To be honest, I was a little insulted. I looked for myself on the list of 200 Operation Cast Lead war criminals published online last week but didn’t find what I was looking for. I performed almost a month of reserve duty during the operation, yet nothing; no mention. Not even a small one.
Even a low-ranking female soldier got to enter the list of war criminals, and was even graced with a Facebook photo in civilian clothing, engaged in yoga. Not to mention those pilots; finally we could see their faces (and also their addresses and military ID numbers)
As it turns out, the Israeli who produced the list – and there is almost no doubt it’s an Israeli, who is intimately familiar with the IDF – did not do a particularly thorough job. In any case, he missed me.
I served in the Gaza Division war room for 26 days and saw everything in real time. I saw how every time we had to curb Qassam fire from populated areas, officials considered it seven times and meticulously calculated the firing range and angle, as not to hurt civilians by mistake.
I also saw how, to be on the safe side, the army consulted with its legal advisor and with a representative of the Coordination and Liaison Administration who were regularly deployed in the war room.
I saw the great seriousness in addressing a water pipe that burst in Rafah, and the kind of effort invested in order to bring food into the Strip and allow ambulances to evacuate wounded Palestinians from the war zone.
I also participated in assessment sessions with the division commander; a major part of them pertained to humanitarian issues.
I walked around Sderot, which looked like a ghost town after sustaining dozens of Qassam rockets, and I also saw the Grad missiles making their way to Ashkelon without anybody being able to stop them. Believe me, it’s not a heart-warming sight.
I’m no longer afraid
In short, I was there, and according to the twisted standards of the various list producers this apparently turns me into a war criminal as well.
Here’s a small confession: In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, I was thinking of posting photographs from my reserve service on my Facebook page. I’m not talking about photos alongside Palestinian detainees, heaven forbid; just regular images of me sitting with the guys at the division’s canteen. I didn’t do it because I was afraid that one day, when I travel abroad, these photos may incriminate me.
Yet I’m no longer afraid, because I realized that I’m in good company. Not only the army chief and Southern Command chief and Air Force chief, but also anyone who serves in the IDF is by definition a war criminal apparently. And as any soldier who walks the streets in uniform may find himself in one blacklist or another, even if he serves as a cook in an Air Force munitions base, I have no reason to hide.
So for the benefit of the producer of the abovementioned list: My name is Yoav Keren, I’m a reserve major, and my personal ID number is 5030397. You can find out my address on your own. So the next time you update the list of war criminals, you can add me too. But if you use a photo from Facebook, at least make sure it’s a good one.
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