Palestinian deaths mount as Israelis given freedom to commit atrocities

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Jumada' al-Ula' 26, 1422 2001-08-16

Occupied Arab World

by Zafar Bangash (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 12, Jumada' al-Ula', 1422)

With Ariel Sharon, the butcher of Beirut, at the helm, the “only democracy in the Middle East” has gone berserk. It is using US-supplied Apache helicopters against Palestinian activists, in complete disregard of human life. Amer Hudeiri, a Hamas activist, was martyred on August 5 when Israel fired two missiles at his car in the West Bank town of Tulkerm; five passersby were wounded. On the same day Ali Julani wounded 10 Israeli soldiers in Tel Aviv before being shot dead. This incident received far greater western media attention, despite the fact that in the six-day period from July 30 Israel had murdered 16 Palestinians, including two leading figures of Hamas, and wounded dozens of others. On August 4, Marwan Barghouti, a leading figure of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah group, escaped assassination when Israel fired a missile at his jeep in Ramallah.

In two days (July 30 and 31) Israeli attacks in Nablus caused 14 deaths. On July 30, Israeli tank-fire from the Elon Moreh settlement demolished a garage near the Farah refugee-camp, killing six members of Fatah. The second attack was from a helicopter gunship: missiles slammed into the Palestinian Centre for Information, where a press conference was being held, killing eight people including two Hamas leaders, Shaikh Jamal Mansour and Shaikh Jamal Salim, and two journalists. Also among the dead were Ashraf Abdel-Muna’im, 8, and his brother Bilal Abdel-Muna’im, who were in a house next door. Seven other Palestinians were injured, two seriously.

There was some international condemnation of these attacks — on August 1, Amnesty International called them “extrajudicial” killings — but US vice president Dick Cheney said on August 3 that he could “understand” what the zionists had done. 52 Palestinian activists have been assassinated in such attacks since the second intifada began 10 months ago. On August 5, said that Israel would continue this policy, which he described as “defensive, counter-terrorist measures.” Transport minister Ephraim Sneh, said earlier this year, “I can tell you unequivocally what the policy is. If anyone has committed or is planning to carry out terrorist attacks, he has to be hit. It is effective, precise and just.” This policy was confirmed by the Israeli cabinet on July 4.

The policy is clear: deliberate escalation of state terrorism to provoke the Palestinians to retaliate, thus giving Israel a pretext to perpetrate more crimes, although Israel has never been hindered by lack of pretext. Under an ever-tightening military and economic siege, food, water and medicines are denied the Palestinians, who are being attacked with missiles fired from helicopter gunships, shot by Israeli snipers, and murdered by zionist settlers. Their homes are demolished and their orchards and groves are being uprooted and bulldozed in the zionists’ greed for land, or because of “security” considerations.

Despite these barbarous acts, one is hard pressed to find information about them in the US media, or American officials or Congress to condemn them. Consider the attempt by Jewish terrorists on July 29 to lay a 4.5-ton stone near the foundations of the Haram al-Shareef: the media dismissed this provocative act as insignificant; US officials urged all sides to show “restraint”, as usual. When Palestinians react to such provocations, they are denounced as “violent”. To find out about the reality in Palestine, one has to turn to the Israeli Hebrew press.

On July 19, a Palestinian family was attacked by two zionist settlers. Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz reported on July 27: “Here’s what happened to Hilmy Tmeizi, a toothless old man from Idna, last Thursday: his son, Mohammed, was killed; his grandchild, Diya, was killed; his granddaughter’s husband, Mohammed, was killed; his granddaughter, Amira, was wounded; his granddaughter, Mai, was wounded; and his daughter-in-law, Samer, was critically wounded.” The Jewish terrorists drove past an Israeli military checkpoint and have not been apprehended so far, according to Ha’aretz. In the US, the story was either ignored or reported merely as four Palestinians killed by “unknown assailants”.

Compare this with how Israeli casualties are reported: Ali Julani’s attack on the Israeli defence ministry building, was reported in screaming headlines; Amer Hudeiri’s assassination was dismissed in a single sentence. On March 27 the New York Times featured on its front page, “Palestinians Kill Baby Boy in West Bank,” citing “Israeli officials,” with Ariel Sharon adding that this was a “deliberate, cold-blooded escalation of violence.” On March 11 the paper showed on its front page a picture of a dead nine-year-old Palestinian boy, described as shot by “an errant Israeli bullet”: the Israeli killing was “errant” rather than deliberate, in contrast to the action of the Palestinians.

The US media is so used to Israeli crimes that when CNN’s Cairo bureau chief, Ben Wedeman, was shot by Israeli soldiers in Ghazzah in November, his own television station could not bring itself to say who was to blame “at this time.” The Associated Press reported that Wedeman had been “caught in a crossfire.” Robert Fisk of the London Independent has said that when he hears of “crossfire,” he is certain the Israelis have done the shooting. Fisk also points out how easily the media refers to a “suspected Palestinian gunman” or “presumably by Palestinians” when Israelis are shot, whereas Palestinians die “in clashes” — “as if they were accidentally shot rather than targets for Israeli snipers” (Independent, November 14, 2000).

The US media have transformed the Israelis into victims, and treat the real victims as “non-humans” whose pain and grief do not matter and who do not require “security”, as the aggressors do. Despite openly pursuing a policy of discrimination, humiliation and violence, and daily violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention requirements on treatment of people under occupation, Israel gets away literally with murder.

Yet no-one can call Israel to account while the US is its principal underwriter. Of late, some movement towards indicting Ariel Sharon as a war criminal has been made in a Belgian court, prompting the zionists to issue a precautionary warning to officials considering travel abroad. But such caution has not deterred zionists from committing crimes. As the latest escalation shows, the Palestinians are targeted, their land is stolen, houses demolished, and water diverted: while Israelis waste water in swimming pools and Palestinians do not even have enough to drink. Similarly, under the pretext of “security”, roads are bulldozed, destroying communities and denying them access to neighbours, family and jobs. There are roads for the exclusive use of Jews, a policy never implemented even in the worst days of apartheid South Africa. The West Bank and Ghazzah are being turned into disjointed bantustans under complete zionist control.

By the first week of August, 535 Palestinians had been killed in the intifada, compared with 112 Israelis, most of them soldiers; more than 1500 Palestinians have been injured. Seventy percent of all Palestinian ambulances have been attacked and badly damaged. The zionists also have a callous disregard for the sick, elderly and mothers in labour. There have been many instances of Israeli soldiers denying permission for cars or taxis to take Palestinian mothers to hospital while in labour. Sabreen Balout was born in a taxi on January 24; the Israeli soldiers insisted that the passengers, including the newborn baby, get out of the cab on a cold rainy night. She survived, but a 10-year-old Palestinian girl, Ella Ahmed from El-Sawiya, near Nablus, died of a burst appendix after Israeli soldiers twice refused to allow her passage to a hospital in Nablus. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, has confirmed the deaths of two Palestinian women during childbirth and of eight babies who were born and died at Israeli checkpoints because soldiers would not let them through.

Equally disturbing is the US media’s ready acceptance of Israeli claims that Palestinians push their children forward to die, that they suffer from a martyrdom syndrome, and therefore that the parents are responsible for the numerous shooting deaths of children (Chris Hedges, “The Deathly Glamour of Martydom,” New York Times, October 29, 2000, for instance). This “penchant for martyrdom” is also responsible for the breakdown of that strange animal, the “peace process”, we are told by John Burns (New York Times, April 1, 2001). Uri Avnery, an Israeli writer, notes that this ready attribution of responsibility to Arab parents “betrays an obnoxious racism.” He goes on: “The right question is why do our soldiers kill these children? And in some cases in cold blood?”

Israeli racism is an established fact, although the US is determined to prevent any discussion of it during the World Conference against Racism (South Africa, August 31-September 7). Many Israelis openly favour violence against their victims. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas party, has said: “I would kill all Arabs,” “Arabs must be eliminated,” and that Palestinians are mere “grasshoppers” and “vipers” that should be “annihilated” (April 9, 2001). He is by no means alone in spewing such venom. The chief rabbi, Israel Meir Lau, was reported by Israeli army radio on July 26 as saying that killing Palestinians is allowed under Jewish religious law. President Moshe Katsav has made equally racist remarks. Were such statements made about Jews, the hullaballoo would be deafening.

Several UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports criticizing Israel are being ignored or suppressed by the US media. They try to project a sanitized version of events, in which the Palestinians are alien, uncivilized and deserve what they get. It is such propaganda that has kept most Americans unaware of what their government, Congress and media are up to. But their ignorance cannot absolve them of responsibility: it is the US$4 billion in annual American handouts to Israel and its protection from international censure that enable the zionists to continue their campaign of blatant racism and genocide.

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