So now it’s come to this. Not to be outdone by its bang-up job in entirely dismantling the nation of Lebanon during the recent war, the IDF has taken things to a new low. Now it prides itself on killing unarmed civilian women and children:
Israeli troops fired at a large crowd of unarmed Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip today as the women approached a mosque to help Palestinian militants holed up inside. Two women were killed and about 10 were injured, according to hospital workers.
One of the Palestinian woman [sic] who ringed a mosque in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun fell to the ground after being wounded.
The shooting provoked widespread outrage among Palestinians.
To be fair, we should hear the Israeli version:
The Israeli military said its fire was directed at Palestinian gunmen who were hiding among the women as they marched toward the Um al-Nasir mosque in Beit Hanun, the town in the northeastern Gaza Strip where Israeli troops and militants have been battling for the past three days. The Israelis said eight militants were shot, and that they were not aware that women were hit, but were investigating.
So let’s get this straight. If an armed Palestinian hides in a group of unarmed civilian women then it’s OK to shoot the women in order to try to kill the gunmen? That’s a new and interesting development in the history of modern war. And don’t you love the military response that they weren’t “aware that women were hit” even though they shot into a massed crowd of perhaps 2,000 (according the BBC World News report I heard last night). Mark Regev, Israeli foreign ministry flack also claimed that the gunmen were actually shooting at the soldiers from within the crowd. While it is certainly possible, the idea that a Palestinian gunman would shoot within a crowd of civilians seems a stretch considering how easy it would be for him to accidentally shoot them.
I’m certainly not countenancing the this if it did happen. But an elementary rule of war is that you do not kill unarmed civilians, especially not in cold blood. I hear the Hague calling: Peretz and Halutz, do you hear them too?
Haaretz reports three deaths among the Palestinian women demonstrators, not two as the NY Times reports:
Earlier Friday, a 40-year-old woman was killed by IDF fire as women flocked to a Beit Hanun mosque to act as human shields for some 60 gunmen holed up inside. Two other civilians – youths aged 15 and 19 – were also said to have been killed.
Haaretz also reported a total of 20 Palestinian dead in Gaza in the past 24 hours:
At least 20 Palestinians, including five civilians, were killed Friday in Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Nine of the fatalities occurred in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun, where the IDF has been operating since Wednesday morning.
Yet this will stir barely a flicker in the consciences of Israelis and their right-wing supporters in the Diaspora. They will not hear the keening of Palestinian women in their Gaza courtyards and hovels as they mourn and bury their dead. Business as usual I’m afraid. While I have never and will never support suicide bombings, this lack of conscience is what first motivated Palestinians to send suicide bombers into Israel. That’s one of the reasons there is so little hope and so much hate on the Palestinian side.
Israel’s conscience seems utterly obtuse and impermeable. It’s as if Israelis manage to seal off their vulnerable side so that it does not have to deal with such inconvenient realities as Palestinian suffering. And to think that this is the same people that produced the great moral consciences of the world’s religions: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos. These prophets who understood deeply and in their heart of hearts the suffering of the oppressed and the domination of the weak by the strong. Who castigated their countrymen for having hearts of stone in the face of such injustice. We should be ashamed. We’re not worthy of them.