Man responsible for Israel's cruelest wars only attracts praise
By Gideon Levy | Haaretz | July 16, 2009
A huge weight has been lifted off our chests: Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant will stay in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Although Gallant was not named deputy chief of staff, Defense Minister Ehud Barak publicly declared that he views him as a candidate to succeed Gabi Ashkenazi as chief of staff. The military correspondents, those who only spoke glowingly of Gallant during the entire appointments commotion, put their minds at ease. And the brainwashed public, which shows no interest in learning what our soldiers did in Gaza, were also put at ease.
The fact that this feted general is directly responsible for two brutal military operations in Gaza which have no equal - Summer Rains and Cast Lead - did not even warrant a mention in the public forum. While more and more suspicions and well-founded allegations over the IDF's behavior in Gaza, especially during Operation Cast Lead (December 2008 - January, 2009), surface all over the world, here a general of this "war" - really a brutal assault on a helpless population - only attracts praise.
Suspected war crimes? Violations of High Court rulings? No mention of those at all. Gallant has always been in favor of large operations in Gaza. He kept pushing for more strikes and more destruction, as much as possible. In the summer of 2006, his wish was granted and he took command of Operation Summer Rains. The result was 394 Palestinian deaths and a thousand wounded. The lone power station in Gaza was bombed along with the university and a number of bridges. A grand success.
At the time, nobody wondered why all this killing was necessary and who benefited from all this destruction. What was the reason for bombing a power station, except for meting out collective punishment, which has long proven to not only be a criminal act, but also a foolish one? Gallant emerged from "Summer Rains" unblemished.
He had the same success following Cast Lead. A war with almost no Israeli deaths is always a success, without commissions of inquiry and with no questions asked. To hell with the horrible price exacted from the other side, including the hundreds of women and children killed and the thousands of homes destroyed. Gallant commanded the most cruel war in Israel's history. In order to understand what happened in Gaza, it is worthwhile to read the report issued Wednesday (July 15) by the (army) reservist group "Breaking the Silence." The group recorded 54 testimonials of 30 combat troops that should come to represent the dark period in history that was this war, a war over which a blacker-than-black flag flies.
From the "neighbor procedure" of using people as human shields, which is a gross violation of a High Court ruling, a public scandal in itself; to the spirit of words uttered by a commander who is quoted by a number of the soldiers as saying that was preferable to harm bystanders than to hesitate in hurting the enemy. "If you are not sure, shoot," one of the soldiers quoted him as saying. The soldier added, "The firepower was insane ... In urban warfare, everyone is an enemy. There is no difference between innocent civilians and enemies."
It is for this that Gallant is responsible. He orchestrated a war in which there were almost no instances of combat, all the while inculcating an awful attitude within the IDF, one that says it is permissible for us to do anything: to drop thousands of bombs, shells, and missiles in addition to phosphorus shells and flechettes; to kill whole families and to sow destruction on a horrific scale while considering it all a success.
"They didn't set a goal for us," one of the combat soldiers said in the report, which recounts the destruction the soldiers wreaked just for its own sake. "I don't know what the objective of the war was."
Our Southern Command chief is a hero against the weak. While he rose through the ranks at sea, where his resumé is full of top-secret missions, his stint on land is nothing to write home about. He always makes sure to be photographed wearing dark sunglasses, his personal weapon while "on duty." In the meantime, the deep baritone voices of the military correspondents on television shower praise upon him in light of his grand achievements. But the truth is that this is a joke, a sad military joke that is drenched in blood. It was one of the most advanced arsenals of weapons in the world against those who launch empty pipes; hundreds of tons of smart and stupid bombs against factories and schools; precision-guided unmanned aerial vehicles that killed children; the tiny few of our dead, many from friendly fire incidents. In summation: military heroism on the cheap.
All these factors will not hold up Gallant's promotion. They will be credited to him as sparkling successes on his way to the top. And it is only the soldier who gave the 54th testimonial in the "Breaking the Silence" report who understood what the general who is a candidate for chief of staff did not: "I didn't leave there with a feeling of heroism or great sacrifice. Just plain disgusted, bored and stupid. I did not feel I did anything significant. I convinced myself, 'Okay, I was in Gaza, I can tell my buddies.'" Like him, Galant also told his buddies, and the buddies bought it with giddiness and blind admiration.