March 31 update: IDF closes investigation into alleged excesses by soldiers in Gaza conflict, saying the allegations were based on hearsay and exaggeration. From the IDF website:
The investigation concluded, based on evidence from the soldiers that participated in the conference, that the stories told were purposely exaggerated and hyperbolic in order to reinforce a point amongst the conference participants.
In its coverage of the report, the Washington Post said Israeli human rights groups want an independent investigation, as they said they do not believe the IDF is capable of fairly investigating itself.
The debate over the conduct of the Israeli Army during the War Against Hamas earlier this year took a sharp turn last week with articles in the Israeli and foreign press describing alleged actions of some Israeli soldiers that went beyond the army’s own guidelines, and apparent encouragement from some Army rabbis.
Hartman-affiliated scholars have been quoted in several accounts discussing the moral aspects of Israeli army training and commenting on the rabbis, as well.
In this article from the Los Angeles Times, David Hartman talks about how rabbis volunteering for the army may not be the kind of rabbis the army really wants to have. He is quoted as saying the religious nationalist belief in the notion that the conflict with the Palestinians is a “holy war” is still a minority view in the army.
“But it has to be fought with a rational religious ideology that takes into account the living reality of two peoples,” he said.
Avi Sagi, a co-author of the IDF’s code of ethics, said in the same article the army is a “battleground of conflicting ideals in Israeli Jewish society.” The military’s code urges soldiers to avoid killing innocents.
In a New York Times article that spread widely the allegations of misconduct and religious sanction published in Israeli media, Moshe Halbertal was quoted as saying the officer corps of the elite Golani Brigade is now heavily populated by religious right-wing graduates of military preparatory academies.
“The religious right is trying to have an impact on Israeli society through the army,” the Times quoted Halbertal as saying.