IDF Expert Discusses Israeli Homeland Security with Pardee Students

Students in Prof. John Woodward’s Intelligence and Homeland Security course met with Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Colonel Bentzi Gruber.

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Colonel Bentzi Gruber spoke to students in “Intelligence and Homeland Security,” a graduate course taught by Professor of the Practice of International Relations John D. Woodward, Jr. at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University.  Col. Gruber, the Vice Commander of the IDF’s 252nd “Sinai” Armored Division (Reserve) discussed homeland security challenges Israel faces and the ethical code the IDF must uphold in dealing with terrorism.

Drawing on his thirty years of military service and extensive combat experience, Col. Gruber explained that ethics in war is much more challenging to think about when a soldier is deployed in tough, stressful environmental conditions carrying pounds of heavy equipment on his or her back.  Even low-ranking soldiers fighting in asymmetric warfare are forced to become decision-makers and have roughly “eight seconds to make a decision,” according to Col. Gruber. Using video clips of actual terrorist incidents to demonstrate his points, he explained how ethical considerations should always be on a soldier’s mind.

Col. Gruber noted that the IDF Code of Ethics requires soldiers to ask themselves three questions: (1) Is the force used only to accomplish the mission? (2) Is the force used to target the innocent? Or neutralize enemy? (3) Is the collateral damage proportional to the immediate threat? If a soldier has any doubts, Col. Gruber said he or she must not shoot. The soldier must also make every effort to minimize collateral damage.  An Israeli soldier must know why they carry a gun, and Col. Gruber explained that soldiers carry guns only to avoid threats. Once a threat has been neutralized, the use of the gun must cease.

Col. Gruber also discussed the significant mental strain a soldier must carry once the fighting stops. He said “everyone deployed to the field loses something,” but a soldier must remain sensitive, which Col. Gruber illustrated by saying that the goal is to have soldiers “remain sensitive to the crying of a baby after the war as it used to be before.” Col. Gruber also discussed his personal motivations, recalling his extended family’s suffering at the hands of the Nazis and the example set by his mother who survived Auschwitz.