In explaining why he created an NGO to publicize the morality of the IDF, Avihai Shorshan recalled that he had two friends who died in 2014 because they tried “to do their mission without harming civilians” during Operation Protective Edge, The Jerusalem Post reported Friday.
Shorshan, whose group, My Truth, made their case in Geneva at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and in Brussels this week, explained to the Post, that despite being called a war criminal, after seeing his friends die, it was his “turn to break the silence.”
Over the past two decades, Shorshan recalled numerous incidents where the IDF put its soldiers at risk in order to avoid civilian casualties. The list of incidents includes battles in the central market of Nablus, in Jenin, in the central Gaza Strip, and in the Gaza neighborhood of Shejaia.
In Shejaia, Shorshan told of how his unit once was discovered. Hamas then sent a 10-year-boy in suicide belt toward them.
“Hamas’s response was swift, and a 10-year-old boy in a suicide bomber’s belt was sent our way,” he recalled. “In defiance of orders and the command to shoot to kill, the team member guarding the door at the time decided not to open fire, ducked behind some cover and instead instructed the boy to undress and remove the explosive belt.”
The boy was later released unharmed. A subsequent investigation showed that his brother, a Hamas commander, had paid him the equivalent of two and a half dollars to put the belt on.
Shorshan said that he put up a post on Facebook about his experiences in war and received hundreds of comments. This led to hundreds of responses from other soldiers and the beginning of My Truth.
Another member of My Truth, Eli Bogdan, a former squad commander, asked, “In many combat operations civilians are being used by militants in order for them to carry out attacks and escape. How come the IDF is being condemned and not Hamas which uses their own women and children as human shields?”
Lital Shemesh, a combat soldier who joined the delegation of My Truth in Geneva, pointed out, “The border fence protests are not people who want to have coffee with us, they want to destroy Israel.”
Ravid Elfassi, a former IDF combat soldier, told the council before they voted on a resolution condemning Israel’s response to the Hamas-led riots along the border fence, “In 2007 I was sent on a mission in Gaza to seek out a Hamas squad which was launching rockets at Israeli cities. In my own eyes I witnessed as Hamas sent out six and seven year old children to search for me and my men. When these children found us, Hamas opened heavy fire using AK-47s and RPGs, while the children were still between us and them.”
The testimonies of the My Truth soldiers add a personal angle to the assessment made by law professors Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies defending the conduct of Israeli troops over the past year. In their paper, Corn and Margulies asserted that the IDF used the most restrictive standards for using force.
They argued that the Commission of Inquiry (COI), set up by the UNHRC, in fact, demonstrated a “flight from consistency and common sense,” in judging the IDF.
In their conclusion, Corn and Margulies wrote that the COI’s “arbitrary” report “will only affirm ill-founded assumptions about the security operations conducted by the IDF last spring, and possibly spur fresh resort to dangerous confrontations by illicit actors such as Hamas.”
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