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Text testimonies Morals and war don't go together
catalog number: 57738
Rank: Lieutenant
Unit: Education Corps
Area: Gaza strip
period: 2003
6,108  views    0  comments
Morals and war don't go together
Rank: Lieutenant
Unit: Education Corps
Area: Gaza strip
period: 2003

As an education officer, you said you had to analyze and evaluate some value or educational content of the events. Who addressed you, if at all, about this? What were they looking for?In general, it was the commanders. I mean, I worked mostly with them on this, all kinds of staff officers at the division HQ. In general we weren't that much, and my commander, the division education officer, would have to push all kinds of things to the staff officers.

Like what?Like he would always want me and the two other officers in the brigades to take investigations from the war-room and operations and intelligence and analyze them on the moral-values level.

What sort of things did you see in those reports? You mean values or things that happened?Yes, in that sense. Good question. I remember that, in general, I related to these things as if I didn't have the tools to determine what value was manifested in the fact that a soldier looted some Palestinian home.

Was that even an issue in investigations?Usually we did these "value analyses". I mean, there wasn't some prescribed de-briefing on which we'd place some educational frame, some values, but rather these incidents that involved human dignity and such, we'd simply write it up ourselves, the whole thing. It also seemed pretty pretentious to me to scold them, tell them it was out of line. One of my assignments was to always issue various propaganda bulletins. I don't know, I felt like the propaganda minister of the Nazis or something. It was this really fascist stuff, I had to tell them what value they had violated in what they did, why this was important and why we should never this again. Practically speaking, who am I and do I think I am, I who have no idea of values, or of warfare, and what good would it do, anyway. I mean, they are obliged to do these things, and if something doesn't break inside you, like I said earlier, then you simply can't function. So you'll get discharged on psychological grounds, or you'll be a conscientious objector, or you'll shoot yourself in the head, or something will break and you'll turn into some, I don't know… Frankly, I'd sit there facing this "Spirit of the IDF" document and try to analyze the values and simply couldn't believe a word I read there and I couldn't care less because it seemed to me so totally unconnected, so detached, and not about what the hell we're doing in this place. If we're in this place then what is the point of talking values? Morals and war don't go together.

What did the system expect you to do?It expected us to insert the most… to prepare these kits for commanders. So if a platoon commander briefs his soldiers or something, then at the end when he gets to the punch line, to what is to be done and conclusions, then he also talks about values and somehow passes the spirit of the IDF on to the soldiers, and so all the soldiers will fight according to a lovely ethical code all cool and printed out on a nice blue page.

And it didn't work because it's irrelevant, or because it simply wasn't handed on?First of all, we didn't get that much cooperation, I think that *** used to tell me that there was more cooperation in Hebron, more preparing the staff and such. Also, there was something very, I mean company commanders would give lectures on battle heritage and try to motivate their soldiers and teach them values, which is what I think a commander is supposed to do.

When the brigade commander knows there's been a mission and soldiers have looted a lot, or when the battalion or division commanders know there was a mission and their soldiers trashed houses like crazy, what would the commanders do about it?It really depends on the commander personally. I happened to work under to different division commanders in my time. The first was very operational. He wasn't interested. He wouldn't let the education corps in anywhere. Very gung-ho, know-it-all type. The second was very accommodating, consulted a lot, especially with my commander, the division education officer, but I was always included. He talked about values and tried to introduce them himself as well. There were commanders who did it because they thought it was right and they really believed in things and there were commanders who couldn't care less. I mean, a commander who comes back from such a mission and knows these things happen can stand and have a talk with his soldiers. He doesn't need me for that.

And they did?Some did, others didn't. Those who didn't, even when I pushed them to do it, that didn't help. So to me, my job seemed a bit…

At the end of the day it depends on personality? There's no coping on the part of the system as a whole, it's left to the whims of each commander?I don't know if they didn't have meetings, if a battalion commander didn't raise it with his brigade or division commander, "Listen, we have a problem here." I imagine that if this were a common phenomenon and the commander really cared, he would bring it up somewhere. To tell you that they really broke their heads over this while figuring out what kind of mission to carry out in Rafah – I don't know, really.