By Rifat Audeh
Close your eyes and visualize a child that you know and love dearly. The child can be your son, daughter, sibling, nephew or niece, grandson or granddaughter or even the child of a friend. Next, imagine that child playing innocently. Now imagine a bomb falling fatally near that child with his/her little body parts flying in different directions. If you are repulsed from this mental exercise, good. That means you have at least a shred or more of human feelings which I can address.
The issue is this: That mental exercise is not something imaginary for the Palestinian people of Gaza, rather, it is their daily living hell.
Genocide is defined in the dictionary as “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.” For close to a month now, Israel has been committing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. At the time of this writing, 1600 Palestinians have been murdered by the Israeli military with the vast majority of them being civilians according to global media outlets and international human rights sources, although that number keeps changing by the hour. Also at the time of this writing, 360 of these civilians are children.
On July 12, 2014, Israel shelled a rehabilitation center for persons with disabilities in Beit Lahia, killing two disabled women who could not have escaped in time even if they tried. It killed four children from the same family on July 16th , who were merely playing soccer on the beach in clear view and far from any infrastructure whatsoever. NBC reporter Ayman Mohyeldin witnessed the crime. It has shelled numerous hospitals in the Gaza Strip and on another occasion bombed children playing on the rooftop of their home. On the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid El-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, supposedly a time for festivity and celebration, Israel massacred 10 civilians including 8 children at a playground.
Countless other cold-blooded indiscriminate killings have been perpetrated by the Israeli military machine, funded primarily by US taxpayers, and amongst the most prevalent is the repetitive shelling of UN shelters/schools housing thousands of displaced Palestinian civilians trying to flee Israel’s bombs. The latest such attack took place on July 30, and finally drew condemnation from the White House. More than 3000 civilians were seeking shelter in the UNRWA school because they thought that with it being under the auspices of the UN they would be safe there and because many peoples’ homes were completely destroyed by Israeli bombing. According to UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl, the exact location of the school was communicated to the Israeli authorities 17 times, with the last notification made just hours before the shelling. More than sixteen people were killed and dozens injured, with many victims being women and children. It is no wonder that the UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness broke down and began crying after a live interview on the events in Gaza. Prior to the strike of July 30, there was also a strike on July 24, killing 13 and wounding more than 200 Palestinians. The shelling on July 24th was the fourth in as many days by the Israeli military of a UN school or shelter.
In much of the Western corporate-owned media and particularly in the USA, one either does not see or hear all this –while the images are being broadcast 24/7 on satellite channels in the Middle East and elsewhere throughout the world – or one listens to incredulous justifications by such news outlets and even US officials and others parroting the Israeli line. Among the most outrageous of these claims is that the resistance factions such as Hamas are placing their rocket launchers among the civilian population and therefore are putting the civilians at risk, as Israel is supposedly targeting these launchers only and militants.
This is utter nonsense.
Firstly, no reporters on the ground have found any evidence to date that civilians are being used as human shields. Actually to the contrary, the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen reporting from Gaza has stated outright that this is not the case. Next, and as was mentioned already, children were killed in open spaces and plain view on a beach and in a playground. The exact coordinates of the UNRWA schools and shelters full of civilians were conveyed and well-known to Israel’s precision-guided munitions when they were directly hit by them. Further, the aforementioned claim implies that the resistance factions -which include Hamas and others- have descended on Gaza from abroad. This is false. The freedom fighters of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Al-Aqsa Brigades and others are from Gaza. This means they live there with their families and that is where they earn their livelihoods and have shops, businesses, schools, companies and universities. Does anyone in their right mind believe that they would attempt to jeopardize the well-being of their families, relatives, friends, colleagues and loved-ones by placing weaponry near them? The Israeli lie is easily exposed for anyone willing to open their eyes. A final point to be made in this regard is that under international law, even if human shields were being used, Israel’s obligations to protect these civilians would still apply.
Indeed, if one wishes to compare between the two sides, namely Israel and the Palestinian resistance, it is clear that the resistance has taken the moral high ground, although they are continuously being pushed by Israel to the point of desperation with the barbaric murders Israel continues to perpetrate. According to Israeli sources, 63 Israeli soldiers have been killed thus far along with 3 Israeli civilians, while there have been 1600 Palestinians killed and 8750 wounded. Therefore, 5% of the Israeli dead are civilians, while estimates of human rights groups and the OCHA place the percentage of Palestinian civilian dead to be no less than 64%. This means that the Israeli military is deliberately and cowardly targeting civilians while the Palestinian resistance is targeting soldiers. Undoubtedly, Israeli apologists will argue as they constantly have, that the reason Israeli civilian casualties are so low is because the Iron Dome has intercepted most of the rockets fired by the resistance and therefore it is not due to a lack of trying by the resistance or the “saboteurs” as these apologists might call them. Yet according to Debkafile, an Israeli military intelligence website, an analysis it published on July 23rd titled “IDF Commanders: Time for decisive war move after IDF victories in Shejaiya, E. Rafah and Khan Younes” exposed the following: “Most of the nearly 2,000 rockets fired over the last 16 days did not miss Israel’s urban centers by chance, although many were deflected by Iron Dome interceptors. Hamas was focusing on strategic targets, such Israeli Air Force bases and facilities in the south and center.” To simplify, this hawkish Israeli site itself is acknowledging that the Palestinian resistance is targeting military sites and not “soft targets” of civilians. Clearly, if one looks closely enough and scrutinizes, a crack appears every so often in the fortified wall of Israeli lies and propaganda.
The statement from Debkafile above actually is consistent with the announcement made by Mohammed Deif, the commander of Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. In a televised speech broadcast on July 29, he stated that “We have preferred to confront and kill the military and the elite soldiers of the enemy as opposed to attacking civilians..at a time when this criminal enemy sheds the blood of civilians, commits massacres and destroys entire neighborhoods upon the residents thereof…”.
What evidence is there to Deif’s claim above? The Palestinian resistance has been utilizing tunnels to carry out their operations against the Israeli occupation forces. Several of these tunnels reach behind enemy lines into Israeli territory and this was actually one of the excuses that Israel used to launch its war against Gaza; namely to destroy these tunnels. The resistance executed a number of operations by infiltrating behind enemy lines through these tunnels and attacking soldiers and military bases. The last such operation was conducted July 28 in broad daylight on a military base and videotaped and eventually broadcast on Israeli media. The resistance fighters could have easily targeted unarmed Israeli civilians during their infiltrations which would have been much easier, and more importantly less risky without jeopardizing their own lives. Yet they chose not to do so.
It should be noted that to get a better idea of the racism and hatred abundant in Israel today and among pro-Israel supporters, one needs to merely view the comments on various stories on Israeli news websites. Such comments include statements like “There are NO CIVILIANS in Gaza”, “Stupid Israeli leadership, no ground troops needed, just level Gaza to the ground”, “Modest proposal for a 2-state solution: Alive (Jews) and Dead (Arabs). Now that’s a 2-state solution that has a chance of working”, and others. To be fair, peoples’ comments do not necessarily represent the policies of a state. However, they do reflect a prevalent attitude in Israeli society.
In summary, Israel is no stranger to killing innocent civilians, and this has been a long-standing practice of the state. The indiscriminate killing of Palestinians at UNRWA schools for example is reminiscent of the Al-Fakhura school murders. Yet the killing of civilians by Israel has not been limited to Palestinians. Rachel Corrie, an American activist, was deliberately crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003. Thomas Hurndall, a British activist, was shot by a sniper in the head the same year as was Brian Avery, another American activist who was shot in the face. In 2010, ten Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara ship in the Freedom Flotilla were shot and killed by the Israeli navy in international waters. Also in international waters, Israel killed 34 American sailors and wounded more than 170 aboard the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967. Then, as now, Israel continues to act with impunity. However, the list of Israeli crimes committed for decades is too long to mention here. (It just came to the author’s attention that an Israeli soldier named David Ovadia was bragging online about killing 13 children.)
The question that the Israel right-or-wrong crowd – who are always quick to condemn Palestinians for basically refusing to die quietly – must ask themselves, is this: If the opening “mental exercise” in this piece was perpetrated against the infant child that they know, what would they be capable of doing? And what would they do?
If anything, it is amazing how patient, disciplined and forgiving the Palestinians have been thus far in the face of one of the ugliest forms of genocide history has ever witnessed.
– Rifat Audeh is a Palestinian-Canadian human rights activist and media analyst. His activities included helping organize divestment conferences throughout the USA, the co-founding of a media watchdog group in Michigan and participation in the Freedom Flotilla. His writings have appeared in numerous newspapers and websites. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.