By: Abdel Rahman Abu Arafeh
It is astounding that Israeli war crimes have become so common and meet with little international response. Israeli army officials boast about such crimes as if they were heroic acts. Outside of the army, settlers take their share in the carnage. While Western countries provide the cover for Israel, the latter provides the cover to the settlers.
With such crimes occurring with impunity, the focus is on the victim whose responses are blown out of proportion as if it is part of state responsibility.
Despite claims of democracy, the Zionist notion carries racist principles that keep producing Apartheid forms. The wall is an example that separates Palestinians from Palestinians. Since October, the Central Command started a plan of action to segregate vehicles using the roads. The modern highways were to be confined to settlers. Commenting on that, the Israeli Premier’s office declared on 19th October that this is a plan that has been shelved for too long. During the meeting of the military on October 19th, 2005 it was decided to implement a plan whereby Palestinian vehicles would be banned from using Jewish settlers‘ main roads. Such actions had started with the announcement of the Oslo accords and the building of the by-pass roads to give access to the settlements. Since the eruption of the second Intifada in 2000, Palestinian vehicles have been banned from moving on 700 km. of roads in the OPT. The Apartheid wall is in line with the discriminatory road system.
Israeli protestors joining the Bil’in village protests claim that the army plant in provocative elements among them in order to justify brutal actions. In fact, the army confirmed the allegations on November 15th, 2005 by admitting that special Arab-speaking units were used at the weekly protests against the wall to hurl stones in order to justify a violent response. Military prosecutor Menahem Finkelstein managed, with the Intifada of 2000, to keep the Military Police free from prosecution in cases related to the killing of Palestinian civilians except in exceptional cases.
The most remarkable feature of state terror is the extra-judicial killings and the liquidation of Palestinian militants in a manner that contravenes all laws with no concern to the killing of innocent bystanders. The assassinations are carried out by throwing rockets from jet-fighters, sniping or shelling houses with artillary over the heads of its occupants. The policy of summary extra-judicial killings was approved by the inner cabinet on July 3rd, 2001. As a result between September 28th, 2001 and May 15th, 2004, 425 Palestinians were killed (236 in the West Bank and 189 in Gaza Strip). Of those, 278 were targeted while 40 children and 107 bystanders lost their lives for being near the scene of the killings.
On January 26th, 2005 an Israeli official announced halting “targeted killings” which is extra judicial killing. Ehud Olmert denied that there was no official policy to halt the assassinations. On December 5, 2005 the Israeli cabinet decided to resume the killing of Palestinians.
Atrocities, Incursions and Maltreatment of Palestinians
In addition to aircraft and artillery, Israel utilizes in its war against the Palestinians satellites and pilot-free spying planes. Robots, dogs and horses with special units are also there with the use of human shields to protect the soldiers.
With increasing protests to the use of human shields, the Israeli High Court issued a ruling banning such a practice. In response, the Defense Minister issued an order on October 12th, 2005 calling for an appeal against the ruling, indicating that he will personally testify in court to defend the need for human shields to protect the soldiers.
Examples for crimes against humanity and brutal policies covered up by the Israeli judicial system are abundant:
- Mahmoud Shawari (age 43), father of nine, went to work riding on his donkey in a village around Bethlehem. An army patrol detained him. He refused to abandon his donkey. The soldiers tied him to the donkey that dashed into the village causing Mahmoud serious injuries resulting in his death on November 23rd, 2005.
- Mamoun Abu Ali was also tied to the donkey with a rock placed on his back while spurring the donkey to run.
- Shuja’ Balawi (age 20), member of Al Aqsa brigades was shot and arrested alive on November 13th, 2005 following an armed confrontation. He managed to creep across the street and failed to enter a mosque that was shut down. With his bleeding leg, he tried to reach out to another house but failed to do so.
- Iman Al Hams; 13 years old from Rafah was heading to a grocery store on October 5, 2004, the soldiers on the observation post at a distance of 100 meters suspected a “suspicious object” and opened fire. She ran for a distance of 300 meters while they kept shooting at her. The soldiers chased her and emptied in her body a cartridge from an M-16 gun at a distance of two metres. The medical report indicated that her body had 20 bullets. A soldier testified in court that his commander emptied a cartridge of bullets into the body of the child from head to toes.
An eye witness soldier informed Yediot Ahronot of the issue on October 15th, 2004 that this was the most disgusting scene during his military service.
Another witness reported that as she was running, “we all opened fire and everyone claimed that it was his bullet that got her. One of the soldiers warned that the target is a 10 or 12 year-old child and should not be fired at and could be taken to a military court.” On November 25th, 2005 the officer involved in killing Iman was discharged and released.
- On December 12th, 2005 the Supreme Court convened with attorney Lea Tsemel claiming to have evidence that the soldiers posted in Grida next to Khan Younes had instructions to shoot at civilians even without following that these were blatant war crimes that can implicate those who issued the orders as well as the perpetrators (Al Quds, December 13th, 2005).
- The army devised a robot that can shoot at demonstrators against the wall in Bil’in without the presence of soldiers (Al Quds, October 22nd, 2005).
- An Israeli officer looted money while searching a house. He left driving a hummer vehicle in Hebron.
- A number of Palestinians died after being crushed under vehicles on December 10th, 2005.
- Defense Minister Mofaz ordered the army on September 6th not to have any mercy on roadblocks no matter how angry the population got.
- An Israeli ambulance vehicle carried the body of 9 year-old Aziza Fayyad to Tel Hashomer hospital. At the roadblock, the body was held as a condition to pay the hospital bill.
- Mufid Abed Rabbo, PLC member, was on his way from Ramallah to his hometown Tulkarem on November 9th, 2005. Near Izhar settlement, his car was pelted with stones by a group of settlers. He was taken to hospital suffering injuries.
- A Jerusalem resident was held with his hands tied to his back for several hours. He pleaded for some water to quench his thirst. A soldier fetched him a bottle claiming it is apple juice. It turned out to be urine. He fainted and was taken to Jerusalem’s Maqassed hospital to clean up his stomach.
- An American son of a holocaust survivor echoed the question of whether it is possible that the Israelis are so unaware to the oppression they are causing after all what he witnessed.
- The Norwegian Sur Trundilag district council decided on December 16th, 2005 to boycott all Israeli products in protest over such policies.
- London’s mayor Ken Livingstone reiterated that Israel, for decades, was implicated in war crimes and the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He added that the Palestinians have nothing but their bodies to counter the jet fighters of the occupation forces.
- As such, several international parties called for the formation of a coalition against war crimes with the participation of the Canadian Minister of Justice and the Attorney General. The purpose was to bring Ariel Sharon to trial for perpetrating war crimes since assuming office in March 2001. His policies failed to differentiate between civilians and armed people. A human tragedy was created with the restrictions of movement, destruction of the infrastructure, the Apartheid wall and shelling residential areas. The list also includes his role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacres and the planting of hundreds of thousands of settlers depriving Palestinians of their lands and resources.
A British court issued on September 12, 2005 calling for the arrest of Colonel Doron Almog for contravening the 1999 Geneva accords. The initiative was taken up by the association of Heckman Andrews that presented a file to the police with a list of violations in the name of the victims. The list included the killing of Nuha Shukri Makadme who was pregnant and murdered on March 3rd, 2005 and Abdel Rahman Madhoom on January 30th, 2001. Another 15 persons were killed and 150 wounded when a one-ton rocket targeted a residential area on July 22nd, 2002 in Gaza. Such crimes were viewed by apprehension within certain Israeli circles with the disappearance of any demarcation line between what is allowed and what is not allowed in the OPT, with the absence of the Judicial system. In a phone conversation with Tony Blair on the eve of the convening of the UN General Assembly, Sharon expressed concern that he may be arrested if he made a stop-over in London.
Israel is the sole country in the world where torture is practiced with political and legal cover with no strings attached to international conventions. The Supreme Court in 1996 allowed Israeli forces to utilize torture against Palestinians to extract confessions.
During the occupation, 166 Palestinians perished under interrogation, 67 of them in direct murder, 69 as a result of torture and 31 from medical negligence, according to the Ministry of Detainee Affairs statistics on February 28th, 2005.
To cover up for such crimes and preempt any judicial proceedings, the military judicial department issued orders to conceal all methods used during interrogation. However, there are reports revealing that more than 80 illegal methods of physical and psychological torture are applied*. An estimated 98% of the detainees are beaten up, which means that 8000 of the 8400 arrested in 2005 were subject to that. The figure, since 1967, would mean that half a million Palestinians were subject to torture.
Under the slogan of combating terror, the most basic human values are disregarded and war crimes perpetrated. Scores of affidavits were gathered by human rights organizations with detainees, including children, reporting about threats of sexual abuse to extract confessions. This is part of a systematic practice*. In fact, the Washington Post reported on June 16 that the Americans in Iraq‘s Abu Ghareeb prison are amateurs compared to the Israelis and need to learn from the latter. Torture is practiced without the use of the word making it palatable to the Israeli public with no issues of conscience.
Thousands of court cases were raised by Palestinians with claims of more than 100 million dollars. In response, the Israeli ministries of defense and justice managed to issue an amendment, with a retroactive date, claiming that, under the Intifada law no appeals are allowed against the State except in exceptional cases. This curtails the ability of Palestinians to go to court and seek compensations. Sarit Dana, the deputy legal advisor of the Israeli government, declared in a session of the Constitution Committee that residents in areas of confrontation where Israeli security forces are conducting operations are not entitled to any compensation from the Israeli government*.
Source: Democratic Formation Report, 2006. ATF