The combination of unfair media characterizations and the infamous Goldstone Report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has caused Israel to face tremendous struggles in dealing with the claims made about what took place during Operation Cast Lead. Israeli diplomats and lecturers have been labeled as “war criminals” and at times, speakers have been prevented from addressing different venues. The ramifications of the lies presented by the media, along with the Goldstone Report are unthinkable and unfortunately, Richard Goldstone’s recent admission to the public that his report contained many inaccuracies had little impact on the perception that Israel’s intention is to target innocent civilians.
Even before the Goldstone Report was compiled though, Ben-Tzion Gruber, an IDF Reserve Colonel, was traveling the world talking about the ethical challenges that the IDF often faces when dealing with asymmetric warfare tactics used by terror groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Gruber has traveled to over 80 campuses, such as Brandeis University, University of Southern California, Harvard University, Emory University, and others to spread the truth about Israel’s actions in dealing with terror threats and the tactics used by the groups that Israel faces.
Gruber’s presentation is titled Ethics inthe Field. Throughout the seminar, Gruber uses declassified footage from Operation Cast Lead and other operations in the past to show difficult situations faced by IDF soldiers. According to Gruber, “The goal of the presentation is to reach two groups of people - the Jewish young generation,” (who Gruber believes are lacking a strong commitment to Israel) “and the majority of people in the crowd who are unsure about what is taking place in Israel.” Gruber continued, “We may not be able to fully convince them, but at least inside of their heart, maybe they will think twice next time they see a negative report about Israel.”
Speaking on college campuses has not always been problem-free for Gruber. In April 2009, when speaking at Brown University, Rhode Island, Colonel Gruber was libeled and harassed. As many as 15 students stood up in the middle of his presentation and, as an act of protest, walked out in unison. The lecture did continue, but when Gruber left the auditorium, he saw hundreds of flyers with his face and the following statement, “WANTED: For War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity,” plastered all over the hallway. Gruber found this personally offensive having served on the frontlines of wars and witnessed tremendous feats by Israel to protect civilian lives.
As Gruber said during his presentation, “Israel has done all that it can to minimize civilian casualties.” He explained that before hitting targets where weapons were being stored or shot from, “Israel sends numerous text messages and other types of warnings to residents to evacuate the house or structure where the weapons are being held because it will be destroyed.” As illustrated in the footage that Gruber showed, often the residents do not listen to warnings from the IDF and instead will do the opposite of what the army tells them. For this reason, Hamas and the other terror groups have been able to use the civilian population as a giant human shield in order to vilify Israel. Gruber also makes a point of emphasizing in his presentation just how difficult it is for Israel to accurately target those who are firing the rockets from Gaza because they do not wear traditional army uniforms and they blend in with the civilian population.
Beside for speaking on college campuses, Gruber has had the opportunity to speak at many churches recently. He reported that the audiences in the churches have generally been supportive of Israel and the work that he has been doing. According to Gruber, “People in the churches appreciate hearing from someone who has seen events on the ground with their own eyes.” He noted that the church leaders tend to work very hard to spread the knowledge learned to their congregations.
It is poignant now, after Goldstone’s retraction, to highlight that Israel does not have a policy to target Gaza’s civilian population. In fact, it is quite the opposite with more than 10,000 rockets having been shot into Israel - all aimed at innocent civilians. Just last week, a Russian anti-tank missile fired from Gaza was aimed and shot directly into a school bus. Did the media focus on this attack? Of course not, instead, the focus was on Israel’s retaliatory actions against Hamas.
Nonetheless, students must understand that when they stand up for a fair presentation about the facts on Israel, they are standing for justice and peace. With many rocket attacks left unreported in much of the world media, any fair-minded person should be protesting for unbiased coverage and not one-sided slander. There is absolutely no justification for Gazans to be shooting rockets into Israel’s civilian population and without an end to the attacks, there can never be peace. The sooner the world realizes that, the better off we will all be.
* Jason Holtzman, Campus Coordinator for the Zionist Organization of America, is a political activist with a passion for Israel advocacy.