Intifadat Falasteen: Palestinian uprisings against colonization efforts
First major uprising: 1936-1939
Palestinian society in the 1920s was riddled with problems. Having gone through the dramatic changes from four centuries of Ottoman rule to British rule was the biggest and perhaps least investigated aspect of the shifts in power and allegiances in the Palestinian society. Yet, this new British rule was unique. For, in addition to being a colonial rule, it had a distinct new twist: to fulfil the Balfour declaration of creating a "Jewish homeland" in predominantly Arab Palestine.
People who were affiliated with any aspect of the Ottoman rule were now discredited. People who fought on the side of the British were given positions and prestige. The class of elite Palestinians continued to prosper. Meanwhile, increased Jewish immigration and unfair British land laws squeezed Palestinian peasants. The latter is particularly worthy of note. The British believed in a capitalist system and individual land ownership. Palestinian peasants having farmed their lands communally as Hamoulas (extended families) were not impressed with the idea of assigning specific ownership to specific individuals. Many had to comply and pick one or a few individuals to receive new titles to the land (these were usually the elders and traditional Hamoula leaders or Mukhtars). This fit well with British colonial schemes utilized in other British colonies (e.g. finding people who will take responsibility for managing the restless natives from among the natives themselves). Many Palestinians refused to comply but eventually, the British managed to transform a system of village ownership of land with at least nominally individual ownership of lands. In many of these villages, the farmers or peasants (called Fellahin in Arabic) continued to do their farming on lands they farmed for ages even though now it may have been registered in a name of a particular individual or "leader." These leaders thus received new powers they never had and soon did not feel bound by tradition or culture and started to exercise power including preventing the Fellahin from using their own lands that they farmed for hundreds of years or even worse to sell it to the Jewish Yishuv.
The middle and lower class members of the Palestinian society thus came under tremendous pressures and they rightly blamed the tripartite cause of their misery to: the Palestinian elite, the Jewish settlers, and the British overlords. Worsening economic situation across the globe in the early 1930s made this an even more volatile situation. Thus, was born the first truly grass-root rebellion/uprising by Palestinians in 1936. It originated from the young people who have by now established groups like the Young Men's Muslim Association, scouting organizations, and Hizb Al-Istiqlal (the Party of Independence), a radical progressive organization. Flare-up of clashes with the British forces in 1934 and 1935 were small and contained. In November 1935, a leading figure in many of the radical movements was killed in a clash with British forces. This was Shaykh Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam ( a young preacher from Haifa). His death (martyrdom) was a rallying call to the masses. On April 19, 1936, a riot broke out in Jaffa in response to increased Zionist activity, British oppression, and unfair laws by the British Mandate government. The British immediately and violently put this down and imposed curfews and emergency regulations throughout the country. Palestinian leaders in response called for a general strike which lasted till October and essentially paralyzed economic life. The British underestimated the level of resentment at their policy and attempted to undercut the growing revolt by some statements that were not consistent with their actions on the ground (severe repression of the natives and increased support for the Zionist program between 1922-the late 1930s). At one point, the British proposed dividing the country to a small Jewish state and a larger segment of Palestine to be incorporated under Britain's puppet government of Jordan. This proposal touched off more demonstrations and continued uprising, which the British were not able to completely suppress until 1939.
For the Palestinians, the results were devastating in losses. The British killed over 5000 Palestinians and, as collective punishment, demolished whole sections of Jaffa and many other places. The best fighting men were either killed or imprisoned (approximately 10% of adult males thus included). On the social and political level, the impact was also devastating. The Arab high Commission was now more divided than ever, the Mufti gained more power at the expense of the demolished progressive and grassroots organizations. The British were able to split the Palestinians further into factions squabbling over everything from remaining and dwindling resources to tactics to philosophy (Rashid Khalidi, "The Palestinians and 1948: the underlying causes of failure", pp. 12-36 in "The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948", E. L. Rogan and A. Schlaim, eds., Cambridge University Press. 2001)
By contrast, the Jewish Yishuv's took this revolt to strengthen its hand and unity. Using the instability, they argued successfully for the British to build them a separate port in Tel Aviv and to strengthen their independence and control over places like the Haifa port and internal transportation. They were allowed more armaments to fight the Palestinian insurgents (now labeled by the British as criminals). And by 1947 were essentially an already independent entity refusing to cooperate with the British on most issues of consequence. The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry thus wrote in 1946:
"The Jews have developed, under the aegis of the Jewish Agency and the Vaad Leumi, a strong and tightly-woven community. There thus exists a virtual Jewish nonterritorial State with its own executive and legislative organs, parallel in many respects to the Mandatory Administration, and- serving as the concrete symbol of the Jewish National Home. This Jewish shadow Government has ceased to cooperate with the Administration in the maintenance of law and order, and in the suppression of terrorism." (Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry - Chapter VIII, Published by the US Department of State, Lausanne, Switzerland, April 20, 1946).
African American poet Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
OR DOES IT EXPLODE?
(capitals/emphasis by the poet)
Intifadah II 1987-1991
Twenty years following the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel had already established a large network of settlements on confiscated Palestinian lands and Israel's military controlled every minutia of life for the 3 million Palestinians under occupation. A new generation of young people now knew nothing but occupation. Those who rebelled were mostly from this generation (below 20 years old). Their parents had seen defeat and oppression but lacked the self-confidence and idealism of youth to do something about their conditions. This intifada was a spontaneous rebellion against the occupation and all its manifestations. In addition, unlike uprisings against the occupation in other conflicts, Palestinians were contending with settlers and settlement activities. This was an enormous challenge. Most clashes were of stone throwers versus Israeli armed troops and armed settlers/colonists. The world was taken by surprise at the sudden outbreak, the extent of the confrontations, and popular support of the uprising. Media coverage was brisk coming on the heals of Israel's brutal forays into Lebanon that cost 20-30,000 lives. Israeli leaders thus thought a quick end to this uprising is the best approach. They instituted a policy of use of excessive force and collective punishments to deter the youth from demonstrating. Rabin authorized breaking bones of youth caught throwing stones. This was occasionally caught on TV cameras and caused an uproar among the Palestinians and in Europe. The US media was much more sympathetic to Israel and under pressure not to show what was really happening in the areas. Israeli forces were also authorized to demolish homes of teenagers caught throwing stones. These and other forms of collective punishment barred by international law were routinely implemented to "teach them a lesson."
By the end of the 1st year (Dec 1987-Dec. 1988) 318 Palestinians were killed, 20,000 wounded, 15,000 arrested, 12,000 jailed and 34 deported. In the period between the start of the 1987 Intifadah to 1994 Israel interrogated on average five thousand Palestinians per year. According to official statistics, of the 83,321 Palestinians tried in military courts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between 1988 and 1993 only 3.2 per cent were acquitted. A majority of interrogation subjects were subjected to severe beatings, many of which involved broken bones and hospitalization. These methods were subsequently reviewed and changed into a package of measures that included beatings that left no marks, painful body positioning and sensory disorientation. But there have of course been other effects.
The achievements of the 1987 Intifada were numerous. Israeli media having covered the war on Lebanon in detail did not shy away from covering this uprising. The Israeli public for the first time awoke to the threat not of wars "outside" the self defined "Israel" (including the West Bank and Gaza) but inside. Most Israeli's never bothered thinking that their "administration" of the West Bank and Israel was an occupation. Like their parents before them, they considered the Palestinians as either non-existence, a mere background noise to the Zionist agenda, or as simple nuisance. Israelis were more concerned about threats from "outside" (Lebanon, Syria, the cool peace with Egypt, possible instability in Jordan). This included their interest in signing peace deals with those countries that would prevent war, keep Israeli control of areas west of the River Jordan or give nominal authority to Jordan based on the Allon Plan, and prevent refugees from going back. For the first time, Israelis realized the extent of the problem within and started to consider the "demographic threat" of a large number of restless Palestinians under Israeli rule. For the first time Israel had to deal with the Palestinians on their own and this shattered the myths of a vulnerable Israel fighting for list survival against incredible odds. In this confrontation it was very obvious who is the David and who is the Goliath.
We Shoot Children Too, Don't We
By Dan Almagor
Most of these people truly desire
To harvest their olive trees
As they have for hundreds of years.
Most of these people truly desire to raise their kids
Not to throw stones
Or Molotov cocktails,
But to study in peace,
To play in peace,
And to raise a flag.
Their own flag.
And facing that flag, to cry
As we did, that night, then, excited as we were.
And we have no, have no, have no
Right in the world
To rob them of this desire.
These tears, which always, always
Come after all the others.
Let us start preparing our defense.
We will need it soon enough.
All those who actually did it,
And those who still do.
And those who hushed it up,
And those who still do.
And those who said nothing,
And those who clucked their tongues, saying
"Something must be done, really;
(But not tonight. I have a concert,
Yes, we'll all get our summons one day.
For the Colonels' trials.
The Colonel's trials are coming,
Their time will come, it must be so.
The trials of the Generals, the Colonels,
The division, the battalion,
And the platoon commanders.
There is no escaping it.
This is how history works.
What shall we say?
What will the Colonels, the Captains, the
What will they say
Of those terrible beatings,
Of houses blown up,
And most of all, the humiliation.
Of patients forced to wipe the writing
off the walls.
Of old men forced to take down a flag
From an electric pole,
Who were electrocuted, or fell
And broke their legs.
Of the old water carrier
Who soldiers ordered off his donkey
And rode on his back, just for fun.
Mean, arrogant, and dumb.
Who do we think we are?
Who gave us the right
To be so deaf, so dumb?
Ignoring the obvious: they are as human
As we are, as we are.
At least as human as we used to be
Only forty-one years ago.
No less diligent, no less smart.
As sensitive, as full of hope.
They love their wives and children
As we do, no less.
And our children now shoot theirs
With lead, plastic bullets, and gas.
The Palestinian state will come to pass.
Not a poet wrote this.
And seasons may come, and seasons may go,
And life goes on as we very well know.
Weddings, and births, and deaths all the same-But just the shame of it. The shame.
Intifadah III 2000-date
I remember the children
as dead angels
and injured sparrows
God was sad
Shawqi Baghdadi (Palestinian Poet)
The offers made at Camp David in July 2000 as final status were rejected by the Palestinians as offers that legitimize occupation and dispossession and are not based on the premise of International law (withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories and return of refugees). Details of this diplomatic faux pa are summarized elsewhere. Following this collapse of negotiations, Palestinians in the street were even more despairing than before. It was made very clear what Israeli leaders intended as a final outcome for the negotiations with an end of conflict signature. This final agreement was to be a stateless on disjointed areas containing the population centers in the West Bank and Gaza, no sovereignty for the Palestinians even in the Haram Al-Sharif area (the Temple Mount), the majority of settlements remaining where they are, and no right of return to Palestinian refugees.
Palestinians have also seen that actions such as home demolitions, settlement activity, confiscation of ID's from non-Jewish Jerusalemites, restrictions on movement and work actually increased in the seven years after 1993 than the years before (indicating Israel's true intentions). The number of settlers in the occupied territories doubled.. Israel failed to withdraw from the best lands in the West Bank (60% remained under direct Israeli rule, 70% when counting Jerusalem) and Gaza (40% remained under direct Israeli rule). Since 1967, over 9000 homes have been demolished in the occupied areas according to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions. The pace of these demolitions actually increased after 1993, especially in the 60% of the West Bank designated area C by the Oslo protocols.
Considering these clear conditions on the ground, Israeli forces were well prepared for a major uprising and had predicted it. Plans to deal with it were already leaked (e.g. Haaretz and other Israeli newspaper) even during the July 2000 negotiations, two months before the uprising started.
According to the UN Security Council resolution following the start of the uprising, the uprising was touched off by Sharon's visit to the Haram Al-Sharif. This was really the insult added to injury. The uprising was not against Sharon but against Israeli policies and practices that transcend party politics. After all, Barak and his labor cabinet were the ones who approved Sharon's visit of September 28th, 2000 and provided him with over 1000 troops and police knowing that this will result in sparking the tinderbox created by Israeli policies. The 2000 security forces which assembled on Friday September 29th, 2000 to tackle the post Friday prayers made no attempt to disperse the demonstrators by non-lethal means even though none of the demonstrators were armed. Five unarmed worshippers were killed and over 160 injured (32 of whom sustained critical injuries, two later dying of their injuries) in what was later labeled by human rights organizations (Amnesty, Human Rights Watch etc) as "excessive use of force." That marked the beginning of an uprising (Intifada) which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians (and injuring close to 25,000 as of this writing - January 2002).
Israel assassinated over 60 Palestinians in the first 14 months of the uprising. Israeli assassinations (extrajudicial executions) are not new in Israeli practices. They started actually before Israel was established in 1948 and continued in the 1950s (including actions by Sharon himself), and intensified in the 1970s (future Prime Minister Ehud Barak was actually in charge of an assassination squad). In the 1980s Israel succeeded in assassinating many Palestinian leaders in Lebanon through actions they termed as "targeted killings."
Many of those assassinated were political leaders. Dr. Thabet Thabet was a medical doctor in charge of health work committees in the West Bank, a moderate member of Fatah (Yassir Arafat's group in the PLO). When Israel assassinated the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Mr. , it was similarly assassinating someone who actually advocated co-existence and democracy. A handful of his followers took revenge by assassinating an Israeli minister who advocated expulsion of the Palestinians (increased ethnic cleansing) and considered Palestinians subhuman. His friend Ariel Sharon took revenge by killing scores of Palestinians in a massive military campaign in six Palestinian cities. Here is how Gideon Levy described this revenge in Haaretz newspaper:
There is no need to wait for God to avenge the blood of slain minister Rehavam Ze'evi - the Israel Defense Forces has already done it in His name.... Even the appalling wish by journalist Ronel Fisher on the culture program of Channel 8, when he called for Israel to kill 50 Palestinians for every Jew who is murdered, was realized. More than 40 Palestinians, about half of them civilians - including four women and four children, have already been killed... Dozens have been wounded; houses have been demolished; cars have been flattened; and tens of thousands of people have been imprisoned in terror, under a harsh occupation. .. Raniya Haroufi, 24, a mother of two children, was killed last week when she fled from a gun battle. Ayasha Abu Oudeh, a mother of eight children, was killed on the way to visit her family. They and many others were innocent victims; and in the eyes of the Palestinians, they were victims of terrorism.
The government's campaign of revenge was not confined solely to the depth of the Israeli incursion into Palestinian territories. It was accompanied this time by particularly brutal acts; for example, the IDF shot at Al-Hussein Hospital in Beit Jala - the only hospital in the Bethlehem region. The hospital was compelled to issue an announcement informing anyone who was hurt in the violence on that day to keep away from the institution because of the shooting. One young man was killed and another was wounded, just outside the hospital's emergency room.
The president of Physicians for Human Rights, Dr. Ruhama Martoun, who visited the hospital, reported that she had clearly seen the damage caused by the shooting and shelling on the walls of the institution and the ambulances parked next to it. The IDF also shelled a maternity hospital in Bethlehem. After the hospital endured a two-day long barrage, the premature infant's ward was evacuated. Even in the darkest days of the previous intifada, the IDF did not open fire at hospitals.
There were also private, small-scale acts of retribution - for example, the cars that were parked on Beit Jala streets and were flattened by the tanks that moved through the village. What did that have to do with the war against terrorism?
Rafi Miller wrote in Haaretz on January 17, 2001:
"As a Jew and ex-IDF officer, I was shocked to see IDF soldiers dragging a bleeding young Palestinian in the streets of Hebron. The shocking image showed our soldiers as sadists who rejoice over the killing of a young man, and drag his body to our settlers to rejoice, dance, exchange candy and congratulations and kick the not-yet-dead body...I strongly believe that their blood is as red as ours and equally sacred. Our army's actions in the West Bank and Gaza amount to crimes against humanity. The Israel Defense Forces should investigate in a fair way and punish these soldiers before the world wakes up and put most of us on trial for crimes against humanity."
After killings that receive media attention and scrutiny (not all killings), Israel announces an investigation. Of hundreds of these investigations, few ever come to any "conclusion" (most are dropped after a few months or sometimes years). Of those that come to conclusion even fewer find Israelis guilty. For example the investigation into the killing of Rami Al-Durra (12 year old) in his fathers arms shown on TV and receiving wide media attention (hence "investigated) was shown by Israeli newspapers to be a whitewash which exonerated the soldiers in the face of direct evidence (investigations by Human Rights Organizations).
In the early first month of the Intifada, Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel demonstrated (inside the Green line). The unarmed demonstrators were then fired on by Israeli sharpshooters resulting in the deaths of 13 demonstrators. Israeli and Western media pressed the case of shooting unarmed civilians not because this did not happen before (it was happening daily) but because this was not in the occupied areas but inside the Green line and these were Israeli citizens who were killed. The commission, chaired by Supreme Court Justice Theodor Or questioned the former minister of public security in the week of November 19th, 2001 (almost 13 months following the killings). Here is how a commentator, Nehemiah Strasler, characterized this investigation in Haaretz:
"I didn't hear anything, I didn't know anything, no one reported to me, they didn't carry out my orders - that's what the former minister of public security, Shlomo Ben-Ami, told the Or Commission this week (13 months after the murders-MQ). ... According to his testimony before the commission, he was never in control of the ministry for which he was responsible: he had no control over the national police chief, over the district commanders, or over the use of live ammunition or steel-coated rubber bullets by the forces on the ground. His directives, it turns out, were no more than recommendations, which those who received them could either carry out or not, as they pleased, but he himself never bothered to check to see if they had been implemented. Under these conditions, who needs a cabinet minister? He even said that it was only in the wake of the commission's hearings that he learned about the use of police sharpshooters who fired live ammunition at the Arab demonstrators.
That means he doesn't even read the papers. On October 6, 2000, while the events were at their height, Ha'aretz reported that sharpshooters were brought into Umm al-Fahm: "As soon as the police begin to fire rubber bullets at the rioters, sharpshooters ... whose task it is to wound with the use of live ammunition, are also used ... In the events on the Temple Mount (a week earlier) sharpshooters hit a few youngsters." But Ben-Ami didn't read that. "
Very rare cases of finding any guilt are almost always not for Israeli soldiers but settlers (afterall, soldiers killing Palestinian civilians if convicted can implicate their superiors and the government investigating them for issuing the orders to do the killing in the first place). The Israeli Human Rights Organization HaMoked found that of 441 Palestinian complaints against the Israeli forces between 1988 and 1997, only 22 resulted in trials and in cases were results are known, no soldier was given any sentences (Escaping Responsibility: the response of the Israeli Military Justice System to Complaints against Soldiers by Palestinians, November 1997, HaMoked; also cited in Amnesty International report of 25 July 2001, found at http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/Index/ACT400202001?OpenDocument&of=THEMES\RACISM
According to the Israeli magazine Kol Ha'ir, Israeli soldiers distribute photographs of killed Palestinians as trophies: "A soldier knows how cheap and easy it is to kill a Palestinian. There's no punishment, it doesn't get to a military court, or to the civil courts. The deaths of Palestinians are easy and cheap. This easiness makes the whole thing into a kind of amusement. It's very similar to what happened in the lynching, many of which were for amusement." (Kol Ha'ir, 5 Oct. 2001)
Settlers sometimes are "punished." Here is an example. The Associated Press reported January 21, 2001: "An Israeli court on Sunday sentenced a Jewish settler to community service and a fine for the beating and kicking death of an 11-year-old Palestinian boy. The boy's father expressed outrage and accused the court of issuing a 'license to kill.' "
There have been voices of moderation and restraint in the Israeli army. Dozens of draftees to join the army and over 230 Israeli reservists refused to serve in the occupied areas. Many were jailed and others demoted. Sergeant Yishai Rosen-Zvi,, sentenced to 13 months in jail for refusing to serve, wrote to his commanding officer: "I won't take part in a siege enforced against hundreds of thousands of people, including women and children... I won't starve entire villages and prevent their residents from getting to work each day or to medical check-ups; I won't turn them into hostages of political decisions. A siege against cities, like bombing raids from helicopters, does not stop terror. It is a sop to placate Israel's public" (Haaretz, June 15, 2001).
The direct impact of a siege of over two years and warfare on daily Palestinian life is reduced to mere ciphers (2 killed here, 5 there, 8 elsewhere). Ignored in this picture is the horrendous Palestinian medical and humanitarian catastrophe.
The following observations are based on information from the Union of Palestine Medical Relief Association, Palestine Red Crescent, and the Ministry of Health. The data cover the period of two years from the start of the Palestinian uprising during which Israeli occupation forces and settlers killed 1995 Palestinians and injured 32,000 others. These are the official numbers but is estimated that hundreds more died and thousands suffered due to the Israeli siege policy. But the realities behind even the official figures are shocking. If we consider that 2.9 million people live in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, this is the equivalent of having over two million Americans injured and over 170,000 killed. Of those injured, 36% of injuries were by live ammunition, the remainder by rubber-coated steel bullets, and other so-called "non-lethal" means. Two thirds of the injuries were to head (like Marwa's case) and upper part of the body. One third (West Bank) to one half (Gaza) of those injured were hit in the back. An astonishing 58% were not involved in demonstrations or clashes (Hiam and Marwa are typical stories).
An internal and external siege and closure of Palestinian towns and villages prevented many from reaching urgently needed medical care. At least 16 deaths are directly attributed to this closure. The closure also prevents medical personnel from getting to the scenes of injury and many more of those who died bled to death while waiting for evacuation. Israeli forces attacked ambulances on 215 occasions causing damage to 106 ambulances, killing 3 medical personnel and inuring 184 (see http://www.palestinercs.org/graphs/attackweek2.jpg).
Over 100 journalists were shot or beaten by Israeli soldiers/settlers and six press centers were shelled. Shelling of civilian areas has accelerated and over 12,000 buildings were damaged (including hundreds of homes homes, 30 mosques, 12 churches, 15 schools).
A quarter of those injured suffered permanent disabilities impacting their function for the rest of their lives. Over 800 cases involved lost limbs. Over 100 Palestinians were assassinated (extrajudicial killings are considered a war crime by International law) with 75 bystandars also killed during these illegal actions.
The Gaza Community Mental Health Program counsels increasing numbers of children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders. Symptoms include thumb-sucking, crying, clinging to parents, nightmares, bed-wetting, poor appetite, poor sleeping patterns, short attention spans, aggression towards siblings or parents, and fear of dying. Psychological research shows taht the main factor motivating those engaged in suicide bombing (so far some 200 people of teh population of 2.9 million) is a personal history of suffering (occupation forces causing suffering to bomber or to a close family member).
Such medical disaster are wreaked in a context of economic devastation. Israeli occupation forces have diverted natural resources from use by the indigenous Palestinian population to use by settlers/colonists. This includes confiscation and settlement so far that has taken over 40% of the Palestinian land occupied in 1967 (itself a mere 22% of historic Palestine that was usurped to make space for the Jewish state). The Israeli army caused over 600 million dollars worth of infrastructure damade in the occupied areas. They even attacked food storage facilies (both UN and FAO), water wells (over 150 damaged), hospitals, clinics, and sewage treatment facilities. Tens of thousands of trees were uprooted and over 100,000 dunums of agricultural land was bulldozed or otherwise rendered unusable. According to the World Bank and International agencies, the siege and relentless attack on Palestinians in the past two years resulted in massive poverty and economic hardships that more than halfed the already feeble economy which was weak from 35 years of occupation. Now a majority of Palestinians live below the poverty line of $2 per day and 45% of children are malnourished according to UN studies.
It should be added that a battery of international laws outlaw the Israeli economic and physical and psychological onslaught: The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, UN resolutions 194, 242, 338, the Hague Regulations, the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights/Convention on Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on Rights of the Child. Israel's human-rights violations have been condemned by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, Israel's human rights organization B'tselem, and many other organizations.
Americans consequently have no idea of the true magnitude of war-inflicted suffering that would constitute an unprecedented national emergency where it to take place on a similar scale in our country. Since such information is either not relayed or completely ignored, it is not suprising taht when asked most American think there were more Israelis killed than Palestinians or that Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians is done only by mistake. With literally thousands of such "mistakes" the UN and Human Rights Organizations clearly do not buy this whitewashing of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity. Of the 1995 Palestinians killed in two years of the uprising, 20% were under the age of 18. 44 of those were killed in the first month of the uprising well before any attacks on Israeli civilians,
In one email message to friends during the bombing of my own hometown of Beit Sahour on 22 October 2000, I wrote the following.
"I talked to my family in Beit Sahour yesterday ... They spoke of a friend with twins 2 months old who is staying at other people's homes as the neighborhood in the south of the city is shelled nightly. They occasionally visit during the day to survey the extent of additional damage and their thoughts when they saw the damaged beds of the twins.
Dozens of homes are shattered. People can't sleep as they are under constant military assault. Money is becoming scarce as salaries are not coming this month and those who used to go work elsewhere cannot go because of the blockade (even Palestinian Police will not be paid). Food is available but money is not available to buy it. Funerals have become choreographed and routine as many of those who die in Bethlehem, Dheishe and surrounding area cannot be buried in the large Muslim cemetery in Bethlehem (that is the area near the Israeli checkpoint to Jerusalem and it is the area of heavy Israeli gun fire). So the region's dead are buried in Beit Sahour (in Beit Sahour, the Mosque and the Greek Orthodox Church are in the same block and the Muslim and Christian cemeteries are around the corner from each other).
The sound of heavy guns is heard nightly in our town (& worse in Beit Jala). My parents lament that in Gaza things are worse and many more people died and life is much more of a hell. They see the same pictures we see on the internet of effect of heavy caliber gun on young bodies with brains and arms shattered and they ask me "what is this world coming to, are they going to wipe-us of the face of this earth, when is this going to end, what can we do?" "
On 11/22/2001 five Palestinian school children ages 6-14 were killed by an explosion. Initial reactions from Israeli authorities were denial of any involvement and even suggested it may have been a Palestinian explosive. Some media in the West CNN) insisted that one of the kids kicked an exploded (Israeli) tank shell. After evidence revealed that Israeli troops were in the area the night before and media leaks, the Israeli army admitted culpability. According to the Jerusalem Post (11/25/2001)" "IDF forces laid the bomb that accidentally killed five Palestinian schoolboys in Khan Yunis on Thursday, the army announced last night. The IDF had remained silent over the cause of Thursday's deadly explosion except to say no tank had fired a shell in that sector. OC Gaza Strip Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Ziv is participating in the inquiry, but he himself may have been behind the decision to lay the bomb."
The weapons that inflicted the massive toll described above are made in the United States (M16 rifles, ammunition, Apache Helicopters, F-16 fighter jets), and paid for by our taxes. Over the past four decades, the US has funneled almost 100 billion dollars to Israel; that is more money than we gave to the whole continent of Africa. Our government has also used its veto power in the UN and its superpower status to shield Israel from an overwhelming International condemnation of its atrocities. It is time to start asking questions about our complicity in creating and sustaining this tragedy.
Palestinian medical sources report that an alarming number of them are injured in the head or legs (knees), with carefully aimed shots, and, increasingly, live ammunition. This pattern of injuries cannot be accidental. Dan Ephron, Boston Globe correspondent in Jerusalem reports (Nov 4) on the findings of the Physicians for Human Rights delegation: "American doctors who examined Israel's use of force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have concluded that Israeli soldiers appeared to be deliberately targeting the heads and legs of Palestinian protestors, even in non-life-threatening situations."
Israeli professor Tanya Reinhart wrote in Indymedia:
"Medical School doctors in the delegation explained that law enforcement officials worldwide are trained to aim at the chest in dangerous situations (since it is the largest target), and the fact that Palestinians were hit in the head and legs suggests that there was no life-threatening situation, soldiers had ample time, and were deliberately trying to harm unarmed people." http://www.indymedia.org.il/imc/israel/webcast/display.php3?article_id=598
In fact, the Israelis are not even trying to conceal their shooting strategies. Interviews like the following can be easily found in the Israeli media:
"I shot two people... in their knees. It's supposed to break their bones and neutralize them but not kill them," says Sgt. Raz, a sharpshooter from the Nahshon battalion.
"How did I feel? ...Well actually, I felt pretty satisfied with myself," the 20-year-old soldier confides. "I felt I could do what I was trained to do, and it gave me a lot of self-confidence to
think that if we get into a real war situation I'd be able to defend my comrades and myself."
A common practice is shooting a rubber coated metal bullet straight in the eye - a little game of well trained soldiers, which requires maximum precision. Reports on eye injuries keep coming daily......Stray bullets do not hit so many people precisely in the eye, head, or knee. The Israeli army prepared carefully for the present events:
"Established just over a year ago specifically to deal with unrest in the West Bank...The IDF has trained four battalions for low-intensity conflict, and Nahshon is the one specializing in urban warfare. Its troops train in mock Palestinian villages constructed in two IDF bases." ("Nahshon battalion ready for urban warfare", Arieh O'Sullivan, Jerusalem Post, Oct 27, 2000).
In a new phase of attack to finish off the Palestinian resistance, Sharon ordered his forces to go through and uproot the "infrastructure of terror" starting March 29, 2002. In the six weeks to follow, at least 350 Palestinians were killed (the numbers may be much higher as many went missing and Israel refuses to account for the thousands it took into custody).
The most intensive attacks occurred on the Jenin Refugee camp, an extremely crowded area with refugees who originate from Israel's "cleansing" operations in 1948. In this camp with 14,000 residents crowded into an area the size of one city block, Israel used armored bulldozers, tanks, F-16s, and attack helicopters to ensure the camp got the message about resistance. Homes of some 3000 residents in the center of the camp were demolished. Israel prevented a UN inquiry team from going to investigate. In return for Israel allowing President Arafat to leave his besieged compound in Ramallah per US wishes, the US actively prevented any enforcemnt or action at the UN security Council. Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch found credible evidence of grave breeches of International human rights including using residents as "shields", indiscriminate destruction and killing, and disregard for private property and lives. The reports are found at http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/2002/israel04222002.html
Moshe Nissim, who operated a bulldozer for 75 straight hours in Jenin was quoted in Yediot Ahoronot:
"No one refused an order to take down a house. When they told me to destroy a house I exploited that in order to destroy a few more homes. On the loudspeaker (the residents) were warned to get out before I came in. But I didn't give a chance to anyone. I didn't wait. I'm sure that people died inside of those houses. From my perspective we left them a football field, they should play there. The 100x100 was our present to the camp. Jenin will not return to be what it was." (Yedioth Ahronot, Friday 31 May 2002, translated by Alternative Information Center).
The United Nations through its office of Special Coordinator issued a report on the Palestinian economy in Spring 2001. This report even though early in the uprising had ominous description of the impact of the Israeli measure on every sphere of Palestinian life. The report concluded that "the relative economic progress that characterized the Palestinian economy in the first three quarters of 2000 was sharply curtailed from the end of September onward as a consequence of political crisis, confrontations and the deepest, most sustained movement restrictions ever imposed on Palestinian society and its institutions."
The psychological impact of the latest intifada has also been dramatic. While support for reconciliation and peace among the Palestinians continue to be high (at about 70%), the support for Arafat, the Palestinian authority, and confidence in the "peace process" dropped dramatically. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll showed that support for Islamist groups has grown tremendously and now rival Arafat and Fatah (27% and 29% respectively versus 17% and 37% before the uprising started).
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