INDEPENDENT NEWS

Translation: Civilians And The Period Of Calm

Published: Tue 4 Oct 2005 10:42 AM
Translation: Civilians And The Period Of Calm
Translations From Hebrew by Sol Salbe
[This is one of those “when-the-ceasefire-finally-breaks”messages. While Palestinian attacks on civilians in Israel have just about halted their own civilian death toll continues to rise. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has not changed any of its norms. This is disturbing. It is equally disturbing that Israeli society and discourse can deal with this with equanimity.
It is also disturbing that the first article from the Hebrew Haaretz was not made available in the English edition. I am this providing my own translation. Senior reporter Amnon Regular is unequivocal:
“For the past six months we have had an official period of “calm”. All the Palestinian organisations with the exception Islamic Jihad have held their fire in return for what they understood to be a cessation of Israeli military operations and an end to the hunting down of those on Israel’s wanted list. But nevertheless such operations have continued some ending up with the death of those on the list.”
Ma’ariv, a newspaper with larger circulation than Haaretz and with a far less liberal reputation printed the opinion piece of Avihai Sharon from “Shovrim Shtika” – Sol Salbe.]
* * * * * * *
About a third of those killed in IDF operations are civilians
Hebrew original
Last update 4.43 02/10/05
Fifteen of the 49 Palestinians killed by the IDF in the past three months have been unarmed civilians (a third of these have been youths.)
The most conspicuous cases were those of six unarmed Palestinians that were killed in two incidents in the Tulkarm refugee camp during August. At least four of these were younger than 18. Despite the reduction in terrorist bombing and violent incidents [by the Palestinians], not much has changed in terms of the IDF’s norms of procedures of opening fire. True it again and again announces new investigations and committees of inquiry but the police of opening fire on demonstrators and stone throwers.
For the past six months we have had an official period of “calm”. All the Palestinian organisations with the exception Islamic Jihad have held their fire in return for what they understood to be a cessation of Israeli military operations and an end to the hunting down of those on Israel’s wanted list. But nevertheless such operations have continued some ending up with the death of those on the list.
This was the background to announcement by the Palestinian Authority Chairperson, Abu Mazen, that the IDF operation are critically endangering the period of calm. Groups within the al Aqsa martyrs brigade have also announced a suspension of their commitment to the “calm.” It is unclear what was the urgent need to kill the two wanted Palestinians last Friday. But what is clear is that such operations erode the Palestinian Authority’s ability to rein down the armed organisations.
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Silence, there’s a shooting going on
By Avihai Sharon
Hebrew original
Avihai Sharon is shocked by Israeli society’s indifference to the deaths of innocent victims in the Occupied Territories. After five years of the Intifada, the IDF has got its responses down pat, like the one we were graced with last Saturday. On that occasion a paratrooper force shot and killed a 13-year-old Palestinian child, Udai Tantawi, during a routine operation in the Askar refugee camp.
The IDF subsequently said that this was a case of a violation of the norms of procedure and that the force’s commander, a sergeant, had been suspended. The account provided by the IDF was that stones and bottles were thrown at the force while it was operating, a common occurrence in the Territories.
Israeli society has become used to such announcements. As with a Hollywood movie, we know the script in advance – it would be deemed as an exceptional deviation from the norm, and the local commander – a sergeant or a second lieutenant -- would be removed from his position.
In recent weeks the organisation “Shovrim Shtika” [Breaking the Silence] has published a new compilation of eyewitness accounts relating to the subject of opening fire in the Territories. Here is what a soldier from the paratrooper brigade said about orders and the procedures related to opening fire that he received during the Intifada. “…my crew has killed innocent people, or at least those deemed to be innocent. Some of these were in error, a genuine error. But what is an error? In all honesty, you go and tell them – sorry, there has been an error, we have killed your husband or your daughter, or your son or your grandfather or I don’t know what. And then there were others that were executed as a result of orders that in my opinion were illegal…”
In a state whose regulations for the opening of fire are classified and are not subject to public scrutiny, we can never tell whether we are witnessing a tragic error or a crime. During the current confrontation in the Territories, every soldier is familiar with situations where a child could appear to be armed, a pregnant woman may be a bomb-carrying terrorist and so on.
Tragic results
The reality of the IDF soldiers operating in the Territories is that every operation carries the potential for tragic consequences. During my service I found myself more than once in the Nablus region, including the Askar camp. For some reason the IDF has never deemed it necessary to supply us and train us with the means of dispersing demonstrations.
My unit, like lots of other IDF units, was never supplied with rubber bullets or tear gas. Despite our repeated requests, the IDF has never deemed it necessary to equip the soldiers with means that would enable a non-lethal response for incidents such as the one that occurred last Saturday. That decision has cost many lives, including by my own unit.
The question of the opening-fire procedures provides yet one more example of the bleak reality that Israeli society prefers to close its eyes to. Within hailing distance of our homes, a corrupt reality exists that turns our children into men and women with blood on their hands. But neither our community nor its leaders wants to respond to that reality.
This lack of response to such incidents epitomises the immunity of the security forces to criticism. Worse still, it embodies the public’s moral indifference to what is done in its name in the Territories.
The case of 13-year-old Udai joins a long list of thousands of fatalities, including hundreds of children, that have been killed by IDF forces in the Territories. For our part, we continue to live in our comfortable and indifferent bubble until the next incident when we will again be reminded of our soldiers and their victims.
The writer is a leader of the Shovrim Shtika movement.
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[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements]

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