November 10, 2004

IDF Vet Speaks on Conflict

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Eli Magid ’06 is an Israel Defense Force (IDF) veteran who fought in Israel during one of its bloodiest eras. Magid deferred his first two years at Cornell to study abroad in Israel but joined the IDF soon after the recent Intifada, a movement characterized by suicide bombings and terror attacks, broke out in 2000.

Magid drew upon his experiences as a soldier in Israel from 2000-2002 in a lecture entitled “Israel Defense Force Code of Ethics in Theory and Practice” yesterday afternoon.

In his talk, Magid focused on the three core principles and the ten values that constituted the “spirit of the IDF.” He then spoke of the daily life of an IDF soldier.

“Every single Israel soldier, boy or girl” receives an IDF manual that serves as a code of ethics and morals,” Magid said.

The three core principles that lie at the heart of this code are the defense of the state, citizens and residents, love of the homeland, and respect for human dignity.

Magid explained that each soldier is also taught ten values to “incorporate within himself”, including tenacity of purpose, responsibility, purity of arms, and the value of human life. “Purity of arms,” he added, is “maintaining humanity even during combat.”

After detailing the philosophy of the IDF, Magid asked, “how are these values, ethics, morals implemented in the day to day life of an IDF soldier?”

To answer this question, he presented several case studies supplemented by personal anecdotes and photographs.

The first of these case studies addressed military action towards people posing differing levels of threat. On his rounds in Israel, Magid often encountered “non-combatants mixed with combatants…kids, shop owners, and soldiers.” Besides differentiating between these two groups, he also needed to differentiate between a lethal combatant, such as “a masked gunman,” and a non-lethal combatant, such as “a sixteen-year-old throwing a brick.”

At Rachel, a holy shrine in Bethlehem, his unit dealt with a group of Palestinians who cursed, threw bricks, and set off a firebomb by using tear gas to disperse the crowd. In other instances, when terrorists came to attack his unit’s position, the soldiers opened fire.

Magid explained that the IDF dealt with “non-lethal threats through non-lethal means” and “responded to lethal people with lethal means.”

Checkpoints, designed to prohibit suicide bombers and terrorists from infiltrating into Israel, were another one of Magid’s duties and case studies. Magid explained cultural considerations that are taken into account. While checking a driver’s I.D., examining working papers and inspecting the trunk and contents of a car is a simple process, many times there are women drivers who can only be inspected by women soldiers.

The lecture was sponsored by the Cornell-Israel Public Affairs Committee, a student organization dedicated to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Dan Greenwald ’05, president of CIPAC, explained that the committee “asked Eli to speak because he’s an expert on the subject. Eli has put the Israeli Army’s ethics into practice, respecting Arab and Jewish lives while defending civilians from terrorist attacks.”

Jason Fair ’07 praised the humanistic aspect of Magid’s speech. “While our campus tends to be fairly open-minded about international affairs, it gets caught up in the politics of things and loses the humanistic touch… As Americans, we are taught that killing children is unacceptable. Here is someone who has to deal with that on a daily basis,” he said.

Archived article by Xiaowei Cathy Tang
Sun Staff Writer