Israel’s Other War
By Richard Walker
While the media has focused on Israel’s war in Lebanon, the Israeli military has been destroying the infrastructure of Gaza. There too, children have been dying and buildings have been reduced to rubble.
In the past couple of weeks, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has also carried out a scorched earth policy in agricultural sectors of the Gaza Strip. Tanks and bulldozers have leveled citrus and olive groves, as well as greenhouses and wells.
The result has been devastating to the Palestinian economy, further compounded by Israel’s continued policy of restricting commerce in and out of Palestinian zones.
In contravention of international law and the plain wording of Israel’s founding documents, including the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Israel has hit power plants, water treatment facilities and other services in a strategy to punish the civilian populations.
The one stark element of the Middle East crisis, now felt in Lebanon but always a feature of Israeli aggression against Palestinians, is the high number of children killed by the IDF.
Since 2000, 763 Palestinian children have been killed and over 20,000 injured, with at least 2,000 maimed for life. At least a third of those killed were shot by Israeli sharpshooters, and 50% received single gunshots to the head or upper torso.
The group “Physicians for Human Rights” studied the death toll of kids killed by those types of shots and concluded that Israeli snipers deliberately aimed for the head. So far this year 59 Palestinian children have been killed and many more wounded.
At the same time Israelis have kidnapped 342 Palestinian juveniles and are holding them in jails throughout Israel.
Some of those are targeted for Israeli intelligence and brainwashing programs aimed at turning them into spies on their release.
Despite the exceptionally high death toll of children in the Occupied Territories, no Israeli sniper or regular soldier has been found guilty of killing a child. That is even more shocking when one realizes that many children were shot on their way to school or while playing games.
One of the first to be killed was a 6-year-old, who was shot in the back as he stepped away from a window in his home.
That was in 2000 when a young Israeli sniper gave a revealing interview to well-known Jewish reporter Amira Hass of the daily newspaper Haaretz. The sniper described the high level of skill of IDF marksmen and claimed they could deliver headshots at 200 yards. More importantly, he admitted that the IDF told its marksmen they could shoot Palestinian kids of 12 and over.
Horrifying incidents include a 13-year-old boy, who was shot in the back in Ramallah on Jan. 23, 2006. Three days later, a 9-year-old boy was shot several times and died in the Gaza Strip. And, on Feb. 15, a mentally-challenged 15-yearold carrying a toy gun was shot several times through the chest. No soldier was charged with those murders.
A large percentage of children have also died as a result of what the IDF frequently calls “collateral damage” or “mistakes”—meaning children were burnt or blown up during one of Israel’s many “targeted assassinations” when a missile was fired at a car on a busy thoroughfare or when a tank fired into an apartment building. It has also happened when an artillery shell landed on a beach while children were playing.
Israelis point to the 121 Israel children who have died since 2000. That, too, is a terrible statistic. However, those deaths received significantly more coverage in the United States than the deaths of Palestinian children. That was the conclusion of a detailed survey by the group “If Americans Knew” which found that The New York Times gave three times the coverage to the death of an Israeli child.
According to the group, an explanation for the disparity in coverage lies in the fact that Times staff are based in Israel and never venture into Gaza or the West Bank.
So far, the Bush administration has refused to speak out against Israel over its use of excessive military force. At the same time, President Bush has lectured the Lebanese government about observing UN resolution 1559 requiring the disarming of Hezbollah, but has conveniently ignored Israel’s blatant disregard for the 65 UN resolutions imposed on it since 1952.
During that period, it has also flouted the Geneva Conventions, as well as many of the basic tenets of international human rights law.
Nowhere is it mentioned that, between 2001 and 2003, Israel built 60 new Jewish settlements on land stolen from Palestinians and has continued to annex private property for its communist-Berlin-style wall.
In addition, the Bush administration has failed to press Israel for currently holding more than 10,000 Palestinians in its own version of concentration camps. To put that in perspective, in the past four decades, some 20% of the Palestinian population—650,000 people—has been kidnapped by Israeli authorities and held in prisons.
The IDF has also thought nothing of attacking ambulances, preventing injured from getting medical treatment, and has injured a large number of ambulance staff. In a three-year period, 253 ambulances have been targeted and attacked and 192 of them badly damaged.
This year, Israel exploited Washington’s disapproval of theelection of Hamas as the legitimate Palestinian government as an excuse to turn up the heat on the Occupied Territories. It also breached international law by seizing and imprisoning elected representatives of the Palestinian people and holding them without charge.
If Israel’s two wars expand to include Syria and Iran, many fear the likelihood that the United States will be drawn into backing Israel militarily by the neo-con lobby. That would leave 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq caught in a dire situation between millions of angry Iraqi Shiites, who remain sympathetic to Iran, and the Iranian military.
(Issue #34, August 21, 2006)
Richard Walker is the nom de plume of a former mainstream news producer who now writes for AFP so he can expose the kinds of subjects that he was forbidden to cover in the controlled press.