A recently released report by The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) exposes the shifts in Israel’s combat doctrine as evidenced in the prosecution of operation “Cast Lead” and from numerous public oral and written statements made by high ranking military officers and senior Israeli government officials.
The report, “No Second Thoughts: Changes in the IDF’s Combat Doctrine In Light Of Operation ‘Cast Lead’,” demonstrates Israel’s application of a new combat doctrine during the hostilities in Gaza, which is based on two principles:
“Zero Casualties”: The complete prioritization of avoiding IDF [Israeli army] casualties while disregarding the increased risk to Palestinian civilians. The implementation of this policy is evident in the massive use of fire power, the use of white phosphorous weapons in densely populated areas, and in firing at Palestinians in the streets, with no discrimination between combatants and civilians, this even after the IDF would order the evacuation of residents from civilian homes.
“Dahiyah Doctrine”: named after the residential Dahiyah district in Beirut, where Hizballah enjoyed support and also had its headquarters. The district was massively bombed by the IDF during the Second Lebanon War. The doctrine promotes targeting civilian infrastructure in order to cause widespread destruction and suffering among the civilian population so as to foment popular opposition to Israel’s opponents (namely Hamas and Hizballah).
As a result of the implementation of these principles, the fighting in the Gaza Strip caused intentional and large-scale damage to civilian infrastructure as well as the killing of hundreds of non-combatant civilians (despite the absence of an official policy to intentionally kill civilians). Israel’s actions directly contradict official statements claiming that the IDF acted in accordance with international humanitarian law and took every possible measure to avoid harming non-militant civilians.
This combat doctrine morally stains the citizens of Israel. It may lead to increased international isolation of Israel and to a situation where Israeli soldiers, officers and leaders will face arrest outside of Israel and be charged with war crimes.
The writers of the report summarise: “So fundamental a shift in the IDF’s combat doctrine, which has such a far-reaching impact, shouldn’t be considered only in the closed forums of the General Headquarters and the Security Cabinet, but demands substantial public discussion.”