Friday, March 14

MCC Palestine Update #75

MCC Palestine Update #75

March 14, 2003

“When do you think it’s going to start?” “How long do you think it will be?” “Why are they doing it?” The “it” in these questions, questions I’ve been asked repeatedly on every trip into the West Bank during the past 10 days, is a US-led invasion of Iraq. I assure people that I’m as in the dark as they are, that I read the newspaper and listen to the radio for clues like they do, but that I have no special knowledge.

There’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety in conversations right now. People are worried about what will happen in the occupied territories during any upcoming war. Will there be a week of curfew? Two weeks? A month? Will there be more confiscation of land? More demolished homes? More “targeted killings” that end up producing lots of “collateral damage?” Accelerated construction of the separation wall/apartheid wall? Some Palestinians are genuinely worried about “transfer,” that euphemism for another euphemism, “ethnic cleansing.” Other Palestinians doubt that mass transfer will happen, but stress that house demolitions and the cutting off of people from their lands and water (thanks to the separation wall) are micro-level forms of transfer.

Please, as you pray over the coming days that an invasion of Iraq might be stopped; as you pray that the lives of those Iraqi civilians and those soldiers, be they Iraqi, British, American or other, who would be killed during any war, be spared; please include in your prayers petitions for the safety of all the people in Palestine/Israel.

Below you will find three pieces. In the first, Gideon Levy looks at different forms of “terrorism” in Palestine/Israel. The second piece, by former Knesset member Shulamit Aloni, is a strongly-worded indictment of willed ignorance about what takes place in the occupied territories. The final piece, by Israeli journalist Amira Hass, dissects the logic used to justify Israeli actions in the occupied territories.

--Alain Epp Weaver

1. Terrorism by any other name
Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz, March 9, 2003

Terrorism begets terrorism - there is no other way to describe the violent relations that have developed between us and the Palestinians. There is no need to elaborate on the cruelty of their terrorist attacks, certainly not for the Israeli reader, and even less so after last week's horrific suicide bombing in Haifa. Murderers of children are murderers of children, without any ifs or buts. The debate is over our attacks, which we are trying to conceal by definitions that soften them and with tortuous accounts and excuses offered by the Israel Defense Forces, which do not always meet the test of truth or reasonability. Did an IDF tank fire a shell at a burning carpentry shop last Thursday morning in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, killing seven civilians? Lieutenant Colonel Dotan, commander of an armored battalion, says no: "This is something they have to answer ... We do not fire shells at stores ... I don't know if it is their store ...." As the accounts offered by IDF officers proliferated, the picture became increasingly foggy. Dotan admitted that his troops fired two shells, but not at the carpentry shop, and added that they did not kill the civilians. The images that were screened on television created the impression that the civilians were killed by a shell. One version in the face of another - but does it really matter? The moment the IDF sends tanks into a densely crowded refugee camp it puts all the inhabitants at risk. The moment the tanks open fire, innocent people are bound to be hurt. Tanks in Jabalya cannot fire shells without killing women and children, just as it was impossible to drop a one-ton bomb on the house of Salah Shehadeh in Gaza without killing 15 civilians, mostly children. Thus, anyone who decides to send tanks into Jabalya is making a decision to kill civilians. The test of intention - the terrorists intend to kill civilians, whereas the IDF does not - is irrelevant. The Armored Corps soldiers who fired shells in Jabalya may not have intended to kill civilians, but they and their commanders killed civilians. They therefore bear the responsibility for the killing. An operation to kidnap a wanted individual from Hamas in the heart of Jabalya - a "surgical operation" in the spit-and-polish language of the divisional commander, Brigadier General Gadi Shamni - that ends, as could be expected, in a dozen Palestinians killed, most of them civilians, and large-scale destruction, is an act of terrorism. Did the IDF also kill Noha al Makadama, who was nine months pregnant? Brigadier General Shamni said that "no substantiation was found" for this, and the defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, said "the IDF has no knowledge" of the case. What "substantiation" did the IDF think it could get outside the testimony of the family members? And does it really matter? Makadama was killed in her home while she was there with her 11 children while the IDF demolished the adjacent building, causing the destruction of her house as well. Anyone who blows up a building next to a building in which there are a pregnant woman and 11 children without warning them, is responsible for their fate. Killing a pregnant woman under these circumstances (two boys, aged 13 and 16, were also killed in the same incident) is a terrorist attack against innocent people. Instead of insensitively disassociating themselves from the brutal killing of a pregnant woman, the defense minister and the divisional commander should have condemned the act, as they demand the Palestinian Authority do after every terrorist attack against Israelis, or at least apologized. But expressing regret? Us? After the killing of more than 2,000 Palestinians, many of them innocent civilians, no Israeli condemnation has yet been heard. Everything we do in the territories, even if it involves killing and destruction on a horrific scale, obtains immediate automatic backing and justification. It is all done in self-defense and as part of the war against terrorism. However, with such data of killing and destruction, this version of events is no longer acceptable. Israel's efforts at obfuscation are intended above all to keep our conscience clean. This is false posturing that can no longer be countenanced. When the IDF demolished a mosque on the "Philadelphi" route on the outskirts of Rafah and immediately claimed that the building had been abandoned, no one asked why the mosque had been abandoned. Here is the real sequence of events: first the Gaza Strip is occupied, then settlements are established in it, then guarded roads are built to protect the settlers. In the next stage, after the Palestinians begin to rebel violently against the occupation, we begin killing them until they are forced to abandon the mosque and indeed the entire area. Finally the "abandoned" mosque is demolished. But to us it seems that only the Palestinians destroy holy places, such as Joseph's Tomb. Our conscience is pure and unblemished, always.

2. Murder of a population under cover of righteousness
Shulamit Aloni*, Ha’aretz, March 6, 2003 (in Hebrew version only)

We do not have gas chambers and crematoria, but there is no one fixed method for genocide.
Dr. Ya'akov Lazovik writes ("Academic Genocide", "Ha'Aretz", 4 March) that in the State of Israel it is impossible that the regime and the nation will plan and commit a genocide. It is difficult to determine if this is naivity or self-righteousness. As we know, there is no single fixed method for murder and not even for genocide. The author Y. L. Peretz wrote about "the righteous cat" who does not spill blood, but only suffocates.

The government of Israel, using the military and its instruments of destruction, is not only spilling blood, but it is also suffocating. What other name can be given to the dropping of a one-ton bomb over a dense urban area, when the justification uttered is that we wanted to murder a dangerous terrorist and his wife? The rest of the citizens who were killed and injured, among whom are children and women, do not count, of course.

How is it possible to explain the expulsion of citizens from their homes at three o'clock in the morning on a rainy night, then depositing bombs in the house and then departing without warning? When those expelled returned to their home, the bombs were exploded and a brutal murder and destruction of property was thus committed. And what is the justification for what happened in Jenin? We did not destroy the whole neighbourhood, just 85 houses; it was not slaughter, we killed only 50-some citizens. How many does one need to murder and destroy for it to be a crime? - A crime against humanity, as determined by the Laws of the State of Israel, not only the laws of Belgium.

And more: A curfew and closure of an entire city so that a few celebrants from the racist bunch in Hebron could walk to the Cave of the Fathers, and tanks destroying fruit and vegetable stands, and bulldozers that destroy houses, and Generals who, in their arrogant hubris, are willing to destroy a whole neighbourhood for the convenience of a group of settler hooligans. Curfew, closure, brutality, murder, destruction of homes of suspects, while we keep parroting the incantation that a person is innocent until proven otherwise (as in the case of our Prime Minister and his sons).

The order that Ariel Sharon gave to the soldiers who went to wreak revenge in Qibiah [an Israeli cross-border attack into the West Bank in the 1950s left many civilian dead—Alain]: "Maximize losses in life and property", has not been forgotten. Today Sharon, Mofaz and Yaalon, the three Generals who manage the policy of this government, behave like that self-righteous cat - suffocating all the time. Curfew and another curfew, arrests and more arrests, destruction of roads, brutality to the residents at road stops. Benny Alon, (a minister in the present government), already said: "make their life so bitter that they will transfer themselves willingly".

This is done on a daily basis, in addition to the destruction. The Chief of Staff, Yaalon, already announced that he is "destroying for re-building".

One can understand from his moves that the "building" is building of more and more settlements. So that they will not be obliged, as military rulers, to take care of the residents' well-being, the army uses sorties, followed by retreats. They enter a village, they kill, they destroy and they arrest, and then they retreat. Those who remain on the ashes and the ruins will take care of themselves.

Many of our children are being indoctrinated, in religious schools, that the Arabs are Amalek, and the bible teaches us that Amalek must be destroyed. There was already a rabbi (Israel Hess) who wrote in the newspaper of Bar Ilan University that we all must commit genocide, and that is because his research showed that the Palestinians are Amalek.

The nation is not planning to commit genocide; the nation really does not want to know what's happening in the territories. The nation is following orders given by the legitimate representatives of the regime. After the legitimate Prime Minister who wanted to bring peace was murdered, the hand is loose on the trigger, greed is paramount, and there is always some reason to brutalise all of the residents of a city that number tens, if not hundreds of thousands, because there are always people there who are on the "wanted" list. It is sufficient that one person is wanted to bomb and kill, by mistake, of course, also women, children, workers and other humans - if indeed we still count them as humans.

Of course with our self-righteousness, with our self-adoration in our "Jewish ethics" we make sure to advertise how beautifully the doctors take care of Palestinian victims in the hospitals. We do not advertise how many of those are executed in cold blood in their own homes.

So it's not yet genocide of the terrible and unique style of which we were past victims. And as one of the smart Generals told me, we do not have crematoria and gas chambers. Is anything less than that consistent with Jewish ethics? Did he ever hear how an entire people said that it did not
know what was done in its name?

*(The author was a Member of the Knesset from the Meretz Party and a government minister)

3. Completing the circle of proof
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz, March 5, 2003

More than two years after the Camp David summit, most Israelis are still convinced the Palestinians are to blame for the failure of the talks, just as they are guilty in the renewed bloody conflict. This is further proof, in the opinion of most Israelis, that the Palestinians and their leadership have not changed their original evil scheme to bring about the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state from the Mediterranean to Jordan. The rejection of Ehud Barak's proposals at Camp David is explained as another illogical example of "the Palestinians never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Bringing up the issues of the refugees and their right of return was presented by Israel as the reason for the breakdown of the summit and as further proof of uncompromising Palestinian irredentism. The outbreak of demonstrations in September 2000 is explained as a planned initiative of Yasser Arafat, further proof of his intention to force an agreement on Israel, through force rather than negotiations.The replacement of mass demonstrations by shooting at soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza is further proof of the treacherousness of the Palestinian Authority. The shift of the Palestinians to terror attacks within Israel completes the circle of proofs and connections: The purpose of Palestinians - the Hamas, as well as the Fatah - is to murder Jews. They don't distinguish between Israelis within the State of Israel and their army, and the settler-citizens within the West Bank. All of these proofs and connections continue to justify, in the eyes of Israelis, the policy of the IDF's attacks on Palestinians in their towns. On the Palestinian side, the past two-and-a-half years provide limitless proof for the theory of the nature of Zionism and the State of Israel, and the character of their leaders. The suppression of the first Palestinian popular demonstrations in September and October 2000 with live fire and fatal consequences is a consequence of an Israeli pre-planned plot to impose an arrangement on the PA with supreme military force. The "illegal" outposts established in the last two years have confirmed the suspicions of the Palestinians about the craftiness of Israeli leaders who dissociate themselves from the "illegal activities" and then lend a hand to their activities "under the table." The fact that Israel has continued to expand the settlements, and almost doubled the number of settlers, particularly during the Oslo years, is proof of Zionist irredentism, the calculated refusal - since 1949 - to define the international Israeli border. The fact that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said "it is possible legally to implement settlement contiguity between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem" places him in the same irredentist settlement continuum with Yitzhak Rabin. As prime minister during the Oslo period, he expanded the area under the jurisdiction of this gigantic settlement, at the expense of the Palestinian area of East Jerusalem and the territorial contiguity of the future Palestinian state. This expansion decision is viewed by Palestinians as yet another link in the continuum of decisions of expansionism and colonization in the `70s, of the Alignment and Likud as one ("the Left" and "the Right") - which established "Ma'aleh Adumim" as an industrial area, which expanded into a city in Israel. The Palestinians find a connection not just between every expanded settlement of today and the continuation of their expansion during the Oslo years and their establishment and their expansion in the years prior to Oslo - but also between the expansion of today and the beginning of Zionism and 1948. This link corroborates the earlier Palestinian claim that the objective of Zionism was to dispossess the entire Palestinian people of its land. The deadly attacks by Israel on crowded civilian areas is also proof for the Palestinians of the characteristic contempt for the blood of "the children." In the language of the Palestinians, it is state terror. The Israeli argument that terrorists are hiding in those same places strengthens the Palestinian conception regarding the double Israeli standards. Isn't it true that senior Israeli army officers, commanders and soldiers, who are responsible for killing thousands of Palestinian citizens in the past 20 years, live within civilian neighborhoods? And hasn't the IDF established bases and positioned tanks within settlements, from where it shells the Palestinian neighborhoods and camps?

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