Soldier says rabbis pushed “religious war” in Gaza

JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Rabbis in the Israeli army  told battlefield troops in January’s Gaza offensive that they  were fighting a “religious war” against gentiles, according to  one army commander’s account published yesterday.

“Their message was very clear: we are the Jewish people, we  came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land  and now we need to fight to expel the gentiles who are  interfering with our conquest of this holy land,” he said.

The account by Ram, a pseudonym to shield the soldier’s  identity, was published by the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper in  the second day of revelations that have rocked the Israeli  military. (www.haaretz.com “Shooting and Crying, 2009”).

They were leaked from a Feb 13 meeting of armed forces  members to share their Gaza experiences. Some veterans, alumni  of an Israel Defence Force (IDF) military academy, told of the  killing of civilians and their impression that deep contempt for  Palestinians pervaded the ranks of the Israeli forces.    The institution’s director, Danny Zamir, confirmed that  Thursday’s published accounts were authentic.

In longer excerpts in its Friday “Week’s End” edition, the  daily quoted ‘Ram’ as saying his impression of the 22-day  operation was “the feeling of an almost religious mission”.

It began when a devout sergeant in his unit “assembled the  whole platoon and led the prayer for those going into battle”,  he said. “Also when we were inside they sent in those booklets  full of Psalms, a ton of Psalms. I think the house I was in for  a week, we could have filled a room with the Psalms they sent.”

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