In 2002 the Palestinian Second Intifada took a turn for the worse. After the so-called Passover Massacre which killed 30 Israelis and wounded 140, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) became engaged with the Palestinian militias in what became known as the Battle of Jenin.
Although the Palestinians spread the lie to the world media that Israel committed a massacre against the Palestinian civilian population (the UN subsequently verified that no such massacre occurred), and the level of destruction was limited rather than widespread as also depicted in the media, an important and telling incident during that battle showed the difference in the mentality between the warring sides.
An IDF unit chose to do an on-the-ground house-by-house search for terrorist combatants rather than call for F-16 strikes which might kill innocent civilians as collateral damage. One should understand that Palestinian civilians often offered themselves as human shields, knowing that Israelis will avoid harming them while in pursuit of their compatriots, and that the Palestinian side booby-trapped the houses and streets with explosives. Knowing this, the IDF still decided to choose “boots on the ground” rather than air power.
A Palestinian commander during the battle, Tabaat Mardawi, told CNN from prison in Israel, that after learning the IDF was going to use troops, and not planes, “It was like hunting … like being given a prize… The Israelis knew that any soldier who went into the camp like that was going to get killed… I’ve been waiting for a moment like that for years”. [CNN.com, August 23, 2003, “Palestinian fighter describes ‘hard fight’ in Jenin”]
The result of this “boots on the ground” decision was the deaths of thirteen Israeli soldiers in one incident, all killed by the explosion of a booby-trapped home and the subsequent ambush by Palestinian militias in what became known as “the bathtub.”
Such decisions are not unique and the IDF soldiers are constantly and in numerous incidents called on to choose life over death. In fact, the entire Israeli operation in Jenin was deliberately slowed down just in consideration of possible civilian casualties.
Why? And does the answer matter?
The answer demonstrates the difference in mentality between the warring sides. The Palestinian side makes it honorable to lie, to encourage death, to slaughter its enemies. Let me be clear, I am not saying this is the mentality of the Palestinian population; I am saying this is the attitude of the Palestinian militants and a large segment of the Palestinian population. This is different with the Israelis. Armies kill and wars are brutal, but the difference in attitudes is none the less telling and distinctive.
It is not that Israeli soldiers harbor no hate or desire to kill, it is that they are educated differently in handling their response and the rules under which they can engage Palestinians.
And one can see this by observing the difference in their training from the primary, secondary and university educational institutions in distinction to the culture of radical Islamism. All that even before we get to that which comes from soldiering.
But soldiering, the training of a soldier, is telling too.
For that reason four local, pro-Israel organizations (Stand By Israel, Stand With Us, Americans Against Terrorism and Action Israel) are sponsoring a visit to the Denver-Boulder area of Sergeant (Res.) Nadav Weinberg, who served in the Special Forces Counter-Terrorism Unit of the IDF. Having recently finished his service in the IDF, Weinberg is touring outside Israel and addressing the whole issue by describing the training of the Israeli soldier in his and her ethical duties.
The title of his talk is,“Ethics and Israel: Gilad Shalit and the Israel Defense Forces.” Weinberg will be speaking on successive days in Boulder on November 30th and at Colorado Christian University on December 1st . The Boulder event begins at 7:00 pm at the CU Boulder Chabad House, 909 14th St.; CCU talk begins at 6:30 pm at the CCU School of Music, 9200 West Ellsworth Ave., Lakewood.