The IDF’s code of conduct is based on 11 principles that include moral and humanitarian issues, such as how to behave at roadblocks, during arrests and searches, and with riot situations that soldiers face daily in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The U.S. military is learning how to deal with civilian populations in Iraq from a special software education program developed by the Israel Defense Forces.
The IDF has bee asked by the U.S. military to translate its special educational software program, teaching soldiers how to behave in the territories, so that U.S. forces might apply it in Iraq, senior Israeli officers said last week.
Israel’s Judge Advocate General’s Office has recently completed development of software that reviews the IDF’s code of conduct, which is based on 11 principles that include moral and humanitarian issues, such as how to behave at roadblocks, during arrests and searches, and with riot situations that soldiers face daily in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The software, made in conjunction with the Ground Forces Command education and technology department, has just finished trials and will be distributed to command courses in the IDF by the end of the month. It uses movie clips, animation, and scenarios to show soldiers what are the right and wrong ways to behave in this sensitive area of limited combat. The goal is for all troops serving in the territories to use the program.
“This is an interactive software program… aimed at teaching junior commanders the 11 codes of conduct vis- -vis the civilian population. It is geared toward what is going on in the territories, but can also be applied to war and combat situations,” said Lt.-Col. Amos Giora, commandant of the IDF School of Military Law.
Giora said the idea for the software program grew out of mounting requests by field commanders for IDF jurists to lecture to troops on how to behave when engaged in combat situations in the territories.
“During the past year we lectured to thousands of soldiers and commanders on the modes of conduct, but realized that the best way to deal with this considering our limited staff was to make a software program,” Giora said.
He said US military personnel who have seen the program responded very positively to it.
“We have shown this to the Americans and have spoken to them about it. The issue of translating has clearly come up. They tell us that from their perspective, parts of it are clearly relevant with what they are going through in Iraq,” Giora told The Jerusalem Post.
“If you view our experiences and theirs, you can obviously see they are similar. This educational software can teach them these codes of conduct,” Giora said, adding that the software is “very translatable.”
“The Hebrew is tailored to junior field officers. It is common everyday language without the legalese. We felt that if we spoke like lawyers we would lose the soldier before we even started,” he said. “On this particular issue I have been told it is the only [such program] in the world.”
The US Embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed that American military personnel had been shown the software and agreed it was a useful tool for soldiers, but declined to comment any further.
The code of conduct drew upon various international and Israeli laws, and various principles of war. According to Giora, the 11 codes of conduct are:
** Military action can only be taken against military targets.
** The use of force must be proportional.
** Soldiers may only use weaponry they were issued by the IDF.
** Anyone who surrenders cannot be attacked.
** Only those who are properly trained can interrogate prisoners.
** Soldiers must accord dignity and respect to the Palestinian population and those arrested.
** Soldiers must give appropriate medical care, when conditions allow, to oneself and one’s enemy.
** Pillaging is absolutely and totally illegal.
** Soldiers must show proper respect for religious and cultural sites and artifacts.
** Soldiers must protect international aid workers, including their property and vehicles.
** Soldiers must report all violations of this code.
The interactive program can be used on army laptop computers and in the classroom. It takes about 30 to 90 minutes to go through the program, Giora said. Topics can be expanded upon with the push of a button.
“What is important is that they get immediate feedback and are told whether their answers are correct and given explanations,” said Giora.
Some of the clips used come from the movies Apocalypse Now, The Year of Living Dangerously, and The English Patient.
Animation is used to drive home difficult situations such as how to treat ambulances, which have Palestinian terrorists have sometimes used to transport gunmen and suicide bombers. In one animated simulation, an ambulance drives across the screen and then a gunman pops out and starts shooting from it. When this happens, soldiers are taught, the status of the ambulance changes.
The program contains six simulations. One has two soldiers in a jeep pulling up to a makeshift roadblock. They are faced with dilemmas: Can they ask Palestinians to remove the stones? Do they have to wait for sappers? Or can they remove the rocks themselves? The answer is in the program.
“The combination of the movies and animation make this very user-friendly, particularly compared to an hour-long stand-up lecture on international law,” Giora said.
The harsh treatment by soldiers of Palestinians, particularly at roadblocks, has come under criticism, but groups such as the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) say this is the exception and not the norm.
“There is still a lot of room for improvement,” said ACRI official Noa Stein. “This is a necessary step [that] should have been done beforehand, and shows the need for the deepening of values among soldiers, because we know it is far from the desired situation out there.”
The IDF is aware of this; Giora said that field commanders have pressured the Judge Advocate General’s Office for the educational program.
“Commanders tell us that if their soldiers better understand the codes of conduct, their operational level will increase because they will know that their troops will react as required,” he said.