bother with low-intensity warfare anymore. It goes straight for the jugular.
Day after day they�ve pounded away at the Palestinian areas barely pausing long
enough to assemble the lies needed to fend off the media.
extraordinary. One day they blow up a family peacefully touring in their new
car; killing three generations with one mighty blast, and then a few days later
they wipe out seven members of another family by shelling a beach in Gaza. Both
incidents would have passed unnoticed if someone hadn�t kept the video running.
Now the world has a visual account of a traumatized 12-year-old girl running
around hysterically while the limp bodies of her parents are carted off to the
Minister Ehud Olmert�s response to the tragedy was predictably unsympathetic:
�The IDF is the most moral military in the world. There has never been, and
there isn�t now, a policy of attacking civilians.�
Nonsense. The IDF
is no more �moral� than any other �organized killing-machine�; they simply
reflect the prevailing ethos of the Israeli leadership, a leadership steeped in
arrogance and racism. If we look at the recent American massacre in Iraq, we
see that there�s a straight line between the �execution-style� killing of women
and children in Haditha and the Bush administration�s promiscuous attitude
towards torture and cruelty. The same rule applies to the IDF. A fish rots from
the head. The culture of impunity begins at the leadership level, not with a
few �bad apples.�
This explains why
Israel has refused to stop its attacks even though civilians keep getting
killed. In fact, the day after the incident on the beach, Israel fired another
three rockets into Gaza which killed 9 more Palestinians including three
children and two medics. The policy hasn�t changed a lick. The only difference
is that the Gaza massacre has become such a political hot-potato that it�s been
handed over to an Israeli public relations team.
According to the
Jerusalem Post, �The Israeli Foreign Ministry has launched an information
campaign to change the minds of the world that has already blamed Israel . . . Israel�s
message is simple: The Palestinians are responsible.�
Israel is invoking
the familiar �blame the victim� strategy. Fortunately, forensic evidence has
already proved that the shrapnel came from a �155 millimeter howitzer shell
from a land-based Israeli firing device.� On top of that, the last surviving
member of the family, 12-year-old Huda Ghalia, has provided a vivid account of
the Israeli shelling of the beach.
�We were sitting
and all of a sudden the shells just started falling on our heads,� she said.
There�s no doubt
that Israel is responsible. The PR blitz is pure sham.
coverage of the bloodbath in Gaza on Arab TV has refocused attention on
Israel�s practice of targeted assassinations. The broader question is whether
the strategy implicitly justifies the killing of innocent civilians as well?
Here�s a statement
by the Foreign Ministry which articulates Israel�s position on the issue:
�Israel does not target innocents, yet must fight terrorists who willingly
shield themselves behind their own population in their ongoing campaign to kill
and maim Israeli civilians.�
statement is somewhat misleading, but it clearly puts the fight against
terrorism above the well-being of civilians. It suggests that Israel has the
right to kill �terror suspects� whether innocent people are put at risk or not.
This is a radical idea and a real departure from long-held precedents regarding
public safety and the right to life.
So, what is the
legal argument for targeted assassinations?
officials are required to comply with the law and, yet, targeted assassinations
are clearly �extrajudicial.� The state never has the authority to intentionally
kill someone without charging them with a crime. State sponsored assassinations
deprive the victim of all due process making it impossible for him to defend
himself against completely arbitrary allegations. In Israel�s case, the
decision for these summary executions is placed in the hands of unreliable
militarists, like Sharon, who have a long pedigree of lying and war crimes.
Can these people
really be trusted to mete out the death sentences on suspicion alone?
assassination is premeditated slaughter; it has no place in civilized
societies. There�s no link between justice and murder; the two are polar
assassination is a central part of Israeli policy and, as a result, incidents
like the one on the beach in Gaza are occurring with greater frequency. Whether
the �collateral damage� is intentional or not makes no difference. The question
is whether Israel knows that civilians will �predictably� be killed in their
We assume that they
do know. We assume that Israel knows that from 2001, 552 Palestinians were
killed in Israeli assassinations, and that 181 of those were people who just
happened to be in the vicinity or tried to help the victims when other missiles
were fired. These figures prove that Israel knows exactly what the consequences
of its policy are, but goes ahead anyway. Therefore, we can say with certainty
that the killing of innocent people is a elementary part of Israel�s
calculation; whether it is intentional or not, makes no difference.
In Nigel Parry�s
�Does Israel have a Policy of Killing Palestinian Civilians?� the author digs
into the larger issues surrounding targeted assassinations.
�After you see
someone kill a child, you perceive humans very differently after that. We like
to assume that when such a completely inexcusable event takes place that the
deaths happened by some kind of 'accident' or 'error.'
perhaps Israel�s most successful lie at the onset of the Second Intifada, and
no amount of statistics showing otherwise really seemed to penetrate our
consciousness and make a difference.
"It made no
difference because inside we desperately want to believe that the murderers and
serial killers of this world are aberrations, rare, that they are sick or
somehow different. This conclusion is not possible when you witness a common,
recurring pattern with your own eyes, across an entire army. At some point
something gives way inside, and your fantasies about basic human decency
crumble.� (Electronic Intifada)
Parry draws from
his years of first-hand experience living in the occupied territories and
witnessing the violent reaction of the IOF to Palestinians protests. In the
many cases when he saw young Palestinians shot dead by Israeli soldiers, he
never remembers an incident when any of the soldiers were in a life-threatening
�Out of nowhere, when the energy of the clashes seemed to be dissipating, a
soldier would suddenly shoot a child or teenager, 100 feet away from them or
more. . . .
"Let me be
clear. The events I am describing, in the clashes where people died, were not
the exception. They were the rule. And not one soldier was ever punished.�
is revealing on many levels. The violence against Palestinians is oftentimes
gratuitous, vicious, and steeped in racism. No one was punished in the
confrontations he witnessed, and no one will be held accountable for the deaths
of seven family members on the beach in Gaza. It is all part of a culture of
impunity that has saturated the Israeli leadership and trickled down to the
soldiers in the field.
Israel will not
change its lethal policy until its leaders are forced to conform to
internationally accepted standards of justice. Targeted assassination is never
acceptable. It violates the most fundamental of human rights; the right to
life. No amount of public relations wizardry can justify firing missiles into
crowded areas or excuse the random killing of civilians. Everyone deserves
protection from disasters like the tragedy in Gaza, where an entire family was
snuffed out by an errant mortar-round. If the law had been followed, young
Huda�s life would not have been ruined.
The law is our only
refuge from the terror of the state. We should make sure our leaders comply.
Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.