Hearsay: IDF Releases Findings of Investigation Regarding Remarks Made at Rabin Center
30 March 2009 , 16:50
IDF soldiers during Operation Cast Lead
IDF soldiers in ground operations during Operation Cast Lead. Archive Photos: IDF Spokesperson
Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit
The Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit.
IDF Spokesperson

The Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, made the decision to close the case in which the Criminal Investigation Department of the Military Police investigated statements made by soldiers at the Rabin Military Preparation Center in reference to Operation Cast Lead. This decision was made after the Military Police investigation found that the crucial components of their descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by facts. In particular, the investigation addressed two alleged incidents that raised suspicion of acts in which uninvolved non-combatants were fired upon.

The investigation was initiated by the Military Advocate General after reviewing claims made during a conference at the Rabin Military Preparation Center at which soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead were present. The Criminal Investigation Department of the Military Police was ordered to investigate the claims made.

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. For example, one story made the claim that a soldier was allegedly given orders to fire at an elderly woman. However, upon investigation, it was found that the soldier witnessed no such thing, and was only repeating a rumor that he had heard from an unknown source. In an unrelated investigation, it was found that in a similar incident, a woman, suspected of being a suicide bomber, approached IDF forces. After trying to convince her to cease all movement and to stop advancing toward the forces, they then opened fire.

This same soldier admitted that he had not witnessed the additional disrespectful and immoral incidents he had described during the conference and that they were based on rumors.

A claim made by a different soldier who had supposedly been ordered to open fire at a woman and two children was also determined to be an incident that he had not witnessed. After checking the claim, it was found that during this incident, a force had opened fire in a different directionspecifically, towards two suspicious men who were unrelated to the civilians in question.

During the Military Police investigation, two additional claims arose regarding improper conduct. These claims were separate from those made at the Rabin Military Preparation Center. It was found that these incidents do not raise suspicion of unjustified opening of fire. This finding is based on a debriefing that had occurred near the time of the incidents, and on further investigation conducted by Military Police.

During the aforementioned investigations, the participants at the Rabin Center explicitly stated that they had based their claims relating to the use of phosphorous munitions on what they had heard in the media and not on their own personal knowledge.

The Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, concluded the findings of the Military Police investigation: "It is unfortunate that none of the speakers at the conference was careful to be accurate in the depiction of his claims, and even more so that they chose to present various incidents of a severe nature, despite not personally witnessing and knowing much about them. It seems that it will be difficult to evaluate the damage done to the image and morals of the IDF and its soldiers, who had participated in Operation Cast Lead, in Israel and the world."

The juridical assistant of the Military Advocate General, Maj. Yehoshua Gurtler, told the IDF Website in an interview: We investigated the events that were discussed during the conference according to Israeli criminal law, which is drafted based on international law. The soldiers who spoke at the conference were interrogated by the Criminal Investigation Division. Some of them said that the things raised during the conference were based on rumors or things they had heard, and all for one purpose to produce the effect of a large number of negative events, and to communicate a message. He added that the method used for the investigation is common in the western world: The examination of the events that occurred during the operation is a popular method in all western armies the army examines itself in different areas, especially in relation to values and operational skills, and thus locates failures and weaknesses in order to learn lessons.

Maj. Gurtler also spoke about more general complaints, in addition to the aforementioned incidents, which were alluded to by the soldiers and investigated by the Criminal Investigation Division. It turned out that the soldiers werent precise in their stories and therefore produced a different impression; additionally, they brought up complaints that they had read in the media. No evidence to justify further legal procedures was discovered in this context. When the case did not offer sufficient evidence, it was decided that the case should be closed.

One of the values the IDF is based on the responsibility to report incidents, clarifies Maj. Gurtler. Soldiers and commanders should not fear reporting inappropriate events that they have witnessed, but when the reports are not precise and are exaggerated, nothing positive will come of it.

The IDF Spokesperson Unit wishes to emphasize that the Military Advocate General's conclusions refer solely to the investigations that focused on the transcripts of the Rabin Military Preparation Center conference, in addition to the two separate aforementioned claims. This investigation was conducted in addition to the investigations conducted on all levels of the IDF following Operation Cast Lead.