Israel’s Specialty: Targeting Civilians

by Stephen Lendman / May 30th, 2010

Professor Jeremy Salt teaches political science at Ankara, Turkey’s Bilkent University. He’s also the author of The Unmaking of the Middle East: A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands. On January 9, 2009, during Israel’s war on Gaza, he wrote “A Message to the brave Israeli Airmen,” asking:

What’s it like, firing missiles at people you can’t see?

Does that help, that you cannot see who you are killing?

Does it ease your conscience that you are not deliberately targeting
civilians, when, in fact, you are under Israel’s Dahiya Doctrine to use
enough “disproportionate force (to inflict) damage and met(e) out
punishment” against civilian infrastructure, “economic interests and
the centers of civilian power,” willfully slaughtering noncombatant
men, women and children;

How does this sit on your conscience?

Do you sleep well at night or do you have nightmares of the women
and children you killed in their homes, in their beds, in their
kitchens and living rooms, in their schools and mosques?

Do you really believe they threaten your security — farmers in their
fields, mothers with their children, teachers in classrooms, imams in
mosques, children at play, the elderly, frail or disabled?

Do you ever question what you’ve done and why? Have you no shame, no
sense of decency, no idea of the difference between right and wrong?
Will you follow orders blindly and do it again and again, mindless
about crimes of war and against humanity you, your superiors, and
government officials are accountable for under fundamental
international law?

“Brave” Israeli airmen, soldiers, sailors, and other security force
personnel have acted lawlessly for decades, including committing
appalling human rights crimes — a snapshot of some victims follows.

Persecuting Mazin Qumsiyeh

Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit
Universities in the West Bank. Earlier he taught at Yale, Duke, and the
University of Tennessee. Interested mainly in media activism and public
education, he’s been a board, steering, and executive committee member
of numerous activist organizations, and is President of the Palestinian
Center for Rapprochement Between People and coordinator of the Popular
Committee against the Apartheid Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour.
His most recent book is titled, “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A
History of Hope and Empowerment.”

On the morning of May 6, Qumsiyeh and three others were arrested,
handcuffed, and taken to an unknown destination. He explained what

In Al-Wallaja, his “ten hour ordeal” began at 8:30AM. The village is
near the Green line. Israel’s Separation Wall route will encircle it.
It’s already lost much of its land. Residents fear losing the rest, so
to prevent it they resist.

Israeli bulldozers have demolished numerous homes. Heroic villagers
inspired others, “including Internationals and Israelis to join them in
their popular resistance…. Today’s started as we came through the woods
and sat in front of the bulldozer.”

“As the soldiers gathered their forces around us, you could feel
(them) preparing themselves for attack. We remained calm and peaceful.
They dragged us one by one forcefully from the bulldozed lands. They
picked the four of us for arrest for no obvious reason” — Qumsiyeh, two
Palestinian brothers, and a Canadian activist.

They beat, clubbed, rifle-butted, and pepper-sprayed the two
brothers. All four were then taken to a military checkpoint, told to
sit and wait, then ordered “to sign a paper claiming… we were not
beaten or mistreated.” 

They refused, then taken to “the investigation offices near Qubbit
Raheel (Rachel’s tomb), (and) locked up in a metal container.” Hours
later, they were interrogated individually, asked, but refused, to sign
other papers. Painfully handcuffed, they were returned to the container.

Next on to Talpiot police station to be fingerprinted and
photographed. “It was now nearly 5:30 and we were starving…. Finally
they br(ought) us some bread, each a slice of cheese and a small packet
of jam.” Together they were “dragged in front of a new investigator who
asked us to sign a release form that says we are told to stay away from
the wall… for 15 days and if we don’t we will (each) have to pay” about
$1,200. They signed, were released, but not given their ID cards. Later
they got them. “Life goes on in the land of Apartheid. Stay tuned.”

As coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Apartheid Wall
and Settlements in Beit Sahour, Qumsiyeh leads Palestinian grassroots
resistance against “Israeli occupation and colonization” as well as
“stopping and dismantling” what the International Court of Justice
(ICJ) called illegal, ordering the Wall’s demolition and for Israel “to
make reparation for all damage caused by the construction… including in
and around East Jerusalem.”

As the “main national grassroots body mobilizing and organizing
resistance against” the Wall, the Campaign “coordinates the work of 54
popular committees in communities” targeted for (or now being)
destroyed by its construction.

Strategies against it include raising awareness internationally;
national and community resistance; mobilizing solidarity among affected
communities, the Arab world, civil society, and unions; calling for
global boycott, divestment and sanctions; and enlisting international
popular support for justice.

Attacking Disabled Palestinians in Gaza

Besides the occupation, siege, regular incursions, and overall reign
of terror against 1.5 million people, Israel targets the disabled,
explained by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in a
December 2009 report titled, “Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Disabled
Persons in the Gaza Strip,” from September 1, 2003-November 30 2009.

It covers willful assaults against disabled civilians, and others
incapacitated by attacks. Of most concern was Operation Cast Lead’s
23-day assault from December 27, 2008-January 18, 2009, inflicting
massive numbers of deaths and injuries, as well as widespread
destruction, mostly against civilians, their homes, mosques,
businesses, factories, farms, schools, and hospitals — clear
non-military targets. The siege’s effect on health, education, and
other vital services was also addressed.

During the reporting period, 31 disabled Palestinians were killed,
including four women, and six children. Another 600 sustained permanent
disabilities, mostly physical. In addition, because of inadequate or
unavailable food, medicines, medical equipment, fuel, clean water,
sanitation, and the ability to leave or enter freely, the negative
impact has been enormous. 

“At the same time, foreign medical and technical personnel have not
been able to enter (Gaza) to help the disabled and provide them with
necessary medical and rehabilitation services.” As for the overall
effect of the siege, the longer it continues the more harm it inflicts
on those least able to cope. Precisely Israel’s strategic aim — to
strangle and smother all Gazans, the elderly, infirm and disabled the
most vulnerable.

Amnesty International (AI) on Israeli War Crimes

In its 2010 annual report, AI accused Western nations of shielding
Israel from accountability during the Gaza war and for nearly three
years of siege, depriving the population of vital essentials to survive
and endure. At the same time, it praised the Goldstone Commission for
heroically telling the truth. 

In documenting Israeli crimes of war and against humanity, AI said:

“Among other things, (Israel) carried out indiscriminate and
disproportionate attacks against civilians, targeted and killed medical
staff, used Palestinian civilians as ‘human shields,’ and
indiscriminately (used) white phosphorous (and other illegal weapons)
over densely populated residential areas.” As a result, the toll was

In response, the US State Department downplayed the accusations,
saying it “supports the need for accountability for any violations that
may have occurred in relation to the Gaza conflict by any party,”
ignoring Israel’s premeditated aggression, willfully attacking
civilians and committing horrendous war crimes. 

AI also condemned America’s human rights abuses, saying:

In the counter-terrorism context, accountability for
past human rights violations by the USA remains largely absent,
particularly in relation to the CIA programme (sic) of secret
detention. In litigation, the US administration continues to block
remedy for victims of such human rights violations. 181 detainees
remain in Guantanamo despite President Obama’s commitment to close the
detention facility by January 2010. A new Manual for Military
Commissions released by the Pentagon in April confirmed that even if a
detainee is (uncharged or) acquitted by a military commission, the US
administration reserves the right to continue to hold them in
indefinite detention.

Obama Administration’s Brazen Lawlessness

The latest example comes from a just revealed September 2009 secret
directive about expanded covert military activity in the Middle East,
Central Asia, the Horn of Africa or anywhere in the world to counter
alleged threats. In other words, the Obama administration reserves the
right to send US forces anywhere clandestinely, with or without host
nation approval, to “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” designated
targets by state terrorism, war, or any other means on the pretext of
defending national security — a justification only scoundrels would

Italian New Weapons Research Committee (NWRC) Accuses Israel of Contaminating Gaza Soil

In its May 11 press release, NWRC (a group of independent scientists
and doctors) said Israel’s 2006 and 2009 bombings left a high
concentration of toxic/carcinogenic metals residue in soil and human
tissue, likely to cause tumors, fertility problems, and serious harm to
newborns, including deformities and genetic mutations.

Of particular concern were “wounds provoked by weapons that did not
leave fragments in the bodies of the victims, a peculiarity that was
pointed out repeatedly by doctors in Gaza. This shows that experimental
weapons, whose effects are still to be assessed, were used.”

Some elements found are carcinogenic, including mercury, arsenic,
cadmium, chromium, nickel and uranium (from weapons with depleted
uranium). Others are potentially carcinogenic, including cobalt and
vanadium, and still more are fetotoxic (harmful to fetuses), including
aluminum, copper, barium, lead, and manganese. All of them in high
enough amounts produce genetic mutations as well as pathogenic effects
on human respiratory organs, kidneys, skin, neurological development,
and other bodily functions.

The combination of environmental contamination, direct wounds or
inhalations, aggravated by dire living conditions, presents a serious
risk to large numbers of people, worsened by repeated armed incursions.
According to Paola Manduca, NWRC’s spokesperson: ”Our study indicates
an anomalous presence of toxic elements in the soil (and human tissue).
It is essential to intervene at once to limit the effects of the
contamination on people, animals and cultivations.” 

Thus far, Israeli-Western collaborators still prevent 1.5 million
Gazans from getting the critical help they need, while Moshe Kantor,
president the European Jewish Congress, equated NWRC’s research to
“ancient blood libels against the Jewish people, when rumors were
spread about Jews poisoning wells. Today we are seeing a recurrence of
all the worst excesses of anti-Semitism and diatribes that we perhaps
naively thought had remained in the Dark Ages.”

The pro-Israeli NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg called the
accusations “designed to stigmatize Israel and erase the context of
mass terror, (similar to other) false or unverifiable claims.” These
are typical responses from rogues and their defenders caught red-handed.

But clear evidence they deny can’t be hidden. Nor can the growing
disenchantment of young American Jews, a phenomenon Steven Rosenthal
discussed in his 2001 book Irreconcilable Differences: The Waning of the American Jewish Love Affair with Israel,
citing policies that transformed the relationship from uncritical
“Israelotry” to disapproval and distress. The 1982 Lebanon invasion,
repressive occupation, Intifada, regular incursions, and greater
concern about home-grown issues shattered American Jewish unanimity,
diluting Israel’s next generation support.

On May 10, 2009, The Forward and Brandeis University Professor,
Jonathan D. Sarna, asked why, noting “a critical difference between
support for Israel in the past and today. For much of the 20th century,
the Israel of American Jews — the Zion that they imagined in their
minds, wrote about and worked to realize — was a mythical Zion, a
utopian extension of the American dream.”

They imagined a “social commonwealth,” an “outpost of democracy,
spreading America’s ideals eastward in a Jewish refuge where freedom,
liberty and social justice would someday reign supreme.” Utopias, of
course, are illusions, now dispelled to reveal “unlovliest warts.”
Today, bloom is off the rose, unsurprising given convincing reasons to
remove it.

A Final Comment

On May 26, Nobel Peace Laureate, Mairead Maguire, paid “Tribute to the People of Gaza,” saying:

“I never cease to be amazed at the power of the human spirit to
survive…. In a triumph of hope over adversity and tremendous suffering,
love still abides…. Gaza’s people have suffered an Israeli occupation
for over 40 years,” enduring wars and current medieval-type siege.

Lives have been shattered, crops destroyed, soil poisoned, and
sustainability comprised, so “Where is the hope? Where is the love in
the midst of such suffering and injustice?” In the will to survive; in
growing worldwide solidarity; in the “Freedom Flotilla” defying the
blockade to deliver aid, Maguire on it, “inspired by the people of Gaza
whose courage, love and joy in welcoming us, even in the midst of such
suffering gives us all hope. They represent the best of humanity,” no
amount of Israeli repression can extinguish, nor their redoubtable
“nonviolent struggle for human dignity, and freedom.”

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. Contact him at: Also visit his blog site
and listen to The Global Research News Hour on
Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with
distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen.

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