Don't Say You Didn't Know.Tanya Reinhart, November 6, 2000.
As the media keeps us busy with reports on cease-fire, peace initiatives, and 'reduction of violence', Israeli crimes in the occupied territories continue undisturbed. To understand the extent of these daily crimes we should look at the injuries, not just at the rapidly growing number of dead. On Friday, November 3rd, CNN reported a 'relative calm' in the territories. By afternoon that day there were 276 people injured (LAW report, Nov 3), and by the final count "Up to 452 Palestinians were hurt on Friday across the territories, according to the Red Crescent" ('ha'aretz', Nov 5). On Saturday, October 4th, as the the media covers in great length of Barak's "plea to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to return to the negotiating table and stop the Palestinian-Israeli bloodshed for the sake of peace" (AP), "another 153 were treated for injuries sustained in clashes with Israeli troops" ('ha'aretz', there), including "5 school children from Sa'ir (near Hebron) who are in extremely critical condition" (Addameer - Prisoners' Support and Human Rights Association, Report, Nov 4.).
More than 7000 Palestinians are reported injured so far. Several Palestinian medical sources report that an alarming number of them are injured in the head or legs (knees), with carefully aimed shots, and, increasingly, live ammunition. (Dr. Jumana Odeh, Director, Palestinian Happy Child Center, Oct 24 report; LAW, November 2 report.) Many will not recover, or will be disabled for life.
This pattern of injuries cannot be accidental. Dan Ephron, Boston Globe correspondent in Jerusalem reports (Nov 4) on the findings of the Physicians for Human Rights delegation: "American doctors who examined Israel's use of force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have concluded that Israeli soldiers appeared to be deliberately targeting the heads and legs of Palestinian protestors, even in non-life-threatening situations." Medical School doctors in the delegation explained that law enforcement officials worldwide are trained to aim at the chest in dangerous situations (since it is the largest target), and the fact that Palestinians were hit in the head and legs suggests that there was no life-threatening situation, soldiers had ample time, and were deliberately trying to harm unarmed people.
In fact, the Israelis are not even trying to conceal their shooting strategies. Interviews like the following can be easily found in the Israeli media:
By Arieh O'Sullivan
JERUSALEM (October 27) - "I shot two people... in their knees. It's supposed to break their bones and neutralize them but not kill them," says Sgt. Raz, a sharpshooter from the Nahshon battalion.
"How did I feel? ...Well actually, I felt pretty satisfied with myself," the 20-year-old soldier confides. "I felt I could do what I was trained to do, and it gave me a lot of self-confidence to think that if we get into a real war situation I'd be able to defend my comrades and myself."
A common practice is shooting a rubber coated metal bullet straight in the eye - a little game of well trained soldiers, which requires maximum precision. Reports on eye injuries keep coming daily. "On October 11, El Mizan Diagnostic Hospital in Hebron reported treating 11 Palestinians for eye injuries, including 3 children. El Nasir Ophthalmic Hospital in Gaza has treated 16 people for eye injuries, including 13 children. Nine of them lost one of their eyes". (LAW report, Oct 19). "From 29 September to 25 October 2000, Jerusalem's St. John Eye Hospital has treated 50 patients for eye-injuries".(LAW, Nov 2, '...Eye Injuries').
Contrary to the standard 'clashes' reports the victims are not just demonstrators. Here is just one story, investigated by LAW (there): Maha Awad, a 36 years old woman lives with her family in Al Bireh (near Ramallah) in a flat that faces the Jewish settlement of Psagot. "On Wednesday night, 4 October 2000, she was at home... She recalls that: 'At about 9 pm, we heard shooting in our neighborhood; it was intensive random shooting. We did not know what was going on but we were very scared.I closed my room and went to the balcony in order to shut the door. At that moment I was hit in my right eye by a bullet, which entered through the glass door of the balcony'." "Maha was, however, not the only person of the family to be seriously injured that night. After taking her to hospital, her 54-year-old brother, who was visiting from the United States, went back to their home to get some clothes for Maha. When he went to see the spot where Maha had been shot, he himself was shot in the stomach." It is hard to avoid the feeling of some sort of a hunting game, played cold bloodily, by well trained sharpshooters with advanced equipment.
Stray bullets do not hit so many people precisely in the eye head, or knee. The Israeli army prepared carefully for the present events: "Established just over a year ago specifically to deal with unrest in the West Bank...The IDF has trained four battalions for low-intensity conflict, and Nahshon is the one specializing in urban warfare. Its troops train in mock Palestinian villages constructed in two IDF bases." (Jerusalem Post, Arieh O'Sullivan,Oct 27.00). Specially trained Israeli units, then, aim, shoot and hit the target in a calculated manner: Cripple, but keep the statistics of dead low. This is reported openly (and quite proudly) in the Israeli media. The same Jerusalem Post article explains that "the overall IDF strategy is to deprive the Palestinians of the massive number of casualties the army maintains Palestinians want in order to win world support and consolidate their fight for independence. 'We are very much trying not to kill them...' says Lt.-Col. Yoram Loredo, commander and founder of the Nahshon battalion."
The reason is clear enough: Massive numbers of dead Palestinians every day cannot go unnoticed even by the most cooperative Western media and governments. Barak was explicit about this. "The prime minister said that, were there not 140 Palestinian casualties at this point, but rather 400 or 1,000, this... would perhaps damage Israel a great deal." (Jerusalem Post, Oct 30). With a stable average of five casualties a day, they believe that Israel can continue 'undamaged' for many more months. In a world so used to horrors, many feel that 180 dead in a month is sad and upsetting, but it is not yet an atrocity that the world should unite to stop.
The 'injured' are hardly reported; they 'do not count' in the dry statistics of tragedy. Who will pay attention to their fate after the injury, in overcrowded and underequipped hospitals? Who will stop to think how many of them will die slowly, from their wounds, or remiain disabled, blind or maimed for life? Or to think about their chances to survive the siege and starvation inflicted on their people?.
Never did Israel dare to respond daily with such brutal massive force to demonstrators throwing stones. In the whole six years of the previous Intifada (87-93), there were 18.000 Palestinian injuries. Now in one month we are already at 7000. What we witness is a new phase. Israel started launching a systematic and preplanned destruction of the Palestinian infra-structure, towns, and life
The Israeli army provoked and enlarged the escalation into firearms, by its massive offensive against angry demonstrators. Under the circumstances of fire (and often with no fire pretext at all), residential neighborhoods are bombarded almost every night from helicopters and tanks, using missiles, machine guns and 'precision' weapons, while the army calls on residents to evacuate "for their own protection". The settlers are given free hand to attack, shoot people and destroy property. In Hebron, a particularly massive Israeli attack has been launched in what looks like an attempt to enlarge the Jewish quarters. All combined, there is an enormous pressure on residents of many areas bordering with Israeli settlements to evacuate, enabling enlargement of the land seized already by Israel. Indeed, appropriation of land takes place every day, bit by bit (See Katriel, Indymedia/Israel Oct 30). Desperate Palestinian reports on all this and much more keep coming every day. It is up to us to choose to know.
Not long ago, the Western world was shocked and angered at Milosevic atrocities against the Kosovo Albanians, which were described as ethnic cleansing. But What Israel has started executing is incomparably worse. When faced with terrorist attacks (by KLA) on Serbian institutes and civilians in Kosovo, Milosevic did retaliate brutally, using, no doubt, 'excessive force'. His acts were criminal. But he did not send Apache helicopters to bombard residential areas, as does Israel. He did not put the Kosovar towns under siege; he did not use missiles from tanks, and he did not send snipers to wound and kill en-mass.
Israel should be sanctioned.