By Ben Cohen
According to the AP, Israel will defend Israeli soldiers accused of war crimes against civilians using special legal teams.
"The state of Israel will fully back those who acted on its behalf," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "The soldiers and commanders who were sent on missions in Gaza must know that they are safe from various tribunals."
This presents a very difficult moral conundrum given there is clear evidence that Israeli troops used White Phosphorous in Gaza. But can the blame be laid on soldiers feet given they were following orders from above? The entire invasion of Gaza was illegal under international law given Israel was not acting in self defense (Hamas was abiding by the ceasefire until Israel broke it), so the government should be held to account rather than the soldiers.
My personal feelings are that soldiers should be given serious leniency for the actions they take in war. These men put their lives on the line for their country, and are put in extremely precarious situations by politicians. War must be horrendous beyond belief, and soldiers probably behave in ways they would not under normal circumstances. This is not to excuse heinous behavior, but to accurately allot blame. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are far more responsible for the American crimes committed in Iraq than U.S soldiers are, as was Hitler responsible for Nazi war crimes in Europe (and no, I am not putting Rumsfeld and Cheney in the same league as Hitler). Israeli soldiers no doubt behaved appallingly in Gaza, but they did not choose to be there, their government did.