Killing and Refusing
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Killing and Refusing


MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 2/05/2002: There is a great deal of moral twisting and turning and cover-up going on among the Israelis; and oh so necessary however late in the day. This article in today's Ha'aretz gives the impression that torturing and shooting to death many Palestinians in cold-blood is something new or rare. Hardly the case. There are so many documented cases that there can be no doubt it is officially sanctioned policy, and has been for some time. And for every documented case there must be many many others that never become publicly known in any way. As Dr. Haidar Abdel-Shafi, the distinguished head of the Palestinian delegation in at the Madrid Conference and all subsequent negotiations until the Oslo talks said at a Georgetown University conference a few years ago:

"How do we view the acts of resistance by Hamas and the Islamists? Palestinians are entitled to resort to all sorts of measures including legitimate armed struggle to try to rid themselves of occupation. The Israeli position, which is based on Israeli military power and with heedlessness toward legality, and legitimacy, and United Nations resolutions, is actually a cause for violence... Israel in the recent time killed so many Palestinians in cold blood, Palestinians that it apprehended and could have arrested, but it preferred to kill them. The world is going to realize that this peace process is not really a peace process, it is hopeless.."

As for those Israeli "reserve officers" who are finally, so late in the day, begun refusing to further serve in the Israeli military "across the Green Line", in the "Occupied Territories", they represent some hope and sanity in an otherwise very desperate and dismal situation. The views expressed in the important column by Orit Shochat last week about these issues are both boldly courageous and terribly necessary.


By Ben Lynfield In Jerusalem

[The Scotsman (Scotland) - 05 February 2002]: FIVE Palestinians were killed by an Israeli missile fired in the Gaza Strip yesterday in one of the most lethal assassinations carried out by the military since the start of the Palestinian uprising 16 months ago.

The attack came despite warnings in Israel that the policy of assassinating wanted Palestinians is not enhancing Israeli security, but having the opposite effect.

Criticism of the policy increased after the death last month of a Fatah activist, Ra'ed Karmi, prompted Palestinians to disregard a ceasefire call by their president, Yasser Arafat, and embark on a series of attacks inside Israeli territory.

Israel's army chiefs have justified the killing of Mr Karmi by saying that Mr Arafat was planning an escalation of attacks.

Four people died in yesterday's attack and a fifth later died of his wounds. The vehicle in which they were travelling came under attack near the southern city of Rafah. As is often the case with assassinations, the army spokesman's office denied any knowledge of the incident.

Palestinians said they had observed an Israeli surveillance plane circling before the missiles were fired. The deaths brought the total number of Palestinians killed in assassinations since the start of the uprising to 62, including 20 bystanders, according to LAW, a Palestinian human rights group.

Two of the dead were said to be members of the Marxist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and one was reportedly from Mr Arafat's Fatah movement. Another was identified as coming from the Palestinian People's Party.

Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has defended the assassinations on the grounds that they thwart planned attacks on Israelis. But Ya'acov Peri, the former head of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency criticised the assassinations on Sunday. "We are at the height of a cycle of bloodletting the likes of which we have not seen since the country was established," he said. "We fan it by reacting to every attack. As of now, the policy of liquidations has not proven itself. Perhaps there is some reasoning behind it, but I for one cannot see it."

Another former Shin Bet chief, Ami Ayalon, has said "you cannot kill an ideology by killing people".

In a related development, the army has decided to open investigations into two incidents in which Palestinian infants died as a result of their mothers being held up at West Bank roadblocks. Both infants died hours after they were born. The decision marked a departure from previous army policy, which has generally avoided investigations into the deaths of Palestinian civilians on the grounds that Israel is engaged in "armed conflict short of war" and has no obligation to do so.

Halting of Palestinians in need of medical treatment at roadblocks was among the grievances cited by 50 Israeli reserve officers and soldiers who announced ten days ago that they would refuse to serve in the occupied territories.


By Amos Harel

[Ha'aretz 5 February 2002]: Last Friday, former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon told an Israel TV Channel One interviewer that while he is opposed to refusal of service in the territories, he has "a lot of empathy" for the dilemma faced by officers serving beyond the Green Line. Then he commented on the plethora of incidents in which unarmed Palestinian youths have been killed or wounded in the current conflict.

"When an unarmed youth is shot, that's a blatantly illegal order, with a black flag over it," said the reserve major general, a former admiral of the navy.

A day before the interview, there was an incident close to the village of Ussarin, near Nablus. A 15-year-old unarmed Palestinian youth, Louis Adli, was shot dead. The shooter was a reserve officer.

The investigation into the shooting shows just how complicated the situation can be for IDF troops and officers in the territories, and how the color of the black flag the former Shin Bet chief mentioned, can change its hue.

The incident took place in the late afternoon two kilometers east of the Tapuah junction. Israeli settlers driving on the road reported that stones and Molotov cocktails were being thrown at cars on the road. An army squad went to investigate.

The soldiers - two company commanders from an reserve armored battalion, a medic and another soldier - were in a jeep that was hit by a large rock when they arrived on the scene. They got out of the jeep and started moving toward four youths who were throwing stones from a nearby hilltop.

A., a company commander from a kibbutz in the north, said in the debriefing that the stone-throwing continued despite the fact they were approaching the youths. "I understood they were trying to draw me into an ambush," he said. So, he fired warning shots in the air. Suddenly, 20 meters away, a person jumped up from behind a rock. The officer, who said he felt his troops were in danger, fired two shots from 20 meters away. The boy was hit in the head and fatally wounded. He died later at Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer, where an army helicopter evacuated him. The other youths ran off.

In a preliminary inquiry conducted at the regional brigade level, a senior officer in the brigade criticized the officer's judgment, saying the shooting was unnecessary. He was backed by other officers. But when the brigade's commander reviewed the findings, he came to a different conclusion. Col. Yossi Adiri decided the shooting was justified. Yesterday, Adiri presented the findings to the IDF commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Gershon Yitzhak, who said he viewed the shooting and its results, gravely, but he did not make a clearcut judgment on the incident, asking Adiri to further the inquiry before Yitzhak draws his conclusions.

The physical conditions were a key reason for Adiri's finding. The incident took place at twilight, under poor visibility; when a figure leapt up suddenly, it was difficult to see if he was armed.

In the days before the current armed intifada, it would have been relatively easy to judge the incident at Ussarin. There was no standing order about firing on stone-throwers - the chance was minimal that there might be an armed Palestinian hiding in the area.

But when the company commander opened fire, he remembered another possibility. Three months ago, near Kafr Tel, a few kilometers from Ussarin, reserve lieutenant Eyal Sela went to check a report of suspicious Palestinians on a hilltop. The observation post reported the Palestinians were unarmed, and Sela's force did not take any special precautions. But when he approached, the Palestinians drew guns and shot him dead. During the ensuing firefight, Sela's soldiers killed three of the Palestinians.

The company commander at Ussarin had reason to believe the situation was similar. The stone-throwers were bait for the soldiers, who would be trapped by gunmen. The fact the stone-throwers did not run away even after the soldiers approached only strengthened the suspicion in A.'s mind that it was an ambush.

Many reserve officers admit openly that their main interest in the current conflict is to make sure none of their troops become casualties. And that was the decision of the company commander at Ussarin. A decision is made in a split second, under circumstances of relative risk and in uncertain conditions. A senior officer who reviewed the inquiry findings said that "if the situation were the same tomorrow, I would want my troops to behave exactly the same way - and remain alive."

The incident at Ussarin, and another one at nearby Elon Moreh on the same day in which two 14-year-old Palestinian youths were wounded, show just how difficult the daily decisions can be for the soldiers in the territories. When it's unclear if it's an innocent civilian, a stone-thrower or an armed activist, the tendency is to shoot first and ask questions later. But the results of such decisions can be bloody, as they were last Thursday. A 15-year-old was killed and two others wounded in a way that could leave them crippled for the rest of their lives.


By Orit Shochat*

Orit Shochat opposes the use of soldiers
for evil, and calls for conscientious
objection to serving in the military.


We are the strong one, we are the bad ones, we are the occupiers, we are the settlers, we deny them livelihood, freedom of movement, health care, food, water, land, houses, a state, life. He who is willing to serve in an army which deprives civilians of all that, must be made of stone.

The commander of the infamous Unit 101 is now Prime Minister, and it is he who dictates to the cabinet a policy of revenge operations, the style of the 1950s. Those who voted for him for Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, the commander of the ruthless act committed by Israeli soldiers in Kfar Kibiya, must be very pleased with their choice.

In October 1953, in the Jordanian village of Kibiya, the IDF* avenged the killing of Susan Kenyas and her two children. Unit 101 under the command of Ariel Sharon blew up 45 of the village's homes, killing 69 villagers: men, women, and children. The military insisted that the soldiers presumed the houses empty when they blew them up. But afterwards it was learned that the bodies of those killed were riddled with bullets, and that grenades were thrown into the homes prior to laying the explosives.

Sharon's orders to his soldiers were definitively clear: "The objective--attack Kfar Kibiya, conquer, and cause maximum harm to persons and property . . ." Our prime minister-commander of unit 101, praiseworthy for iniquity, continues to design vengeful acts like those of the 1950s, but now as government policy: when no terrorist attacks occur to revenge, the cabinet fabricates excuses for revenge; when there is no excuse, it provokes; when even provocation fails to work, we revenge the assumed intention to murder Jews.

"This calm is artificial", says the Israeli government after a month of cease-fire. "The Palestinians are abstaining from violence now because they are building up their forces for the next terrorist attack." "Palestinian cessation of hostilities is never real cessation." Then, to make sure that calm will not last, there is always an assassination on hand to bring about the next terrorist attack. Then once again innocent citizens are killed, and once again Sharon can say "we knew the cease fire was a bluff." And once again the Chief-of-Staff foresees what every kindergarten child by now anticipates: "a wave of terror is expected."

Revenge has become a way of life here, a unifying agent, the basis of the consensus, and a staple for IDF and Shin Beth* operations. The strategy is to preclude at all costs a cease fire--to insist on 7 days of quiet as a criterion for deliberations, yet to find even 70 days insufficient. When four soldiers from the Bedouin unit were killed, the IDF chose soldiers from that unit to help demolish the refugees' homes in Rafah. If that is not revenge, in the most primitive sense of the word, then what is 'revenge'? Even soldiers from the unit described it as "revenge" to a reporter from Yedioth Ahronoth. Parents of the soldiers killed likewise interpreted the demolitions as an act of retribution. And one of the bereaved parents begged the government to abstain from revenge. But Sharon's and Ben Eliezer's ears are deaf to defeatist words as those.

Were Sharon to reveal his true intentions to the public, he would not remain a week in office. It is not by chance that he refuses interviews and prefers instead to air but the briefest of statements and reactions. Were Sharon to say, "For me, the war of independence has not ended. I'll pummel the Palestinians until not one will want an independent state, until all will become docile and submissive"--were Sharon to reveal this, he would be left with a handful of fanatics who have followed him faithfully from the days of the assassinations and sanitizations in Gaza during the 70s; the rest of the public would hide from him. But Sharon is too clever to tell the truth. He knows how to work deceit on a public tired of terror, on Barak's disappointed, on young soldiers and eager officers, on unthinking patriots who can't distinguish between what is good for Sharon and what is good for Israel.

In a radio interview, a paratroop officer in the reserves says," I saw those houses with my own eyes just a month ago when I was on reserve duty in Rafah, and they were empty," insisting that we can believe him, because he is neither "left wing" nor "right wing," being instead apolitical. How much stupidity and naivety is concealed in that officer's statement and in his pride towards his fellow reservists who came when called up for their stint "without deserting their comrades"!

What does it mean "the houses were empty"? And if they were empty, does that signify that they were ownerless? Inside each, was there no television set, bed, table, clothes belonging to someone who ran away for a moment, a perpetual refugee that in a moment would return? The bits of crumbling stone that house the refugees of 1948 (which they enlarge whenever they have a little extra cash) are not, in the eyes of that apolitical paratrooper, worthy of being called homes. Did this apolitical paratrooper bother to ask himself where those who deserted the homes a minute ago, an hour ago, a week ago went to? Did they not run away from him? Could he imagine that they went to live in penthouses in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or anywhere?

But the brain-washed will challenge, "why blame this officer? He was merely carrying out his duty." Blame them indeed! Such apolitical officers--who are neither right wing nor left wing, who do not avoid call-ups to reserve duty, who are every prime minister's wet dream--enable the government to pull off anything it wants. Their pliant minds imbibe every assessment made by intelligence, every unnecessary war, every insane objective, every fart ejected by the experts and the advisors on terrorism.]

Occupation? What Occupation?

An officer as this sees no further than the military target opposite him. The overall picture is beyond his vision. "Occupation? What occupation?" the officer pleads. "Occupation is a political term, but I was called up to make sure that arms would not be smuggled from the Egyptian side of Rafah into the Palestinian side; if carrying this out demands demolishing several tens of houses, we have no choice but to do it. Pride glows in this officer for obeying the policies of his elected government and for carrying out orders of his officers, who never demand that he to do anything at odds with his conscience, for, after all, he has no opinions, as he has said, and he trusts theirs. He is certain that those on top know that it's essential to demolish several rows of houses so as to protect the post he's stationed at, and what could be more important than the post? His radio interview concludes with his inviting 'all those who talk about war crimes to spend one night at my military post to see how tough it is.'

What makes it so tough? The fact that the IDF is there to protect the settlements in the Rafah area. Instead, the government should dismantle them, every last one of them and establish a tripartite border -- Israel-Palestine-Egypt. Fewer people live in all these settlements together than do in a single neighborhood of the refugee camp. Were the State of Israel to offer the refugees those charming homes in the settlements of Rafiah-Yam, Morag, Gan-Or, B'dolach, Bnei Atsmon, and Naveh Dekalim (where numerous empty houses exist), then, possibly, Sharon could, as he wants, "broaden the corridor" till the border.

As far as demolitions are concerned, our public image is at stake. Therefore, from now on we'll demolish houses only one by one, or two by two. After all, the international community--Americans and Europeans--must see us in the right light! What Israelis see is unimportant. The Israeli public is complacent. The IDF has demolished hundreds of homes in Rafah and Khan Yunis the past months; yet not so much as one bulldozer operator has registered an objection. Our engineering corps wrecking-crew competes with the municipality of Jerusalem's bulldozers, which demolish 'illegal' homes in the Arab districts. But the houses in Jerusalem are 'illegal' in the same way that the houses in Rafah are 'empty.' Yet, who cares! Who presumes to ask 'when will we demolish the illegal homes of the settlers?' The media pictures of the demolished homes in Rafah don't affect Israelis, because most don't watch the news. They prefer instead some soap, or a quiz on a British channel, or a rerun of some old Seinefeld episode. The sole time that news draws attention is after a suicide attack.

Now let us speak about the soldiers, most of whom helped elect the commander of the Kibiya act to the office of prime minister. It is therefore senseless to feel sorry for them. Most Israelis continue dutifully to obey the compulsory enlistment act, and with patriotic zeal join the armed forces to defend the occupation. They unquestioningly accept the fact that the only reason that 2 million Palestinians live in hell is that so that 200,000 settlers can live comfortably. They know, if they have taken the trouble to find out, that the only thing that prevents us from withdrawing from the Territories is the settlements. Were it not for the settlements, we could end the occupation within a week, exactly as in Lebanon. What enables continuing the occupation is IDF soldiers serving in the military. And they help continue an occupation that has become more cruel than ever since disillusion with Oslo set in. Formerly, a civil administrator was responsible for the well-being of the occupied population.

But since Oslo, Israel acts as though the Palestinians already have a state and that Arafat--locked up in his residence in Ramallah--has taken over the responsibility for their well-being. This is precisely how Sharon's reprisal government wants us to see things, as if we have already withdrawn from the Territories. And while the contrary is true, this belief allows us to shirk off the moral responsibility towards the Palestinians to see to their livelihood, freedom of movement, medical attention; we have instead replaced our moral obligation towards them with the obligation of blockading them at every step.

Not that when we had moral responsibility towards them, we carried it out well, but at least we carried it out. Then, too, we brought water to the settlements while drying up the Palestinian population's wells and water holes, but at least we felt a sense of responsibility. Now, contrarily, the head of the civil administration, major general Dov Tsadaka, is busy handing out permits to uproot acres of olive trees, and instead of seeing to the needs of the population, he now worries about his own skin, concerned that by handing out these permits he might be accused of committing a war crime.

It is Unwise to Enlist in the Paratroopers

So what should those do who didn't vote for Sharon? First of all, they should claim to be leftists; that will increase the size of the opposition. The term 'leftist, In current Israeli political lingo, refers to anyone who with no ifs, buts, or wherefores opposes the occupation in the Territories. Differences in nuances don't count; they only prevent perceiving the distinctions between good and bad, just and unjust, allowable and prohibited, essential and unessential. Domination over the Palestinians is absolute evil, not relative evil.

Every opponent of the occupation should ask himself just how long he intends to keep on supporting it, and just how long he intends to keep on wreaking vengeance on the Palestinians for the failure of the peace negotiations with Barak. Justice is on the Palestinian side even if they rejected Barak's offers, and is on their side even if they demanded 98% of the area and were not content with 95%. We are the stronger side, the evil side, the oppressors, the settlers, we are those who deny Palestinians the right to earn a wage, freedom of movement, medical aid, food, water, land, homes, a state, life. He who without having been drugged by the propaganda movies and words has clarified in his own mind the actual situation, and is still willing to serve in an army that denies the Palestinians all that, must be molded from especially callous material.

While it is true that the State of Israel cannot survive without a strong army, so long as a state employs soldiers for evil purposes--so long as difference between a legitimate military act and an illegitimate one contract into nothing, so long as soldiers at check points decide who will give birth and who will die, so long as soldiers divide women into two lines (in an atypical occurrence, says the apologetic!) according to the soldiers' classification of them as attractive or ugly, so long as border patrol soldiers (in also supposedly atypical behavior!) wield clubs on Palestinian heads because the Palestinians failed to sing agreeably in honor of the soldiers, so long as pilots kill women and children (again atypical!) during an assassination in the middle of a populous city, so long as other soldiers (in a customary act) demolish tens of homes in refugee camps--then this situation, so unjust and immoral, obliges young men and reservists staunchly to refuse to enlist on grounds of conscience.

In a democracy every citizen is obliged to comply with the mandates of the elected government, even if one disapproves its policies. But such conformity is neither unconditional nor unrestricted. When a government time and again makes decisions that consistently cause loss of life--theirs and ours--when it assaults the very found

* Irit Shochat is a veteran Israeli journalist

Comment on these article(s)

February 2002


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"Americans Can Be A BloodThirsty Lot"
(February 4, 2002)

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