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Once again, Israeli forces have used inappropriate, potentially lethal force against demonstrators. IDF troops opened fire with live ammunition on demonstrators near the Palestinian village of Maasha, who were protesting the erection of the security barrier and who had begun cutting the fence, injuring two. Gil Na'amati, an Israeli from Kibbutz Re'im in the Negev, was seriously injured, and an American tourist was lightly hurt.
Even worse than the injuries, is the revelation that the IDF and the Israel government have learned absolutely nothing about human rights, civil protest and the role of the military and police. Even worse than that, is the revelation that it is taken for granted that while Israeli citizens might have some rights, Palestinians do not, and therefore it is a legitimate defense to claim that the soldiers mistook Na'amati for a Palestinian.
When the Intifada broke out in September 2000, the Israeli Police shot and killed 12 Israeli demonstrators. They happened to be Arabs. The shooting was not an isolated incident, since there had been ugly police actions on Land day previously. At the Orr commission hearings, it became apparent that police and military have virtually no non-lethal means of dealing with civil disturbances, and not much training in doing it. Minister of Internal Security Shlomo Ben-Ami testified at the Orr commission hearings that he was "not aware" that police did not have any way of stopping riots short of shooting people. If this had not been obvious in the land day disturbances, surely it was obvious after the events of October 2000, yet apparently, nothing has been done to change the situation, or the attitude that allows shooting of citizens engaged in non-life threatening protest.
In its report, the Orr commission investigation of the shootings by Israeli police unequivocally condemned the use of live fire and rubber bullets for dispersing demonstrators.
"It is important to point out unequivocally that the use of live fire, including (fire) by snipers, is not a means of dispersing large crowds by police," the panel said.
It has happened again, as though the Orr commission never met, and as though the Israeli army was the Army of the Tsar Nicholas, charged with defending the Tsar, rather than the citizens. But in fact, it happened for a different reason. If the Orr commission pointed out that citizens have rights, even if they are not settlers or even Jewish, they left open the question of whether or not Palestinians and other non-citizens have any rights.
The IDF communique regarding this incident states:
An initial inquiry indicates that several rioters began cutting and climbing on to the fence.
IDF forces called to the rioters to stop their actions, and fired warning shots to distance them from the security fence. When they did not comply, IDF forces fired at the legs of a man wearing a head scarf who lead therioters.
The above-mentioned individual is an Israeli citizen who sustained injuries to the lower torso.
IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said, "Ya'alon said the protesters had only themselves to blame. "They masqueraded as Arabs, mingled with Palestinians and entered the...Palestinian side of the fence (area) illegally," he told Israel
From the above, we can establish that in any case, there was no life threatening situation for the soldiers, and no justification for firing on the people in question at all. It is significant that the communique states that the man was wearing a "head scarf," especially since Ya'alon noted, "they masqueraded as Arabs. Very probably, Na'amati was wearing a kaffiyeh, an Arabic headdress. The defense of the soldiers will be that they did what they always do - shoot at Palestinians who are "making trouble" regardless of whether it is life threatening or not. In this case, they will claim, they had no way of knowing that the man was an Israeli citizen and therefore had rights as a human being. It is not true. Photographers at the scene called out to the soldiers that they were shooting Israeli citizens, but they didn't stop shooting. But the IDF will argue otherwise. For all they knew, they will say, he was only a Palestinian or an outsider like Rachel Corrie, who was run over by a bulldozer. The notion that this sort of argument will be accepted as a defense, or even proposed, is monstrous in itself. They will say that they did what they always did to non-people - they shot at his legs, and because of the usual terrible aim of the IDF, which is renowned as a bad army with soldiers who cannot aim, they hit his lower torso. He was lucky the soldiers didn't shoot in the air. When they shoot in the air, they usually hit people in the head.
The lesson to be learned for demonstrators is clear. If you want to stay alive, come dressed in a knit kippah so they will think you are a settler, or better, come in a long black coat, beard and earlocks, so the IDF will think you are an ultra-orthodox religious fanatic. Those categories of people are never shot at.
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Replies: 6 comments
I am sorry too. I am sorry that inside the Israeli "peace camp" there are people who got too much of the suicide bombers' propaganda into their heads, and went on a suicide mission near the barrier. We should thank God, or our luck, that nobody was actually killed in the event.
Apparently, in any political camp there are those who think anything goes. Just put yourself in the soldier's shoes. Do you think he was so happy and eager to shoot the protesters? What would you have done?
As for the protesters' cause, just recall that already in the 1980s people in the Labor Party spoke about the need of separation (I think a prominent one was Gen. (res.) Avigdor Ben-Gal). One may argue that this plan is no longer relevant, but there is a long way between that and presenting the barrier as some sort of a war crime, which is what the World attempts at, and apparently also the protesters. I cannot see their justified cause or their justified means, and I conclude that they should be treated as a potential threat. There may be situations where they are considered "armed and dangerous", and it is not unlikely that the unfortunate shooting event was one of them.
Posted by Ofri @ 12/29/2003 06:34 PM CST
Don a mask and conceal your identity; parade around with the ISM, a known pro-"Palestinian" pacifascist organization; seek to destroy what the elected gov't of the day has all authority to create; cry when the real world comes crashing in.
They shoot *people* who feel their personal politics trump the elected voice of the nation. They shoot people who *dare* to be shot.
Did not Arafat call for a million martyrs for Jerusalem? It seems the IDF may have finally accepted those terms but this time aimed too low, for "peace".
They shoot traitors don't they?
Posted by wharold @ 12/30/2003 01:38 AM CST
The demonstrators were unarmed. Does the existence of suicide bombers mean that cutting open a security fence is now a trespass warranting a response with live fire?
Maybe it does. But if it does, something has changed. Even fools and offenders deserve to live, most of the time. There's got to be some non-lethal or less-lethal middle ground. Whatever happened to tear gas? Rubber bullets, even? Did they go out of fashion?
Posted by Josh @ 12/30/2003 07:03 PM CST
It's not OK to shoot at the legs of a threatening crowd of Arabs and associates tearing down a security fence, but it is OK to bomb an innocent crowd of Israelis at dinner? Double standard? You bet!
Posted by Lawrence Adler MD @ 12/30/2003 11:21 PM CST
Peaceful protesters they might have been, had they not gotten so riled that they tried to destroy the gate. They tried to *tear down* part of a military structure in front of armed soldiers. What better way to convince a small paranoid group of soldiers that you might have explosives on yourself than by donning a disguise and actively trying to break through? It seems that some of the protesters wanted a particularly damaging media headline, such as "Israeli soldiers shoot at peace rally", and that goal was achieved. Is lethal force excusable? Of course not! Rubber bullets or especially a water cannon would have done the job far more efficiently. The IDF needs to equip and train itself better for these situations.
Ami Isseroff's comments about firing in the air are clever, but in fact the soldier was reported to have requested for permission to fire warning shots in the air before firing at the protesters. Whoever authorised the soldiers next request to fire "at the protesters legs" should have his job reviewed.
Posted by Boggle @ 12/31/2003 07:15 AM CST
I guess if you protest in Israel you will be killed or shot at: that you must plan on.
Posted by eyes_just_opened @ 01/14/2004 05:38 PM CST
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