In At a Palestinian Protest, Israeli Gunfire Leaves at Least 10 Dead, James Bennet gives us another memorable portrait of grief and senseless death in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A group of 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza City marched through the town to protest the Israeli incursion in the Tel Sultan neighborhood. They were met by horrific Israeli tank, helicopter and rifle fire. I suppose it might be possible to say that the Israelis mistook the crowd for a dangerous threat. But look at the terribly tragic outcome of such a horrible miscalculation on the Israeli army’s part.
I think the Army and government ministers’ responses tell a great deal about how cheap the lives of Palestinians are and how debased the currency of truth is in the current Mideast conflict:
The Israeli Army expressed “deep sorrow over the loss of civilian lives” and said Wednesday that it was investigating the “very grave incident,” but it said its troops did not fire deliberately on the marchers.
In a statement, it said a helicopter had shot flares and “warning fire” of one missile toward an open area. It said that because the crowd “continued to converge toward the troops,” machine guns were fired at an “abandoned structure.” Four tank shells were also fired at the building.
“It is possible that the casualties were a result of the tank fire on the abandoned structure,” the statement continued, adding that this was “an area of combat” and that Palestinians had planted explosives in the road.
Palestinian witnesses angrily denied that any gunmen joined in the march. A reporter who was present, but not at the front of the march, saw two young men with semiautomatic rifles at the start of the route. But he did not see any guns or other weapons among the protesters.
So, if I’ve got this right–while the murdered Palestinians might have been innocent, the Israeli fire on them was justified because there might’ve been danger to Israeli troops from Palestinian militants planting explosives. It’s not exactly “blame the victim,” but pretty close.
Zeev Boim, the deputy defense minister, said, “We must express regret at the loss, regardless of the numbers and details.” But, he said, the demonstrators were not entirely innocent. “It’s not the May 1 parade,” he said. “This is a war zone, and there are civilians in war zones. Some of them are innocent. Some are far from it and are deeply involved in terror, even when they remain defined as civilians.”
Again, here we find the same argument: some Palestinians are good and some are bad. But if there are any bad among the good, then the death of the good is not so terrible.
Before the deaths here Wednesday afternoon, an Israeli colonel leading the operation briefed reporters on its goals and tactics. Although higher-ranking officers on Tuesday had stressed the search for smuggling tunnels, this officer, identified only as Colonel Erez, said Israeli troops in Tel Sultan were searching for ammunition and wanted men.
He argued that Israel’s decision to use ground troops, rather than simply bomb the neighborhood from the air, showed its concern for Palestinian civilians and “maintaining our moral posture.”
“The roads and alleys are all lined with bombs and many homes are booby-trapped,” he said.
“Moral posture” my ass. I love this line of reasoning. Israel, you see, is terribly moral. It doesn’t blow Palestinians to smithereens from the sky because that is oh so impersonal and subject to error (what about Shiekh Yassin?). Instead, it sends in troops on the ground and subjects them to tremendous danger–all this in the belief that troops on the ground will maintain Israel’s high moral standards in fighting its wars. Back in 1967, when Israeli soliders said these kinds of things & talked about tohar neshek (the purity of arms), we believed them because they believed in what they were saying. Now, this just comes across as a line of BS.
Several wounded Palestinians interviewed in the past 24 hours said they had been shot by snipers when they stepped out into the street. Noting the curfew, Colonel Erez said, “Someone who exits is obviously someone who is looking for trouble, someone who’s looking to carry out a terrorist attack, and therefore they are legitimate targets.”
Ah yes, those two Palestinian teenagers murdered by Israeli snipers for taking in their Mama’s laundry on the roof of their home–they must’ve been “looking for trouble, looking to carry out a terrorist attack” too, right? That’s how you turn innocent children into “military targets.”
Sometimes I fear becoming inured to all the violence, but I’m leaving your site in tears . . .