morally deploy nuclear weapons of genocidal retaliation. War is the crime there is no need to argue which specific war crime is the one that matters.

  12. lanir says

    The lie did what it was supposed to. It kept the complaints muted or struggling to overcome ridiculous propaganda while the current surge of the genocide picked up momentum. This feels like a common theme with the claims of antisemitism whenever criticisms of the Israeli government over excesses and abuses surface.

    It seems to work to some extent on a lot of people. The really gullible or those who get something out of the lie may never break free of it.

  13. Katydid says

    The whole concept of the mostly-Mediterranean land belonging to a bunch of eastern Europeans because maybe some of their ancestors once lived there millennia ago always struck me as wrong.

    It would be as wrong as someone having their neighbors over for a barbecue at their home in (say) South Carolina and getting a knock on their door that a group of Peruvians are claiming the property and all the property around it because there were Native Americans who crossed over the Bering Strait and passed through what is now the USA on their way to South America, so therefore all the land, the homes, the bank accounts, etc. of the people in South Carolina all belong to them. Doesn’t matter if the people in South Carolina have roots going back hundreds of years and are currently living productive lives on their property.

    The people in South Carolina can go live in an open-air prison in Georgia, where they will be bombed to smithereens if they object.

  14. Katydid says

    Or assassinated if they go outside, or stay inside, or just go about their lives.

  15. Holms says

    I wonder if the IDF has finally become too toxic for War Crimes Apologist StevoR? Probably not for the even more awful one, War Crimes Enthusiast Colnago.

  16. Silentbob says

    @ Holms

    Picking on commenters who can’t respond is lame, especially since you’re semi-banned yourself for egregious bigotry.

    StevoR is alive and well on Pharyngula and has revised his opinions after taking on board criticism, which is all we can ask. Maybe take a leaf out his book Holms?

  17. Holms says

    Picking on commenters who can’t respond is lame, especially since you’re semi-banned yourself for egregious bigotry. insistence on accuracy and data

    This is a very funny quote coming from you, given your habit of raising a certain subject knowing I’ve been asked not to reply to it.

    For example, that very post you goddamn dunce.

  18. Pierce R. Butler says

    raven @ # 1: The other myth of Israel and the Israeli armed forces is … they are competent and know what they are doing.

    Military history has a truism: armies of occupation become near-useless for just about any other military purpose.

    I suspect many in the Pentagon felt some relief on the US’s retreats expulsions from Iraq and Afghanistan on just that account.

  19. John Morales says

    Oh, right.

    WASHINGTON, March 17 (Reuters) -- U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has clearly committed war crimes and the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to issue an arrest warrant for him was justified.



  20. Holms says

    Ahem. Insistence on accuracy and data. Also, that comment does not establish what you claim.

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