Briefing Paper November 2004

Palestine’s War of Independence

Yasser Arafat (24.8.29 – 11.11.04)

Sumud: to stay put, to cling to your own home and land by all means available

Sumud is watching your home turned into a prison. You, samid, choose to stay in that prison, because it is your home, and because you fear that if you leave, your jailer will not allow you to return. Living like this, you must constantly resist the temptation of either acquiescing in the jailer’s plan, in numb despair, or becoming crazed by consuming hatred for your jailer and yourself, the prisoner.

The Third Way

Raja Shehadeh (1982)

Scottish Friends of Palestine expresses condolences to both the family of Yasser Arafat and to his people.

Yasser Arafat was the epitome of that Palestinian quality, sumud, perseverance and steadfastness.

It is a fitting legacy that the rights of the Palestinian people, for which he fought for most of his life, must be at the heart of any move to bring peace to the troubled Middle East and the wider world.

It is a fitting legacy that the example and achievement of one person is now mirrored amongst the millions of samid who continue the struggle for freedom with a measure of justice.

The Death of Arafat and the Myth of New Beginnings

(Prof Mark Levine 16th Nov 2004)

In the weeks leading up to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s death American politicians and pundits have repeatedly called on the Palestinian people to use the opportunity of his passing to transform the intifada from a violent uprising into a non-violent, democratic and pragmatic program for achieving independence. This is very good advice, needless to say, except for one small problem: Palestinians have been trying to build such a movement for the last two decades, and the Israeli Government, IDF and American policy-makers have done everything possible to make sure it could not succeed.

One of the first exponents of Palestinian non-violence, the Palestinian-American doctor Mubarak Awad, founded the Palestinian Centre for the Study of Nonviolence in 1985. His innovative ideas and training of Palestinians in the tactics of non-violent resistance to the occupation was considered dangerous enough by Israel that it expelled him from the land of his birth in 1988. During the same period, the government supported the rise to power of militant religious groups such as Hamas as a counterweight to the PLO (which that year recognized Israel’s right to exist).

By the time the first intifada wound down in the early 1990s Jewish/Israeli-Palestinian “dialog” or “people-to-people” groups had become all the rage, most of whom had as an important goal building relationships of trust and solidarity that could help Palestinians build a viable political future. Unfortunately, while liberal Israelis were busy sharing hummus with their new Palestinian friends successive Likud and Labour governments accelerated the pace of land confiscation, settlement construction and economic closure of the Territories. This ultimately left many Palestinians to wonder if all the conversation wasn’t a ruse to keep them occupied while Israel permanently secured its hold on their lands.

But mid-way through the Oslo era hope was still in the air. In January 1996 I sat on the terrace of a friend’s house in Abu Dis as about 100 meters away Yasser Arafat cast his vote in perhaps the greatest day in the history of Palestinian nationalism: the elections for the presidency and Legislative Assembly. Unfortunately, soon after the elections the CIA and Shin Bet began what seemed like weekly meetings with the “security” officials of the Palestinian Authority. The stated reasons were always to “coordinate security;” the real reason was to make sure the new Assembly was still born because newly elected legislators promised to investigate PA corruption and push for a final settlement more in line with the desire of Palestinian society.

Needless to say, the Assembly didn’t make it. In its place, however, Hamas did quite well, precisely because it constituted perhaps the only powerful voice of dissent against the emerging status quo of corruption and continued occupation.

Since the outbreak of the “al-Aksa intifada” in September 2000 most Palestinians I know–and increasingly, their comrades in the Israeli peace movement–have exerted incredible energy trying to build grass roots non-violent movements that could somehow check the inexorable advance of the occupation and the slow death of the national dream of an independent state. The response by the Israeli military has often been brutal. Not just Palestinian activists, but foreign peace activists and even Israelis are routinely beaten, arrested, deported, or even killed by the IDF, with little fear that the Government of Israel would pay a political price for crushing non-violent resistance with violent means. In this environment, the very act of going about one’s daily life without losing all hope and “joining Hamas” (something former Prime Minister Barak admitted he would have done if he were Palestinian) has become perhaps the supreme, if unheralded, act of non-violence against the occupation. The Israeli Government is quite aware of this, which is why it does its best to make daily life as difficult as possible for Palestinians.

Not surprisingly considering this dynamic, a poll I helped direct earlier this year revealed that Hamas has now surpassed the PLO as the most popular Palestinian political movement. But what of the courageous Palestinians who still believe in non-violence, who are risking their lives working with Israeli peace activists to fulfil the fading Oslo dream of two states living side by side in peace? We could ask this question to Ahmed Awad, founder of the non-violent Committee for the Popular Struggle against the Separation Fence, which has brought Palestinian and Israeli activists together in a relatively successful campaign to redirect the separation wall away from local olive groves. In the process his group has become a model for grass-roots, non-violent struggle.

Unfortunately, we’d have to wait at least three months for an answer, as Awad has just been jailed without charge by a military court on the accusation he constituted a “threat to security.” The judge who handed down the order hoped that his detention would lead him to “turn away from th[is] bad road with its unhappy ending.” Yet its hard to see who his stated goal of “letting the world understand that there can be coexistence between us and the Jews” threatened. In the meantime, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the army has stepped up violence and aggression against protesters in order to enable the fence to proceed along its original route.

And so it goes. As the Bush Administration and America’s pundocracy search for a new generation of pragmatic and non-violent Palestinian leaders, they should be heartened to know that they won’t have to look very hard to find them. But that’s because so many are either in the hospital, jail or exile. And like Arafat shriveling away in his besieged Muqata’a (which will now be his tomb), the Palestinian peace movement will continue to wither as long as Israel is more comfortable confronting Hamas than negotiating with Ahmed Awad.

Professor Mark Levine is professor of modern Middle Eastern history at UC Irvine, author of Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine (Berkeley: University of California Press) and Why They Don’t Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil (forthcoming, Oneworld Publications,

“God Wills It!”

Uri Avnery 11.9.04

The second manifesto declares that the Halakha (Jewish religious law) commands the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians if this helps to save Jews. It is signed by the heads of the “Arrangement Yeshivot”, the West Bank settlement rabbis and other religious leaders. They were later joined by one of the two Chief Rabbis

Two shocking manifestos were published this week. Both call for comment.

One of them declares that dismantling the settlements in the Gaza Strip is a “crime against humanity”. It does not mention that they were set up on the land reserves of a million Palestinians crowded in the tiny strip, and rob them of their scarce water. Their removal, it says, is an “expression of tyranny, evil and arbitrariness”. Officers and soldiers are called upon not to take part in this “ethnic cleansing”. This manifesto is signed by the father and brother of Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as Meir Har-Zion, the favourite pupil of Ariel Sharon, who became famous in the 1950s for slitting the throats of several innocent Beduins with his own hands in revenge for the killing of his sister. Two former Directors General of the Prime Minister’s office also signed. Most of the signatories are not religious.

The second manifesto declares that the Halakha (Jewish religious law) commands the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians if this helps to save Jews. It is signed by the heads of the “Arrangement Yeshivot”, the West Bank settlement rabbis and other religious leaders. They were later joined by one of the two Chief Rabbis (the Sephardic one).I was not unduly upset by the first manifesto. People of this kind can be found all over the world. In other countries they are called fascists (but, because of the Holocaust, we do not like to use this term in our country). What unites them is a primitive, atavistic morality that says that “we” are a superior race, God’s chosen people, a master race etc., while “they” are inferior races, untermenschen. We may do to them whatever we please, with a clear conscience; they are not allowed to do to us anything at all. (In the manifesto, the settlers are requested not to bodily harm “their own people” – leaving them free to harm all others.)In the course of the 20th century, such people have wrought destruction on many nations, including their own. But healthy nations overcame them in the end. I hope that we shall manage to do the same. The second manifesto is far more dangerous. A religious doctrine that calls for the killing of civilians in the name of God is very serious. Such a decree signed by the rabbis of the “Arrangement Yeshivot” is tenfold worse. In order to understand this, one has to know that these Yeshivot are in fact military units. They constitute a unique phenomenon in the Israeli army: whole units formed on an ideological-political basis, obeying their own leaders.

When David Ben-Gurion created the Israeli army (officially called the Israel Defence Forces) in the middle of the 1948 war, he was determined to eliminate all its political groupings. So he disbanded the Palmakh, the legendary elite force which was based on the kibbutzim and tended to the left. The present set-up was created, officially, in order to enable students of Yeshivot (Jewish religious seminaries) to serve in the army without interrupting their studies. In practice, they constitute a militia of the extreme-right wing, especially the settlers. While serving in the army, the Yeshiva students are nominally under the army chain of command, but in practice they are also subject to their rabbis, whose position is reminiscent of the political commissars of the Red Army. If the orders of the officers and the directives of the rabbis ever conflict, the great majority of the soldier-students will undoubtedly obey the rabbis. And in any case, a great number of the officers themselves now wear kippas, attesting to their belonging to the religious camp .The chiefs of the religious-nationalistic wing, and especially the settlers, have for years now been engaged in a systematic effort to capture the army from the inside. In the first decades of the IDF, kibbutz members had a decisive influence on the army command, but nowadays the settlers and other religious-nationalist people are taking over. They fill the lower and middle ranks of the officer corps. This development, together with the deepening occupation, has completely changed the face of the IDF. It’s a different army now.

The manifesto of the Yeshivot chiefs, calling for the killing of Palestinian civilians, exposes this situation. Since not one single head of an Arrangement Yeshiva has spoken out against it, we have to assume that they are unanimous on this. On the face of it, it is just an expert opinion. With the hypocrisy typical for the chiefs of this camp, they say that this is not, God forbid, an operational directive, but only an innocent effort of the rabbis to explain to the leaders of the nation what the Halakha says about this subject. That is, of course, a tongue-in-cheek explanation. The Arrangement Yeshivot soldiers are daily engaged in situations where they have to decide whether to shoot civilians or not. It is quite clear that the “opinion” of their rabbis will determine their behaviour. It is a sentence of death for many people. Even today, Palestinian civilians are killed every day. Only a small fraction of the incidents are reported in the media. An old handicapped man was recently buried under the ruins of his home by an army bulldozer that demolished it so quickly that his family had no chance of getting him to safety. Only yesterday a 9 year old boy was killed while sleeping at his home by shrapnel from a missile fired by a helicopter at an adjacent building. Almost every day, boys of all ages are killed while throwing stones at tanks and soldiers (whose bullet-proof vests and helmets mean they are in no danger). It is impossible to know how many, if any, of these civilians – men, women, old people and children – are killed by Arrangement, Yeshivot soldiers, or soldiers commanded by kippa-wearing officers.

Nobody can be accused without incriminating evidence. But it is clear that the interpretation of the halakha by the rabbis has now put a kosher-stamp on such acts. It puts an end to any pretence of the “pure arms” myth. It negates not only the prohibition of murder, but also the shame for such acts. The only religious voice raised against this appalling document was that of a small and courageous group called “Rabbis for Human Rights”, which opposes the dirty messianic current that has submerged almost the whole religious camp in Israel. Their statement discloses that the Yeshiva heads have intentionally falsified the Talmud passages “quoted” by them. The actual text forbids a Jew to kill innocents even to save his own life. After all, God created all human beings “in his own image” (Genesis 1, 27)

Unfortunately, this statement will have no impact whatsoever on the IDF’s religious militias, and even less on the settlers, who now set the tone in the army. Many of the most heinous crimes in human history were committed in the name of religion. The Book of Joshua says that God commanded the Children of Israel to commit a general ethnic cleansing in the land of Canaan. The crusaders carried out horrible massacres in this country (and against the Jews on the way here) while shouting “Deus le volt!” (God wills it). Three years ago today, Osama Bin-Laden sent his people to kill thousands in the New York Twin Towers in the name of Allah. May God protect us from those who would speak in His name.

Israel’s once sophisticated citizenry has been desensitized by the long occupation to such a degree that they take the state terrorism conducted by their own government for granted, fail to understand why the world is worried about their nuclear programme and accept their leaders’ indifference to peace with Syria without qualm. They would rather face the daily terror promised by Dichter [Avi Dichter, head of internal intelligence service] than do anything positive about settling their disputes with their millions of Arab neighbours.

Peace, and the inevitable price of peace, is more frightening than bombs,it seems.

Haim Baram Middle East International 24/08/04

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights a brief extract

On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – 15 September 2004

24 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 6 children, were killed by Israeli troops 7 of the victims were extra-judicially executed by Israeli troops Israeli forces conducted a series of incursions into Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip 43 houses were destroyed and dozens of donums of agricultural land were razed in the northern

Gaza Strip 3 houses were destroyed in Rafah and 7 houses were destroyed and 20 donums of agricultural land were razed in al-Mughraqa village 2 houses were destroyed the West Bank in the context of retaliatory measures against families of Palestinian activists. Construction of the “Annexation wall” in the West Bank has continued Israeli troops have continued to impose a total siege on the oPt and Israeli troops arrested a number of Palestinian civilians while crossing military checkpoints Introduction

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have perpetrated more human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt). This week was the bloodiest week in the last two months, as 24 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 6 children, were killed and dozens of other civilians were injured by Israeli troops. Human rights violations perpetrated by IOF included willful and extra-judicial executions, incursions into Palestinian areas, indiscriminate shelling, house demolitions and land raising. Israeli troops have also continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians. In addition, they West Bank, in violation of international humanitarian law and international Human Rights law.

In the Gaza Strip, 10 Palestinians, 8 of whom were civilians, including 3 children, were killed by Israeli troops. Eight of the victims were killed during an Israeli offensive on the northern Gaza Strip from 9 to 11 September 2004. The other two victims died from previous injuries they had sustained by Israeli troops in Gaza City and Rafah. During their offensive on the northern Gaza Strip, Israeli troops destroyed 43 houses and razed at least 90 donums of agricultural land. They also largely destroyed the civilian infrastructure of the area. On 14 and 15 September 2004, Israeli troops conducted 5 military incursions into Palestinian areas in the Gaza Strip. During these incursions, Israeli troops destroyed 10 houses, leaving 259 Palestinian civilians (71 families) homeless, and razed 20 donums of agricultural land.

In the West Bank, this week, Israeli troops killed 14 Palestinians, 8 of whom were civilians, including 3 children. One of the children was run down by an Israeli military jeep on 9 September 2004. Seven of the victims, including a child, were killed in two extra-judicial executions committed by Israeli troops in Jenin on 13 and 15 September 2004. On 15 September 2004, Israeli troops killed 5 Palestinians, after having surrounded them in a garden in Nablus. A child was also killed as Israeli troops continued to fire at the area after the operation had ended. In addition, Israeli troops arrested dozens of Palestinian civilians through-out the West Bank. Israeli troops also destroyed 2 houses in the context of retaliatory measures against families of Palestinian activists.

Israeli occupation troops have continued to construct the annexation wall inside the West Bank territory. This week, this construction took place mainly in East Jerusalem and Hebron. This week, Israeli troops continued to raze areas of Palestinian land to construct sections of the wall in Hebron. IOF have continued to impose a tightened siege on the oPts and have imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem. On 9 September 2004, Israeli troops imposed a total closure on the oPts. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops have continued to close Erez crossing for the third consecutive week, and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians. In the West Bank, Israeli troops have continued to a strict siege on Palestinian communities. They have also imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians and arrested some of them while crossing military checkpoints. Israeli troops also imposed a curfew on a number of Palestinian communities.

Palestinian official failure, Arab abandonment and the murder of some 10 people per day as part of an open-ended massacre that has no purpose other than systematic annihilation and destruction have resulted in power falling by the wayside. but this time no organised party came forward to claim it. . . . Rather, it fell but no political player showed an interest in it, so it was picked up by the people of the refugee camps and crowded neighbourhoods. They formed a resistance government, a government of Beit Lahiya, Jabaliya, Rafah and elsewhere, whose only programme and agenda is to reject the death that comes in the form of an officer’s gun fire into a child’s body, or a sniper’s. The government of Beit Lahiya and Jabaliya is leading the resistance now, via cations that range from pure heroism to mundane attachment to life in any form. It is a government that neither requires politicking nor waits appointment. It is an expression of very basic concerns, as basic as freedom, liberty and life.

A Nation? What Nation? The right to Israelihood

Uri Avnery (25/9/04)

It sounds like a joke, but it is quite serious. The government of Israel does not recognize the Israeli nation. It says that there is no such thing. Could you imagine the French government denying the existence of the French Nation? Or the government of the United States of America not recognizing the (US) American nation? But then, Israel is the land of unlimited possibilities. Every person in Israel is recorded in the Interior Ministry’s “registry of inhabitants”. The registration includes the item “nation”. This entry also appears on the Identity Card that every person in Israel is legally obliged to carry with them at all times or risk criminal prosecution.

The Interior Ministry lists 140 recognized nations which its officers can register. This includes not only established nations (“Russian”, “German”, French” etc.) but also “Christian”, “Muslim”, “Druze” and more. The “nation” of an Arab citizen of Israel, for example, may be recorded as “Arab”, “Christian” or “Catholic” (but not “Palestinian” – the Interior Ministry is not yet aware of the existence of such a nation.) Most Israeli inhabitants carry, of course, identity cards saying “Nation: Jewish”. This has now become a subject of debate. A group of 38 Israelis have asked for the cancellation of their registration as “Jewish” and its replacement with “Israeli”. The Interior Ministry refuses, saying that no such nation appears on its list. The group has petitioned the High Court of Justice to instruct the ministry to register them as belonging to the “Israeli” nation. This week, the case came before the court.

The Supreme Court (sitting as the High Court of Justice) handled the case like a hot potato. (Even though Justice Mishal Heshin was delighted to find in the ministry’s list the “Assyrian” nation – actually a small religious community, a remnant of antiquity which still speaks an Aramaic

Why does the Israeli government refuse to recognize the Israeli nation? According to the official doctrine, there exists a “Jewish” nation, and the state belongs to it. After all, it is a “Jewish State”, or, in the words of one of the laws, “the state of the Jewish people”. According to the same doctrine, it is also a democratic state, and all its citizens are supposed to be equal, irrespective of their national affinity. But basically the state is “Jewish”.According to this doctrine, Jewry is both a nation and a religion. In the first years of Israel, it was still the rule that if a person declared, bona fide , that he is a Jew, he was registered as such. But when the religious camp attained more power, the law was amended and from then on a person was registered as a Jew only if his mother was Jewish or he had converted to the Jewish faith and not adopted another religion. This is, of course, a purely religious definition (according to Jewish religious law, a person is Jewish if his mother is. The father is irrelevant in this context.)

This situation has created another problem. In Israel, the orthodox rabbinate enjoys a monopoly on Jewish religious affairs. Two other Jewish religious factions that are very important in the United States, Conservative and Reform, are discriminated against in Israel and conversions conducted by them are not recognized by the government. Some years ago, the High Court decided that persons converted to Judaism in Israel by these two communities must also be registered under “Nation: Jewish”. Whereupon the Interior Minister at that time, a religious politician, peremptorily decreed that all future identity cards will show, under the item “nation”, only five stars. But in the

Ministry’s “registry of inhabitants”, it still says “Nation: Jewish”.The roots of the confusion go back to the beginnings of the Zionist movement. Until then, Jews throughout the world were a religious-ethnic community. This was abnormal in contemporary Europe, but quite normal 2000 years ago, when such communities – Hellenic, Jewish, Christian and many more – were the norm. Each was autonomous in the Byzantine Empire and had its own laws and jurisdiction. A Jewish man in Alexandria could a Jewish woman in Antioch, but not his Christian neighbor. The Ottoman empire continued this tradition, calling the communities millets (from an Arabic word for nation).But when the modern national movements arose in Europe, and it appeared that the Jews had no place in them, the founders of the Zionist movement decided that the Jews should constitute themselves as an independent nation and create a national state of their own. The religious-ethnic community was simply redefined as a nation, and thus a nation came into being that was also a religion, and a religion that was also a nation.

That was, of course, a fiction, but a necessary one for Zionism, which claimed Palestine for the Jewish “nation”. In order to conduct a national struggle, there must be a nation.However, two generations later, the fiction became reality. In Palestine, a real nation, with a national reality and a national culture developed. Members of this nation considered themselves Jews, but Jews who are different in many respects from the other Jews in the world. Before the creation of the State of Israel, and without a conscious decision being made, in everyday Hebrew parlance a distinction was made between “Hebrew” and “Jewish”. One spoke of the “Hebrew Yishuv” (the new society in Palestine) and “Jewish religion”, “Hebrew” agriculture and “Jewish tradition”, “Hebrew” worker” and “Jewish diaspora”, “Hebrew underground” and “Jewish” Holocaust.

Israelis themselves, moreover, find it easier to accept their leaders’ claim that the commander of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin, Zakariya Zubaydi, is funded by Hizbullah than to cope with the man’s life story. This latter would require them to confront what happened to Zubaydi from the time he took part, as a boy, in a theatre group established by the Israeli peace activist Arna Mar in Jenin Refugee Camp: most of the children who took part in the group, a story commemorated in the film Arna’s Children, were killed, in one way or another, in adolescence.

These events played a role in his becoming the commander of the killing unit, and Israelis might have to ask themselves what responsibility their country bears for the course of his life. Such a perspective would also have to take on board the fact that Zubaydi’s mother was killed on the porch of her own house and that his brother, other relatives and most of his childhood friends were killed or arrested. It is much easier to simply claim that Hizbullah is funding him. . .

We don’t need expert security assessments, though, to reveal the simple truth: the roots of this terrorism are to be found in the Territories, nowhere else. The main motivation for the war against us is to shake off the brutal yoke of occupation. The checkpoints, humiliations, oppression and mass imprisonment constitute the true infrastructure of terrorism. All the rest are merely props.

Palestinian terrorism was not born in some external command post. It came into existence amidst the rubble in the Territories, in the hearts of the children who saw their parents humiliated and their lives trampled underfoot. Anyone who truly wants to put an end to terrorism must fight the occupation. Any other war is pointless.

Ignoring Reality

Gideon Levy (Ha’aretz 5 Sept. 2004) (extract)

Israeli officer: I was right to shoot 13-year-old child Chris McGreal The Guardian (24/11/04)

An Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old. The officer, identified by the army only as Captain R, was charged this week with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other relatively minor infractions after emptying all 10 bullets from his gun’s magazine into Iman al-Hams when she walked into a “security area” on the edge of Rafah refugee camp last month.

A tape recording of radio exchanges between soldiers involved in the incident, played on Israeli television, contradicts the army’s account of the events and appears to show that the captain shot the girl in cold blood. The official account claimed that Iman was shot as she walked towards an army post with her schoolbag because soldiers feared she was carrying a bomb. But the tape recording of the radio conversation between soldiers at the scene reveals that, from the beginning, she was identified as a child and at no point was a bomb spoken about nor was she described as a threat.

Iman was also at least 100 yards from any soldier.

Instead, the tape shows that the soldiers swiftly identified her as a “girl of about 10” who was “scared to death”. The tape also reveals that the soldiers said Iman was headed eastwards, away from the army post and back into the refugee camp, when she was shot. At that point, Captain R took the unusual decision to leave the post in pursuit of the girl. He shot her dead and then “confirmed the kill” by emptying his magazine into her body. The tape recording is of a three-way conversation between the army watchtower, the army post’s operations room and the captain, who was a company commander.

The soldier in the watchtower radioed his colleagues after he saw Iman: “It’s a little girl. She’s running defensively eastward.” Operations room: “Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?” Watchtower: “A girl of about 10, she’s behind the embankment, scared to death.” A few minutes later, Iman is shot in the leg from one of the army posts. The watchtower: “I think that one of the positions took her out.” The company commander then moves in as Iman lies wounded and helpless. Captain R: “I and another soldier … are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill … Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her … I also confirmed the kill. Over.”

“Anything moving in the zone, even a three-year-old, needs to be killed”

Witnesses described how the captain shot Iman twice in the head, walked away, turned back and fired a stream of bullets into her body. Doctors at Rafah’s hospital said she had been shot at least 17 times. On the tape, the company commander then “clarifies” why he killed Iman: “This is commander. Anything that’s mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over.”

The army’s original account of the killing said that the soldiers only identified Iman as a child after she was first shot. But the tape shows that they were aware just how young the small, slight girl was before any shots were fired. The case came to light after soldiers under the command of Captain R went to an Israeli newspaper to accuse the army of covering up the circumstances of the killing. A subsequent investigation by the officer responsible for the Gaza strip, Major General Dan Harel, concluded that the captain had “not acted unethically”. However, the military police launched an investigation, which resulted in charges against the unit commander. Iman’s parents have accused the army of whitewashing the affair by filing minor charges against Captain R. They want him prosecuted for murder.

Protection for the Palestinian refugees does not require a single new UN resolution. Neither does it require the signing of new human rights conventions or reform of international law. There are ample provisions in the various bodies of law to protect civilian lives and cultural property. all that is required is the moral courage and political will by the community of nations to uphold the rule of law. Return Review October 2004

Twilight Zone / The meter is running

Gideon Levy Ha’aretz 15/10/04

The cab driver who innocently drove his passengers home; the young husband who returned with his pregnant wife from a visit to his parents; the mentally ill man who liked to watch cement trucks unloading; the metalworker and the car dealer who met in a garage; the brother of a wanted man. The Israel Defence Forces killed all of them in Jenin in recent weeks, although they had done nothing wrong. One of the victims even lay bleeding, and the IDF undercover fighter (disguised as a Palestinian civilian) shot a round into his head – just for good measure. One victim lay dying for 40 minutes on the road until the soldiers allowed an ambulance to approach.

Yasser and Arafat sit idly in their dimly lit garage. Yasser jumps up from his place when we arrive and flees into the street. The Hebrew sign still proclaims “Electricity and air conditioners,” a reminder of the days when Israelis came here to get their cars fixed and the bodywork garage did electrical and air-conditioning repairs. Arafat al-Saad is the owner of the garage, Yasser Nazal is his metalworker, and they are both survivors of the IDF operation that involved spraying their garage indiscriminately, killing the wanted man Fadi Zakarneh and, also on this festive occasion, killing his brother Fawaz as well as Ibrahim Abu Saleh and Mo’ath Qutait, passers-by who chanced to enter this hell.

It was the eve of Rosh Hashanah, September 15. Mo’ath and Ibrahim came from their village, Saris, to see if they could arrange some small car deal. Mo’ath, who used to work in Tel Aviv, got married recently. Ibrahim came every morning to look for business. Yasser and Arafat arrived at the garage as usual, to see if maybe today a car would come for repairs. Lately there has barely been one car a week.

Fawaz was working in his spare-parts shop next to the garage, and Fadi, the wanted man, came in to have his brother check out a used car. It ended badly for all of them. Yasser and Arafat were working on a Volkswagen Transporter when suddenly they heard shots from the street. Yasser went out to see what was happening, but Ibrahim burst inside running, pushed Yasser back, and lay down on the floor of the garage. Ibrahim was already injured in his back. Yasser and Arafat lay behind the Transporter, and Arafat whispered to Yasser, who knows Hebrew: Tell them we have identity cards. Ibrahim silenced him.

From under the car they saw only the feet of the undercover soldier, dressed in dark jeans, running into the garage after Ibrahim. Outside two vans were parked, plus the ATVs of the undercover unit. Yasser and Arafat saw the soldier kick the injured Ibrahim, and when he discovered that Ibrahim was alive, he emptied a round into his head. Outside they heard the soldier’s friend shouting: Kill everyone inside. But the soldier left quickly, before he noticed the others.

The whole thing took minutes. When Yasser and Arafat went out into the street they saw the bodies of the two brothers, Fadi and Fawaz, lying in the sand. Fadi had a pistol. He had belonged to the Islamic Jihad. His brother, everyone says, wasn’t involved in the fighting in the intifada. The body of the car dealer, Mo’ath, was also lying in the sand. Ibrahim was dead in the garage. Abu al-Abed, Fawaz’s partner in the spare-parts business, was wounded and taken by the soldiers to Haemek Hospital in Afula.

A poverty-stricken home in Wadi Azzaddin in the city. Fakhri Zakarneh, a skinny kebab seller, the father of the two dead brothers, Fadi and Fawaz – who sells his wares every evening from a cart that he positions next to the city’s large mosque – saw the bodies of his two sons lying alongside each other, their heads touching. Fawaz was 29. Fadi was 24. Up until four months ago, Fadi used to help his father with the kebab cart, until he became a wanted man and stopped coming. They never searched for Fadi at home; he would sleep during the day and then go hide at night. Fawaz was arrested a few months ago and released. Innocent.

September 15, Fadi came home to eat breakfast. Afterward he said that he was going to the campus of the Open University to replace the guard, his friend, whose wife was sick. A short time later, Fawaz called home and asked about Fadi. He told his father that there were undercover soldiers near his spare-parts shop and that Fadi shouldn’t come near. Suddenly shots came from the direction of the garages near Fakhri’s home.

It turned out that after the visit to the university, Fadi had driven to his brother to have him check out a used car. He left his Kalashnikov in his car and went for a test drive. Fawaz was killed first and Fadi afterward. Their father arrived 10 minutes later and saw the bodies. Fawaz’s was sprayed with bullets. He had two children at home, aged 2 and 4. Fadi’s body was riddled with bullets, too. They were buried together in one grave.

The checkpoint at the entrance to Jenin. Nesarin and Mohammed Jalabush are wearing festive clothes, and their little daughter Adil is on her mother’s shoulders. The mother, Nesarin, is crying. They have a typed and signed entry permit to Israel for today, and yet the soldiers didn’t let them pass. The closure of the territories for the Jewish holidays is not over, although the holidays are. Adil has an appointment for an operation on her harelip the next day in the Anglican Hospital in Nazareth. They had prepared a bag with clothes and were all excited. Now they’re going home in shame and despair.

A wealthy home in the city, the home of the Shalabis. We were here about two years ago, when their son Ahmed was released from prison. Now he’s in prison again. In recent months he had been a wanted man. Ahmed’s sister, Nur, in her ninth month of pregnancy, enters the room: She has bruises on her face and she’s limping. Newly married, and now newly widowed.

On September 29, after two days of curfew, Nur had come here with her husband to visit her parents for lunch. For Rateb Abu Taleb, 51, this was a second marriage. He spent most of his life in Saudi Arabia, and nine months ago he came here to marry Nur, a 25-year-old divorcee with two children from her first marriage.

At 12:50 P.M. the couple left the house and entered a waiting cab. The driver, Mohammed Bitar, 25, was a family friend. They drove to the square and then, at the exit from the city, turned in the direction of the Jalama checkpoint onto a road that was recently repaved after being damaged by tanks. They suddenly heard shots. The driver sustained head injuries and fell onto Nur’s knees. “I want to die,” were his last words. The cab went around in circles, driverless, until it stopped and Nur’s body became totally bruised.

“Did anything happen to you?” Rateb asked his wife. “I’ve been injured in my face and my leg.” A shell that had penetrated the taxi hit Nur’s leg. “What happened to you?” “I’m fine, I was only hit in the chin.”

The shots continued, but they didn’t see from where. The husband told his wife to hide under the seat. When the firing died down, Rateb opened the door of the taxi, got out, lifted his shirt, put his hands in the air and turned toward the soldiers whom he had noticed only then, because they had been hiding behind a fence. He called to them in Arabic: “Only my wife and I are in the taxi.” Two bullets were fired into his body. The horrified Nur tried to get out, but the soldiers ordered her to exit from another door. Then they ordered her to throw out the bag in her hand, and helped her to reach a nearby furniture store. She heard her husband calling her: “Nur, Nur.”

Nur wanted to approach her husband and the soldiers prevented her from doing so. He lay on the road for 40 minutes, and the soldiers prevented the Palestinian ambulance that had arrived meanwhile from approaching and providing assistance. In vain she kissed the hands of the soldiers, pleading for her husband’s life. They told her not to worry, that they would take care of him. Then they returned her bag, making sure that there was nothing missing from it, and went over the list of phone numbers on her cell phone. They were interested in the number of her brother Ahmed; she said that she had no idea where he was. “Captain Jamal” from the Shin Bet security services conducted the intelligence operation.

Rateb died meanwhile. Ahmed was arrested a week later at home. When the soldiers surrounded the house at night, he wanted to try to escape, but his father, Ribhi, prevented him from doing so. “I want to tell you something,” says Ribhi now. “Until September 29 I didn’t know that Ahmed was wanted. They never came to the house to look for him. He slept at home every night. He never came armed. Go tell a father that his son is wanted.” His other son was killed two years ago when he was bringing food on Ramadan to the policemen at the Palestinian checkpoint in Jalama. At the time, the IDF fired a tank shell at the group and killed five people. The baby that will soon be born will be named Rateb. Born an orphan.

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