It sounds really terrible to say 'cleanse' but those were the orders.
- Israeli tank commander
Wednesday night the British television network Channel 4 ran the story above using footage from a documentary shot by Israeli filmmaker Nurit Kedar. These testimonies, like those collected by Breaking the Silence, confirm many of the findings of the Goldstone Report, including the intentional targeting of wide swaths of Gaza's civilian infrastructure.
In the video a 24-year-old tank commander recounts being told that the Israeli soldiers entry into Gaza was to be "disproportionate". He says that his orders were clear:
"We needed to cleanse the neighbourhoods, the buildings, the area. It sounds really terrible to say "cleanse", but those were the orders....I don't want to make a mistake with the words."
Another solider recalls the absurdity of killing chickens and destroying the Sawafeary chicken farm. About this event the Goldstone Report said:
The Mission finds that the Sawafeary chicken farms, the 31,000 chickens and the plant and material necessary for the business were systematically and deliberately destroyed, and that this constituted a deliberate act of wanton destruction not justified by any military necessity.
The report added, "The systematic destruction along with the large numbers of killings of civilians suggest premeditation and a high level of planning. Even in the context of a campaign that had many serious violations of international humanitarian law, the events in Zeytoun at this time stand out."
One thing that comes across in this short clip is not only the dehumanization of Gazans that took place during the fighting, but the toll this took on the Israeli soldiers themselves. One soldier remembers in disgust how soldiers would compare the number of Gazans they killed. Another soldier named Shay is clearly still shaken by what he did in Gaza, especially in contrast to his comfortable life in Israel. From Channel 4:
He recalls being disgusted that Israeli conscripts had already defecated all over the bathroom of this family house. The family photos had been scrawled over. Graffiti was on the walls saying "long live Israel".
"All the time we were there you could sense this family with us. Meaning they were there. All the clichés. There was a wooden rocking horse, I remember, you’d be on guard and next to you there's a wooden rocking-horse."
Here's an interview with filmmaker Nurit Kedar that touches some on these issues:
While it seems that some Israeli soldiers might be having second thoughts about what they did in Gaza, the Israeli government seems much less introspective. Here's a statement the Israeli embassy released to Channel 4 in response to the report:
"Unlike much of the region, the open society within Israel allows for all allegations such as these to be aired and investigated.
"Israel has already authorised over 100 separate investigations into the operation, five broader investigations, and close to 50 criminal investigations are also taking place.
"All this in the context of having to respond to over 12,000 missiles raining on our citizens - such an operation could unfortunately never be flawless given these circumstances.
"Our judicial process is renowned across the world for its independence. This is a country after all, which holds even the very top of society to account, as has been proven in recent days. This is Israel in the 21st Century, a flourishing democracy, thriving amongst a desert of tyranny in the Middle East."