Palestinians still dying in droves as world builds up to Iraq war

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Dhu al-Qa'dah 29, 1423 2003-02-01

Occupied Arab World

by Zafar Bangash (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 23, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1423)

With the world’s attention focused on Iraq, thanks to president George Bush and his gang of warriors, the zionists are getting away with murder in Palestine. This is not chance; Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has always wanted to divert the world’s attention from his policies against the Palestinians.

The most intense zionist bloodletting in several weeks took place in Ghazzah City in the last two days before Israel’s elections started on January 28. It began with a major Israeli attack on the city on the night of January 26, when armoured troops covered by helicopter gunships entered Hayy al-Zaytoun, south of the city. The Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) reported that the area was subjected to intense and indiscrimate gunfire from the helicopters and armoured vehicles, before troops began destroying homes and businesses with explosives. Tanks fired artillery shells at civilians fleeing the area. Twelve Palestinians were killed and 65 injured, five of them critically. Only three of the dead were listed as combatants.

Speaking in Ramallah the next day, Dr Mustapha Barghouti, a senior Palestinian human-rights activist, said: " The Israelis have now killed 24 Palestinians in the last 48 hours, an average of one Palestinian every two hours, with no serious objections coming from the international community. This silence in the face of such wholesale slaughter is simply unconscionable."

The Israeli operations were clearly planned in order to increase support for Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in the run-up to the Israeli elections, even though he was guaranteed victory in any case. As Crescent went to press the operations were continuing, with reports of attacks on the Asharki and al-Marrah neighbourhoods of Jenin in the early hours of January 28.

Such murderous operations are routine, but Mossad, the Israeli secret service, had earlier announced an even more criminal policy: the murder of Israel’s enemies (euphemistically referred to as "targeted killings") in the US and other friendly countries, according to a United Press International (UPI) story by Richard Sale.

Hitherto Israel’s policy has targeted Palestinian activists in the West Bank and Ghazzah. Murder is murder, no matter what sophistry is employed to describe it. The UPI story of January 15 put it tactfully: "Israel is embarking upon a ‘more aggressive approach’ to the war on terror that will include staging targeted killings in the United States and other friendly countries, former Israeli intelligence officials told United Press International." In plain language this is called state terrorism, but Israel is never blamed for its crimes; even its terrorism is considered sacred. Sale elaborated: "the Israeli statements were confirmed by more than a half dozen US foreign policy and intelligence officials in interviews with UPI."

The UPI story soft-peddled Israeli state terrorism as a "more aggressive approach to the war on terror." How can murder be described as a "more aggressive approach" and resistance to foreign occupation as "terrorism"? The zionists, emboldened by the mass hysteria engineered deliberately since September 2001, are now openly declaring their true intentions. They have never really been constrained by diplomatic niceties or others’ sensitivities but, after perpetrating such crimes, they used to deny their involvement, but no more. With the appointment of Meir Dagan as director of Mossad, Sharon is also preparing a "huge" budget increase for it as part of "a tougher stance in fighting global jihad (or holy war)," one Israeli official said. Dagan, a long-time associate of Sharon’s, years ago gained notoriety for his brutal ways.

The failure of Israel’s open declaration of intent to commit state terrorism in the US to provoke any reaction from Washington is also revealing. US president George Bush is an unabashed admirer of Sharon, who is an indicted war criminal known as the "Butcher of Beirut." A US congressional staff member with intimate knowledge of intelligence matters summed up Washington’s stance thus: "I don’t know on what basis we would be able to protest Israel’s actions" when the US killed several al-Qa’ida leaders in Yemen last December by a remotely-controlled CIA drone. "That was done on the soil of a friendly ally," the staffer added.

America’s adoption of murder as a tactic against real or perceived enemies anywhere dovetails with the zionists’; of those who have had the greatest influence on Bush’s thinking (he is a novice in foreign policy), Sharon stands out. Not surprisingly, Sharon told Shimon Peres (then his foreign minister) last year not to worry about the US: the Jewish lobby controls congress as well as the government. This same confidence enabled Sharon to send his emissary to Washington to demand US$12 billion in aid despite the US’s own economy being in difficulties. This was also seen as Bush’s support for Sharon as the date (January 28) for the Israeli elections approached. The indicted war criminal is also fanning the flames of war against Iraq, and his supporters in the US are now saying openly that if the US were to back down from attacking Iraq, Bush would "lose face". The implied threat is that they will not support him in the next presidential election if Iraq is not attacked.

Despite Iraq being in the news almost all the time, the crux of the Middle East problem is Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The estimated two million Palestinians in the West Bank and a million in Ghazzah have been under siege for more than two years. To this crime of collective punishment must be added the endless humiliations inflicted on Palestinian men, women and children. Zionist teenagers, some of them recent arrivals from the US and Russia, humiliate elderly Palestinian men and women, for instance by forcing them to walk barefoot at military checkpoints. Physical abuses follow verbal tirades by Israeli soldiers who would be more accurately described as punks.

Since the beginning of the second intifada, it has been widely reported that Israeli occupation forces and the heavily armed settlers have murdered more than 2,000 Palestinians; at the same time, some 700 Israelis, mostly soldiers, have also been killed. Israeli propaganda would have us believe that most Palestinian casualties are the result of soldiers firing when their lives are in danger, or shooting people by mistake. Even a cursory analysis of statistical data of Palestinian casualties and injuries shows that this is not true. The Israelis deliberately target Palestinians to kill them. The world may have forgotten the killing of Muhammad al-Durra, the 12-year-old boy who was fired on by Israeli soldiers for 45 minutes on October 1, 2000, while his distraught father tried to shield him, but the Palestinians have not: the way he was killed is symptomatic of the Israeli attitude to the Palestinians.

Israeli attacks on healthcare workers and patients
Attacks on ambulances 330
Medical staff and ambulance drivers martyred 22
Medical staff and ambulance drivers injured 415
Ambulances destroyed 35
Ambulances delayed 735
Patients who died at Israeli checkpoints 83
Births at Israeli checkpoints or in homes 48
Childbirth deaths at Israeli checkpoints 29
Israeli attacks in hospitals 235

According to statistics compiled by the Palestinian health ministry, a total of 2,767 Palestinians were martyred in the period from September 29, 2000, to January 14, 2003. This figure includes those martyred in the West Bank and Ghazzah, as well as inside what is called the Green Line (that is in the area called Israel). Of these, 602 were not initially registered in official statistics because of Israeli blockades. Among the martyrs are 538 Palestinian boys under the age of 18, and 168 girls. A total of 42,779 Palestinians have also been injured during the same period; 6,188 of them are children, of whom 2,660 have been handicapped as a result of their injuries. Not only are Palestinian children attacked, but ambulances, rescue workers, doctors and nurses are also attacked, as the figures in the box show.

Equally revealing are statistics concerning types of injuries sustained by Palestinians. A total of 38 percent of all injuries were caused to the head, neck or chest, indicating that Israeli soldiers deliberately target Palestinians with the intention of killing or maiming them. Also, 50.4 percent received multiple injuries, that is, they were shot several times. When we look at children’s casualties, there is an even more disturbing pattern: 54.6 percent of all children were hit in the head, neck or chest. Israel makes a great fuss about claiming that its forces use rubber bullets wherever possible, but the figures on injuries and deaths paint an utterly different picture. Only 0.1 percent of all deaths have occurred from rubber bullets; the figures for Palestinian deaths from other types of weapon are:

Live bullets: 65.9 percent
Missiles: 12.4 percent
Shrapnel: 5.2 percent
Explosions: 8.0 percent
Gas: 0.5 percent

In addition to causing death and injury to the Palestinian population, the Israelis are also busy destroying Palestinian educational institutions. On January 15, two universities in the West Bank— the Hebron University and Palestine Polytechnic University—were shut down, depriving 6432 students of teaching. According to the Palestinian ministry of education (, in addition to 298 students below the age of 18 being killed, 149 university or college students were also killed during the period up to January 15. Three universities have been broken into, three schools have been turned into Israeli military barracks, and nine schools have been permanently shut down. Similarly, 269 schools have been raided and 1,125 schools and nearly all institutions of higher education have suffered suspension of studies for various periods. During these raids, students have also been attacked; many have sustained injuries and hundreds have been detained. Of the detainees, 218 were the below the age of 18; 383 were university and college students. Of those injured, 2,767 were below the age of 18 and 684 were college and university students.

What these figures reveal is a systematic pattern of brutality whose purpose is not only to kill Palestinians but also to stunt the development of Palestinian society by depriving young Palestinians of any education. The attacks on schools, colleges, universities and hospitals indicate a clear pattern of total disregard for all "norms of civilized behaviour". They are motivated by one aim: to crush the Palestinians’ spirit of resistance and to wipe out the next generation educationally as well as physically, to prevent them from rebelling effectively against the zionists of "Israel".

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