On Rosh Hashana, Jews do cheshbon nefesh, a spiritual accounting of their deeds during the previous year. The purpose of course is to do t’shuva and “return” from our misdeeds and set out on a new path. Gideon Levy has done his own literal accounting of the Palestinian child dead for the past year in his most recent Haaretz article, Twilight Zone–the Children of 5767. This is the kind of reckoning we all wish to avoid. But I hope you will not avoid Levy’s searing article. Those who do, are like the Israeli fretting in his breakfast nook over the bloodied Burmese monks while soldiers representing him enforce a festering Occupation on their Palestinian neighbors:
It was a pretty quiet year, relatively speaking. Only 457 Palestinians and 10 Israelis were killed, according to the B’Tselem human rights organization, including the victims of Qassam rockets. Fewer casualties than in many previous years. However, it was still a terrible year: 92 Palestinian children were killed (fortunately, not a single Israeli child was killed by Palestinians, despite the Qassams). One-fifth of the Palestinians killed were children and teens – a disproportionate, almost unprecedented number. The Jewish year of 5767. Almost 100 children, who were alive and playing last New Year, didn’t survive to see this one.
…We set out each week in the footsteps of the fighters, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, trying to document the deeds of Israel Defense Forces soldiers, Border Police officers, Shin Bet security service investigators and Civil Administration personnel – the mighty occupation army that leaves behind in its wake horrific killing and destruction, this year as every year, for four decades.
And this was the year of the children that were killed. We didn’t get to all of their homes, only to some; homes of bereavement where parents weep bitterly over their children, who were climbing a fig tree in the yard, or sitting on a bench in the street, or preparing for an exam, or on their way home from school, or sleeping peacefully in the false security of their homes.
A few of them also threw a rock at an armored vehicle or touched a forbidden fence. All came under live fire, some of which was deliberately aimed at them, cutting them down in their youth. From Mohammed (al-Zakh) to Mahmoud (al-Qarinawi), from the boy who was buried twice in Gaza to the boy who was buried in Israel. These are the stories of the children of 5767.
The first of them was buried twice. Abdullah al-Zakh identified half of the body of his son Mahmoud, in the morgue refrigerator of Shifa Hospital in Gaza, by the boy’s belt and the socks on his feet. This was shortly before last Rosh Hashanah. The next day, when the Israel Defense Forces “successfully” completed Operation Locked Kindergarten, as it was called, leaving behind 22 dead and a razed neighborhood, and left Sajiyeh in Gaza, the bereaved father found the remaining parts of the body and brought them for a belated burial.
…The day after Rosh Hashanah we traveled to Rafah. Dam Hamad, 14, had been killed in her sleep, in her mother’s arms, by an Israeli rocket strike that sent a concrete pillar crashing down on her head. She was the only daughter of her paralyzed mother, her whole world. In the family’s impoverished home in the Brazil neighborhood, at the edge of Rafah, we met the mother who lay in a heap in bed; everything she had in the world was gone. Outside, I remarked to the reporter from French television who accompanied me that this was one of those moments when I felt ashamed to be an Israeli. The next day he called and said: “They didn’t broadcast what you said, for fear of the Jewish viewers in France.”
Soon afterward we went back to Jerusalem to visit Maria Aman, the amazing little girl from Gaza, who lost nearly everyone in her life to a missile strike gone awry that wiped out her innocent family, including her mother, while riding in their car. Her devoted father Hamdi remains by her side. For a year and a half, she has been cared for at the wonderful Alyn Hospital, where she has learned to feed a parrot with her mouth and to operate her wheelchair using her chin. All the rest of her limbs are paralyzed. She is connected day and night to a respirator. Still, she is a cheerful and neatly groomed child whose father fears the day they might be sent back to Gaza.
For now, they remain in Israel. Many Israelis have devoted themselves to Maria and come to visit her regularly. A few weeks ago, broadcast journalist Leah Lior took her in her car to see the sea in Tel Aviv. It was a Saturday night, and the area was crowded with people out for a good time, but the girl in the wheelchair attracted attention. Some people recognized her and stopped to say hello and wish her well. Who knows? Maybe the pilot who fired the missile at her car happened to be passing by, too.
…And what did 16-year-old Taha al-Jawi do to get himself killed? The IDF claimed that he tried to sabotage the barbed-wire fence surrounding the abandoned Atarot airport; his friends said he was just playing soccer and had gone to chase after the ball. Whatever the circumstances, the response from the soldiers was quick and decisive: a bullet in the leg that caused him to bleed to death, lying in a muddy ditch by the side of the road. Not a word of regret, not a word of condemnation from the IDF spokesman, when we asked for a comment. Live fire directed at unarmed children who weren’t endangering anyone, with no prior warning.
…In Nablus, we documented the use of children as human shields – the use of the so-called “neighbor procedure” – involving an 11-year-old girl, a 12-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy. So what if the High Court of Justice has outlawed it? We also recorded the story of the death of baby Khaled, whose parents, Sana and Daoud Fakih, tried to rush him to the hospital in the middle of the night, a time when Palestinian babies apparently mustn’t get sick: The baby died at the checkpoint.
…Bushra Bargis hadn’t even left her home. In late April she was studying for a big test, notebooks in hand, pacing around her room in the Jenin refugee camp in the early evening, when a sniper shot her in the forehead from quite far away. Her bloodstained notebooks bore witness to her final moments.
And what about the unborn babies? They weren’t safe either. A bullet in the back of Maha Qatuni, a woman who was seven months pregnant and got up during the night to protect her children in their home, struck her fetus in the womb, shattering its head. The wounded mother lay in the Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus, hooked up to numerous tubes. She was going to name the baby Daoud. Does killing a fetus count as murder? And how “old” was the deceased? He was certainly the youngest of the many children Israel killed in the past year.
Happy New Year.
Indeed. Thanks to Sol Salbe for sharing the cartoon.
“Operation Locked Kindergarten”?? Is this really the term that the IDF used?
John Yorke says
Statistically, the mathematics here would indicate a good result from an Israeli point of view. But each tragic death will have left its mark upon both communities and who is to say what might register in the next such tally. As this small planet resumes yet another of its lonely journeys around our single sun, will that same cycle produce only more of the same? Tomorrow still remains the great unknown for all of us but year 5767 will have done much to shape the days ahead; for many, in year 5768, it may mean the end of days.
For too many, and too soon.
Those 467 dead have one consolation. They no longer have to figure a way out of all this. That task must remain with the rest of us – until fate decides to remove us from the equation also.
But what if we never find an answer? Then that burden transfers onward to our progeny; yet another unwelcome legacy from this generation to the next.
Unless we all stop trying to micro-manage the situation and start throwing into it some really kick ass solutions, then I’m afraid the figures for year 5768 may rival those of 5767. Indeed, they may well present us with an even worse return.
Richard Silverstein says
I never heard the term myself but I’m sure Levy is right. How ’bout ‘Operation Summer Rain’ too? Have you ever heard of a more ludicrous phrase in the middle of a desert climate? I think the names are the product of someone with a highly ironic (& cruel) sense of humor to say the least.
No. The operation was called “locked garden”. Adding the “kinder” was Gideon Levy or his translators idea, no doubt for the added propaganda effect, which is what Gideon levy is, a propagandist. With all the sorrow for those innocently killed. The operation was called “gan na-ul” in Hebrew. Gan means garden. Kindergarten is “gan yeladim” though most people say “gan” for short when they mean “gan yeladim” but this is obviously incorrect to do when translating names. And you have issues wth memri’s translations.
For a list of the names of the operations in Hebrew see: http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%91%D7%A6%D7%A2_%D7%92%D7%A9%D7%9E%D7%99_%D7%A7%D7%99%D7%A5
Richard Silverstein says
No, he’s a journalist & a damn good one. If he’s a propagandist then the most distinguished award winning journalists here in this country like Maureen Dowd, Anthony Lewis, David Halberstam, are also propagandists. They have a pt of view. That is what you object to–that Levy’s pt of view is contrary to yr own. No doubt if a journalist represented yr political pt of view they would not be a ‘propagandist,’ but of course a “journalist.”
It should tell you something about yr political views that you agree with the notorious Kahanist psycho-hater, Steven Plaut, who calls Levy an “anti-Israel leftist fanatic.”
The term “locked kindergarten” clearly made reference to the subject of the column, which was the death of children. Even if you look at the actual title of the operation “locked garden,” it is a cruel & feebly ironic joke to label Gaza a “garden.”
The names of the IDF military operations have been the subject of many discussions on IsraeliTV and radio. Briefly, the majority of the names are generated by a computer algorithm.
Gideon Levy is one of the only journalists covering Arab affairs who does not speek Arabic. by his own admision he brings their side of the story without verification (source in Hebrew: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/1,7340,L-1709008,00.html) relying on local translators (perhaps provided by fatah.) His columns, including the above column, lacks context. Do I consider him a journalist? Yes, he is a journalist. I wouldn’t consider him an investigative journalist, though, and I certainly consider him a propagandist for the above reason.
As a whole, I am not interested in what Steven Plaut thinks. I am not going to change my opinion in order to disagree with him. Your comment about him is an attempt to smear me.
Richard Silverstein says
Another unsubstantiated claim. If you have the substantiation then present it. I have no idea what you’re saying about my spam filter.
All of which is irrelevant to Levy since you provide no example of him ever printing a false story. And he runs rings around most other Arab affairs reporters who do speak Arabic. And I wasn’t aware that coverage of Arab affairs was so good anyway among the Israeli media. So a lot of good knowing Arabic has done for their coverage.
I have no sympathy for JPost & if someone manipulated them they deserved it. They are, except for a few of the columnists, a bunch of sloppy, ideologically slanted journalists.
No, you get no traction here with crap like that. If his work is suspect then you prove it. If you can’t prove it then you’re talkin’ trash & we’ll see that for what it is.
I often back my claims with links and the comment gets blocked by your spam filter – such as in this case. Here is the link again: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/1,7340,L-1709008,00.html.
Briefly he is asked why he always presents the Palestinian side as “truth” when from experience we know that they often lie. He doesn’t deny the accusation but says the Israeli side often lies to (which of course is irrelevant) and that when he sees a girl shot by an Israeli soldier, a woman whose newborn died at a checkpoint or the way soldiers treat the old then there is no question who is telling the truth and who’s lying. Well, actually there is. The Palestinians have faked funerals, presented kids who died in car accidents as having been killed by the IDF, the al-Dura incident is probably a hoax, at least the version presented to the media, recently the Fatah tried to pass a video of a stoning in Iraq as one perpertrated by Hamas. Levy uncritically accepts the probable lie that the Palestinian girl you wrote of lately was killed by a rubber bullet when the forensics does not support such a claim. I don’t have the tools to check every story the Fatah feeds him, maybe others have done so, but his attitude as presented in the discussion i linked to is enough to disqualify him as a serious reporter.
So on one side of the Jewish community we have Amir, who when reading of 457 Palestinian deaths is primarily concerned about the amount of sympathy which the account may generate. And then on the other side we have M.J. Rosenberg–
“This article illustrates one reason I love Israel.
“No, I obviously do not love Israel because of the murders of children the article describes. I love Israel because an article like this can appear in a newspaper that is the New York Times of Israel — when it could not appear in the real New York Times or any major media outlet here. … Read this article and see what it is like in a place where the far right does not intimidate the press into silence.”
Now I fully understand what Rosenberg means, and that he’s not defending the killing of Palestinians. But it is still very discouraging to see the nominally Left so desperate to support Zionism that it can present this story as having something to do with free-speech.
It reminds me of Golda Meir’s quote about not being able to forgive the Palestinians for “making us kill their children.” Something is grotesquely out of proportion here.
Richard Silverstein says
I agree with you & I speak as someone with an enormous respect for M.J. But I write a blog & am responsible to no one but myself & my readers. He speaks on behalf of an organization AND himself. Not everyone in IPF feels as we do about these matters & so people in his position have to consider what they say & how they say it.
I do think a valid part of what M.J. is saying is that no one on Capitol Hill or the corridors of power wants to know how many Palestinian children were killed this past year or how they died. And that only adds to the tragedy.
John Yorke says
Hello Richard, Amir, David,
Free speech, journalistic bias, left-leaning liberalism, right-wing pragmatism, religious certainty and manifold destiny; the list of motivations is certainly a long one – and growing longer all the time.
It all resembles a classic logjam, one in which new logs are constantly being added to those already in place and where each new crisis and each new death only serves to reinforce the structure, maintaining it in being, increasing it in permanence.
It’s of no use trying to remove these logs one by one. More will simply keep coming. This logjam needs to be blown out of the water but carefully, of course, and in a more or less controlled manner. The alternative is to let it build to such an extent that its eventual dissolution must carry all before it.
The tricky bit here is knowing what explosives to use and where to place them for maximum effect.
As you know, I’ve always had a preference for this particular brand: http://yorketowers.blogspot.com.
Others may favour milder forms of intervention but that risks leaving the logjam still firmly in place. Best to get the whole thing over and done with once and for all. Otherwise what’s left is mere micro-management of the situation – never much of an option when tackling a logjam as big as this one.
Richard Silverstein says
Yes, my spam filter is pretty tough on URLs. But when you get that msg. pls. just send me a quick e mail & I’ll find the comment & rescue it.
It should be easy enough if you remember any unique words fr. the interview to find it on the web. I’d feel a whole lot more comfortable commenting on what Levy actually said rather than yr interpretation of what he said.
You can be damn sure that if Gideon Levy ever got a story wrong the Shin Bet & IDF intelligence would be all over it. If other right wing journalists don’t trust or like his reporting they can dig into his stories & prove the weakness of them. That’s what’s done here in the States all the time. How do you think we discovered the lies Judy Miller was peddling?
I’m still waiting for you to present a Palestinian lie that Levy reported as truth. That’s the crux of this entire stupid argument we’re having. Until you can, you don’t have a leg to stand on.
This is laughable. First, it has nothing to do with Levy whose reporting you’ve accused of being propaganda because it supposedly isn’t reliable. Levy didn’t create the Dura story. Second, you haven’t even proven the Dura story is a hoax. C’mon.
The Palestinian girl has a name & I wish you’d take a few seconds to Google it here & use it. If God forbid you died I assure you I’d use yr name & not call you an ‘Israeli-American male.’ The dead deserve their names.
It is not a probable lie. If it is you prove it is. I’ve presented evidence from the commander admitting that his soldiers fired that day on those children. He even tacitly admits that she died from the firing. Why haven’t the actual police testified about what happened? Why has the investigation ended w. no serious inquiry?
I REALLY resent the insulting, mistrustful tone of yr commentary on everything that Palestinians do or say. The Aramin story was not “fed” to him by anyone. It’s no wonder that the average Israeli may never be able to make peace with Palestinians. With crude, racist attitudes like yours as the norm peace is a hopeless pipedream.
And you should talk about “feeding” stories to the media. The IDF have never been known to do that now have they? How ’bout every day of the wk & twice on Sunday?
I think they have better things to do than to fact check for Gideon Levy. Gideon Levy’s column’s appear in the op-ed page which is how they should be regarded; as opinion, not fact.
If any journalists present the IDF version of disputable events as facts without independant corraboration or without attributing the details to the IDF spokesperson, then he is not a worthy journalist but a mouthpiece for the IDF.
Richard Silverstein says
I am virtually certain that Levy is detested by the Shin Bet & IDF. You can be damn sure if they had a chance to embarrass him by pointing out he’d been duped or gotten a story wrong they’d relish the opportunity. I only wish the IDF spent its time as wisely as you seem to think it does.
Surely you must know that most Israeli journalists esp. security correspondents do precisely that. The overwhelming benefit of the doubt is almost always given to the IDF. Wild speculative theories passed off by Shin Bet spooks & IDF intelligence analysts are reported as fact w/o substantiation, clarification or explanation. There are some exceptions to the rule of course. While there is some investigative journalism within Israeli media the tradition is nothing like what it is here. Part of the reason is military censorship which stops such probing cold.
Here is Gideon Levy in his own words:
Notice the first paragraph of the qoute in his opinion which I’ve heard many times from him, but have never heard him, or you, back up. In the second paragraph (the one I emphasized) he is speaking from his personal experience so it has much more legitimacy.
Richard Silverstein says
You feel that the fact that Israeli journalists uncritically quote IDF spokespeople needs to be proven? I see it virtually every day I read the Israeli press but especially when the IDF kills Palestinian civilians or engages in an offensive operation. This charge is patently self-evident & if you doubt it then you too are reading yr own media uncritically.
Levy’s views toward the IDF & Israeli democracy fluctuate depending on the day & the subject. I’ve also read him recently tell a French TV correspondent that a particular IDF killing made him ashamed to be an Israeli. But I do take yr pt. that Levy feels the IDF treats him decently which is important.