Uri Avnery – The Most Moral Army

Azaria loads his weapon before shooting the Palestinian who was prone on the ground

by Uri Avnery,   …with Gush Shalom, Tel Aviv


[ Editor’s note: We have an interesting piece from Uri today on the morality of war with his usual historical background, a scholarship staple in much of his retrospective writing. It is a technique I also use, saving the reader from the time needed to dig out the acceptable traditional story, but also adding commentary on the more subjective aspects, to stimulate the readers to join in.

I was surprised to see Uri grade the Israeli army as more moral than the Russian army. He did not say what time period he was looking at, but in modern times I would say its behavior on the West Bank and Gaza shoot that claim down in flames.

I was never shy about using the term Zio-Nazis, a play on WWII Jews lamenting their treatment during insurrections in the ghettos that turned into bloodbaths. For the Israelis to inflict on a similar scale what they do against the Palestinians, when for all we know, an extremist Muslim faction in Gaza can fire off a rocket or two that does virtually no damage to Israel, and yet the IDF unleashes hell on the Gazans.

No, Uri… not more moral than Russia by any measure when we look at Ukraine, Crimea and now Syria. Sorry, but you shot yourself in the foot on that one. That said, I salute the IDF command for standing up to the political lynching of the wounded Palestinian knife attacker, a foolish man who threw his life away for nothing when he had other ways to serve his people.

The most immoral people in Israel, among Jews in total really, are now the Likud party, and more specifically the blood-thirsty advocates of mass murder in their ranks. This young IDF executioner came from a settler family, and is part of a move begun years ago to get kids with extremist views into the army, so they could do just like this kid did — make a name for himself, knowing the political support behind him is ready to attack the army itself.

But Uri and I will not kill each other over our disagreement. He is old enough to be my father, but that would not be my main deterrent. We both are capable of fighting with our keyboards about policies; and he is a worthy opponent, more moral than most in Israel, and definitely more moral than all of the Likud cutthroats put together Jim W. Dean ]

Jim’s Editor’s Notes are solely crowdfunded via PayPal[email protected]

This includes research, needed field trips, Heritage TV Legacy archiving, and more – Thanks for helping out


So many nameless victims, their parts ever referred to as “beefcakes” by their surviving brothers in arms

– First published  …  March 18, 2017 –

A few days ago I happened upon an excellent British movie, “Testament of Youth”, based on the memoirs of Vera Brittain. Vera tells her story, the story of a British girl who grew up in a bourgeois family without worries or sorrows, when World War I put an end to that paradise.

Vera Brittain, the dedicated pacifist working into her golden years, with an unfinished book when she died

Her brother, her friends and her fiancée were killed one by one in the terrible mudscapes of France. She enlisted as a nurse near the front and dealt with hundreds of wounded and dead. The tender country girl turned into a hardened woman.

The scene that impressed me most occurs when she is posted to a hut full of wounded Germans. A German officer, not so young, is dying. In his delirium he sees his beloved, catches the hands of Vera and whispers “Is that you, Clara?” and Vera answers in German “Ich bin hier”, I am here. With a happy smile on his lips, the German dies.

On the morrow of the war, an English crowd demands a vengeful peace. Vera takes the stage and tells of this experience. The crowd falls silent.

Is passive-aggressive cowardice evident as assassin Elor Azaria now enjoys all the notoriety in Israel?

The movie brought me back to the affair of Elor Azaria, the soldier who killed a seriously wounded Arab attacker lying helpless on the ground.

He has been sharply condemned by the military court but punished with the ridiculously light prison term of a year and a half. His publicity-grabbing attorney has appealed.

Killing a wounded or captured enemy is a war crime. Why?

For many people, this is a mystery. War is the realm of killing and destroying. Soldiers are decorated for killing. So why is it suddenly a crime to kill a wounded enemy? How is it possible to talk about a law of war when war itself breaks all laws? An army that trains its soldiers to kill, how can it demand from them to show mercy?

From the beginnings of humankind, war has been a human condition. It started from the primitive tribe, which defended its limited resources of food from preying neighbors. Neighbors killed were resources gained.


The 30 Years War

The limits to the ravages of war were fixed after one of the most awful conflicts in history – the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).

Its main battlefield was Germany – a flat country in the center of Europe, without defensible borders. Foreign armies entered it from all sides to fight it out between themselves. Armies devastated entire cities, killing, raping and looting.

It started as a war of religion, but became a war for supremacy and gain.

Millions died. In the end, two-thirds of Germany was devastated, one-third of the German population exterminated. One of the results was that the Germans, lacking any natural, defensible borders like seas and mountains, created an artificial border: a powerful army. It was the beginning of German militarism, which reached its climax in the Nazi frenzy.

Hugo de Groot

Witnessing the atrocities of the Thirty Years’ War, humanists pondered ways to limit warfare and create a core of international law. The outstanding proponent was a Dutchman Hugo de Groot (“Grotius”), who laid the foundations for the rules of war.

How can a war be limited? How can arms be “pure”, when their very purpose is to kill and destroy? Grotius laid down a simple principle: nothing can be done to limit the means and practices necessary for winning a war. No army will respect such limitations.

But in war, terrible things happen which have nothing to do with victory. Killing civilians, prisoners and the wounded does not contribute to victory. Sparing their lives is good for all sides. If I spare the lives of captured enemy soldiers and the enemy spares the lives of my own soldiers who are captured, everybody wins.


Modern Laws of War

Thus the modern laws of war are not only moral and humane, they are also sensible. All civilized nations recognize them. Breaking them is a crime. At the beginning, the law forbidding the killing of the captured and the wounded applied only to uniformed soldiers.

But in recent generations, the dividing line between uniformed soldiers and fighting civilians has become more and more blurred. Guerrillas, partisans, underground fighters, terrorists have become a part of recognized warfare. International law was widened to include them, too.

What is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? I am proud of having discovered long ago the only scientific formula: “Freedom fighters are on my side, terrorists are on the other side.”


The Damage has been done by the Azaria Affair

Thus we come back to Elor Azaria. Killing a wounded, neutralized enemy “terrorist” is a war crime, pure and simple. Wounded “terrorists” have to be treated. They are not enemies anymore, they are just injured human beings. Like the dying German in the movie.

Sarah Netanyahu, the widely unpopular wife of our Prime Minister, recently said in an interview: “I believe that the Israeli Army is the most moral army in the world!” She was only quoting an Israeli article of faith, repeated endlessly in all Israeli media, schools and political speeches.

Some might think that a “moral army” is an oxymoron. Armies are immoral by their very nature. Armies are there to make war, and war is basically immoral.

One might wonder how war has survived all these millennia. Humanity has made enormous progress in all fields of endeavor, yet war has endured. It seems that it is too deeply entrenched in human nature and human society.

When two citizens quarrel, they are no longer allowed to kill each other. They have to go to court and accept the verdict, based on a law accepted by all. Common sense would say that the same should apply to nations.

When two states have a quarrel, they should go to an international court and accept its judgment peacefully.

Vera Brittain, one of many young women who saw the horrors of WWI up close

How far are we from such a reality? Centuries? Millennia? An eternity? In the 17th century, war was conducted by mercenaries, who fought for gain. Regiments sometimes changed sides on the battlefield. Soldiers were out for loot. The “Sack of Magdeburg” during the Thirty Years’ War lives in German history to this very day. It was an orgy of looting, killing and rape in that town, west of Berlin.

A century later, war was conducted by professional national armies, and became a bit more civilized. The wars of Louis the 16th and Friedrich the Great left the civilian population largely unmolested. With the French revolution, the modern mass armies came into being. General conscription became the rule, and is still in force in Israel and some other countries.

Conscription means that almost everybody serves side by side – the good and the bad, the normal and the depraved. I have seen well-educated sons of “good families” commit terrible war crimes. When I met them again a few years later, they were law-abiding citizens, proud fathers of families.

My own observation was that if, in an ordinary squad, a couple of stable, moral soldiers face a few bad apples, with the majority of the soldiers in between, there is a chance that the better ones would set the tone.,But there is also the possibility that the better ones assimilate to the others, and in the end the whole lot become dehumanized. That is one good argument for conscientious objection.

I must admit that I am torn on this issue. On the one hand, I would like morally sound men and women to serve and influence their units, on the other side I deeply sympathize with those who follow the call of their conscience – and pay the price. When I see a soldier who shoots a wounded enemy in cold blood, I ask myself: Who are his parents? In what home did he grow up? Who are his commanders?

The major blame must go to the officers, from company leader up to front commander. In an army, the commanders must always bear the main responsibility. Everything depends on the moral standards they impress upon their subordinates. I always blame them first and foremost.

Right at the beginning of this affair I proposed sentencing Azaria to a harsh prison term, for all to see. Then I would pardon him, but only on condition that he publicly admits his crime and asks for forgiveness. Until now, he has refused to do so, and suns himself in the glow of his status as a hero to some parts of the population. So do his parents, who visibly enjoy their public exposure.


So how moral is the Israeli army?

Even before the State of Israel was founded, the underground paramilitary organization (the Haganah) which formed its base prided itself on its morality. “The Purity of Hebrew Arms” was the slogan then, and still is. It was true then as it is now, but It created the belief in the “Most Moral Army in the World”.

There is no such thing as a really moral army. Unfortunately armies are necessary in this world, but their morality is always questionable.

If I were to grade our army, I would guess that it is more moral than the Russian army and less moral than, say, the Swiss army. The only completely moral army is the army that does not fight.



Managing Editor
Jim W. Dean is Managing Editor of Veterans Today involved in operations, development, and writing, plus an active schedule of TV and radio interviews. Read Full Complete Bio >>>

Jim W. Dean Archives 2009-2014

DISCLOSURES: All content herein is owned by author exclusively.  Expressed opinions are NOT necessarily the views of VT, authors, affiliates, advertisers, sponsors, partners or technicians. Some content may be satirical in nature. All images within are full responsibility of author and NOT VT.

About VT - Read Full Policy Notice - Comment Policy


  1. The element being left out of this discussion – a hidden element often out of our awareness – is the real criminal. They seldom if ever do any fighting. They sit in the background and grin whenever men, women and children are dying needlessly at each others’ hands. They are sick, but crafty or they would not be able to stay alive. While many lead small lives of little importance, others insinuate themselves into bigger games. They figure out how to feed filthy and hateful propaganda to both sides of some ordinary issue and turn the little misunderstanding into a full-blown violent struggle.
    These sick humans are the only ones that really need to be identified and restrained. A little fight now and then is just good fun. Someone who would twist another personality until he is willing to gun down others like him in cold blood or kill innocents without caring really needs to be locked up.
    Academics and law enforcement alike tend to shy away from identifying such beings, because they are harder to confront. But if you really want to fight crime – whether it be war crimes or street crimes – on this planet at this time you must be very fully prepared take such guys out before they take you out.

  2. A lone knife weilding person killed in cold blood, is not an appropriate example for the comparisons or analysis of moral conduct among marching armies. This would be better classified as a murder case. Video is the new conductor of morality.

  3. When we see pictures of US soldiers urinating on the dead enemy, or the disgraceful pictures out of Abu grav prison, who is teaching who to be moral?

  4. When the morality of a nation is premised on the non-existent logic of the utterly abhorrent and Satanic Talmud you find yourself immersed and suffocating in an inhumanly depraved world whose army is complicit in the insanity. The rabid masters of this domain are the same Rabbi stock of two millennia ago when Christ’s experience – which many take as the word of God, deemed them the Synagogue of Satan. These are the masters of moral subversion who as Shakespeare said, can quote scripture to their purpose. Edit your Talmud Israel and come to grips with reality and realize – “One touch of nature can make the whole world kin.”

    The Jews are rightly heralded as intelligent; why is it then they subvert the world with implacable unreason? Jewish morality, Uri, is the overriding oxymoron; a morality observed more in the breach than the observance even in the IDF where, as Jim says, there is a corp (sic) uprightness among certain of the General Staff that struggles against the tide of unnatural xenophobia and primordial tribalism. Israel’s future, unlike the Ten Commandments, is not written in stone and you ignore the former to the detriment and likely demise of the latter.

  5. Jim, my guess is that Uri’s time period regarding the Russian Army, refers to the orgy towards the end of WWII, when Russians inflicted payback for Barbarossa and their millions of dead. I base that on his astonishing defense of Germany in the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648 above. He said that foreign armies invaded poor Germany, while failing to mention that it was all started by acts of the Holy Roman Emperor, based in what is now Germany! But his analysis is also very short-sighted in another respect. I take the really long view of history, based on my training and other things. In this case, fortunately I have ancestors who left France around that time, and I long ago attempted to solve the mystery of why these 3 brothers left France to come to the New World, as they didn’t have to, not being criminals. What I found is that the Little Ice Age came on, in fits and starts, and the earliest sign of the cold was failed crops and hunger. The hunger is what drove people to eye their neighbors’ property, and then other countries’ property.Please check out the Maunder Minimum and the sunspot numbers. But the Maunder Minimum came after the Thirty Years’ War, because the Minimum was preceded by plenty of cold and hunger and disease BEFORE the war even started. In those days, wars generally were begun because of crop failures and hunger.

    • So wars continued throughout the Little Ice Age. But the warm periods before that, when crops flourished and the northern seas were relatively free of ice, those periods were characterized by sea trade, by cultural and scientific advancement, and by warm fuzzy feelings for strangers. It’s amazing what a full belly and a full larder will accomplish for world peace.

    • Thanks for all this JS. This is when all the work of doing the comment section pays off, when we get additional material like this that frankly I had never considered. I do remember a Zulu piece once where this was a key issue. When drought was upon them the King knew from past experience that people were going to weaken and die, so he figured it was better for them to die in battle, stealing what crops and cattle that the neighbor had. He would lose less that through a longer starvation, and would have more resources to sustain a comeback by having depopulated the the areas around them. Sounds a bit like a Likud party platform.

    • Hi JS
      It was your comment that convinced me to Register here.

      Your observation has sparked my interest to look at history in a different light. In all my reading of comments on history and geopolitics I have NEVER heard mentioned what you related regarding the recent history. Well, at least not in the way you posed it. To me it makes a hell of a lot of sense.

      Few people realized the great effect Mother Nature has on mankind in terms of historical events. Why? Because weather and geologic study are not in general seen as being very relevant to historical events.

      I know this is very old history but I encourage others to take a look at this, Doggerland

      Sea levels were never constant which had its influence on where you could get with little or a lot of effort.

  6. The fact that such a large part of the population of Israel is celebrating the cowardly actions of this worthless piece of human garbage as if he is a hero instead of the gutless coward shows the depravity it has lowered itself too. Obviously it has no compassion or feelings for human life unless the selfish lives of family. Even member s of Isr ael in the U.S. remain silent on his gr oss behavior which means they condone it. Is rael is a disgr ace to the civilized wor ld and all suppor t and aid from the US must be halted immediately. Cowar ds also run the US. today. How could they be anything else but cowar ds if they also remain silent on this outlaw conduct. He is a murderer plain and simple with many eye witnesseses.

  7. Well folks, When Washington goes back to respecting and obeying International Laws, then maybe the paid off ” allies” of the West and East will abide by them as well. As Uri states – “the officers must take some of the blame when their soldiers commit crimes” but here in the US it seems like everyone in the ” so called ” government are pretending to be ” Officers”. But they are not – not only are they not officers, they have never been in the Military and those who are in the Military are a sorry ass excuse for a real Military Officer. It is Against International Law to steal land away from another country from war. Golan Heights is an example – Autonomous regions that vote democratically to annex another country should not be against International Law if the parent country is engaged in an external / internal civil war that is on the verge of attacking that Autonomous region, which was the case of Crimea. But since the West is insistent that International Laws are non binding to their global ambitions, the Crimea annexation is legal in Universal and Humanitarian Laws of preservation. Spacibo

  8. He killed a defenseless man deliberately, that’s first degree murder. He should be punished according to the law like any other killer and treated like any other criminal. He is being treated differently just because he killed a Palestinian and you are saying he should be given the punishment but forgiven ! what a joke !

  9. The most moral army in the world is the Lichtenstein army and Samoa army. It is close tie between the two. The super smart inquisitive Mossadists could have figured it out by now. USA in the 21st century does not have army, it only has mercenaries, they are called the army. NATO surely makes the most immoral army.

Comments are closed.