The IDF’s violent origins and Israel impunity

Israeli soldiers in the house of a Palestinian prisoner (IDF - Anadolu Agency)

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  December 6, 2022

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid’s assessment of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) completely eliminated its paramilitary origins and violence prior to the establishment of Israel’s colonial enterprise. Israel needs a “strong, disciplined military with a clear chain-of-command that operates only by the law,” Lapid declared, after the situational assessment last Sunday, which was attended by top military officials. “This is the secret to our strength; this is what forged the IDF’s might,” he added, while warning that rocket fire from Gaza would no longer be tolerated.

Lapid’s recent comments reinforced his statements, a few weeks ago, when he warned that no foreign entity would be allowed to investigate soldiers involved in the killing of Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, with reference to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opening an inquiry.

The notion that the IDF needs any protection is absurd, when one considers that Israel’s colonial existence is dependent on violence and created an institution that is so intertwined with its settler society. As for Lapid’s claim that the IDF’s strength comes from operating within the rule of law, it is much more pertinent to assert that Israel allowed the IDF the same unprecedented impunity it allowed itself. For where would Israel be without the Zionist paramilitary groups, among them the Haganah, Irgun and Lehi which, after the Nakba, were incorporated into the newly established IDF in May 1948?

What forged the IDF’s might is the fact that the new colonial existence in Palestine needed a violent institution to protect it, and the paramilitary groups incorporated into the IDF had already proved their lethality with their track record of ethnic cleansing, terror attacks, assassinations and violence which even the heavily redacted Israeli declassified documents attest to. Following the Nakba atrocities, some Israeli ministers called for establishing responsibility and justice which, within a colonial framework, still reeks of misgivings because colonialism is a violation in itself, but the proposal was rejected by Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. As regards the Minister’s call for investigating the paramilitaries’ atrocities, the fantasy of morals and rule of law was flaunted in much the same way as Lapid is doing now.

As attention continues to shift towards IDF violence in the Occupied West Bank, the international community has done nothing but express alleged concern and horror over the killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers and police officers. The IDFs head of the Military Intelligence Research Department, Brigadier-General Amit Saar, placed the blame on Palestinians. “I see young people who get up at 4 a.m. just to throw stones at IDF armoured vehicles entering the village. It’s alarming to think how much anger is needed for this,” Saar stated. Of course, Palestinians don’t just get up to throw stones – the colonial context is eliminated in its entirety, while Palestinians are falsely depicted as spewing hatred which the military is unable to grapple with.

But decades of Israeli colonial violence, more recently in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority, have wrought a change in Palestinian society. If its leaders are willing to “wait”, as the PA’s Foreign Minister, Riad al-Maliki is fond of stating on occasions, Palestinians are waiting no longer and their anti-colonial resistance is legitimate, even within the parameters of international law. On the contrary, Israel’s endorsed colonial violence through the IDF holds no moral ground to justify its brutal approach.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America