Now that the IDF’s prosecutor general has disposed in a record 11 days of the possibility that any soldiers committed any war crime in Gaza, I really shouldn’t bring the following story to your attention. But in the event that you are just a tad suspicious of the alacrity with which the army’s top lawyer dispatched his investigation, I invite you to witness these disturbing images taken in Gaza homes of graffiti inscribed by IDF soldiers who bivouacked in them.
For those who favor the prosecutor general’s method of dispatching with inconvenient evidence, I provide you with one surefire way you can dismiss what I’m about to show you: it comes from Palestinian sources. This automatically discounts the evidence by 99% or more in some quarters. But as I said, there may be a few of you who don’t share such dismissive attitudes:
At Mos’ab Dardona’s home in…northeast Gaza, Israeli soldiers…left behind intricate drawings on the walls, some depicting soldiers urinating on toppled mosques, or devouring Palestinian villages. In the house next door, belonging to Ibrahim Dardona, soldiers left behind dozens of bags of faeces in the bedrooms, despite the presence of a functioning toilet, and left crude sexual diagrams on the walls.
…“The writing left by Israeli soldiers in the homes in Gaza provides an insight into the disturbing culture of hatred and racism towards Palestinians and Arabs which exists among parts of Israeli society,” says Hamdi Shaqqura, PCHR’s director of democratic development. “In light of the evidence PCHR has gathered of the wilful and wanton killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, this graffiti is even more disturbing.”
…Others have had to move back into their partially destroyed homes, clear up the debris and sometimes the evidence of the deaths of loved ones, and try to get on with their lives. The Dardona families have moved back into their houses, and are torn between unwillingness to destroy evidence of the behaviour of Israeli soldiers and reluctance to endure the constant reminders of the horrors that took place here. And there are similar cases in other parts of the Gaza Strip.
At dawn on 4 January 2009, the first full day of Israel’s ground offensive, a shell landed near the home of Saleh Abu Hajaj in Johur-ad-Dik…The Israeli military ordered local residents to evacuate their homes. Saleh’s 36 year old daughter Majeda Abu Hajaj tied a white scarf to a stick and led a group of civilians out of her neighbour’s house.
As they were trying to escape, tanks opened fire on the group and Majeda was shot dead, allegedly in the back. Moments later her 64 year old mother Raya, was also shot and bled to death a few metres from her daughter. Majeda and Raya’s bodies were not recovered until Israel’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire sixteen days later…
Israeli soldiers set up military positions in the Abu Hajaj house after the killings, and left graffiti in every room. Above Majeda’s bed are the words “Death will find you soon” scrawled in red pen. Other parts of the house carry the words “Have you ever wondered what hell looks like? Well… look around you —–! Ha ha ha”
In the Zeytoun district, where 27 members of the Samouni family were killed by an airstrike while sheltering in a building they had been placed in by the Israeli army, there are more chilling messages on the walls. In Talal Al Samouni’s home Israeli soldiers wrote the words “Die you all”, “Make war not peace”, “Arabs need to die” and a gravestone engraved with the words “Arabs 1948-2009” referring to the dates between the creation of the state of Israel and its latest military offensive.
A stairwell in Rashad Helmi Al Samouni’s house a few doors down includes the following sentences written in chalk:
“There will be a day when we kill all the Arabs”
“Bad for the Arabs is good for me”
“A good Arab is an Arab in the grave”
“Peace now, but between Jews and Jews, not Jews and Arabs”
Some may say that graffiti is little more than teenage Israeli boys blowing off steam. But in tandem with the IDF soldiers’ testimonies which the prosecutor general just dismissed, the Guardian’s masterful expose of potential Israeli war crimes, Human Rights Watch’s report on the massive illegality of Israel’s use of white phosphorus on civilian populations, and Haaretz’s expose of racist t-shirt slogans of Gaza war veterans–all of this creates a damning portrait of willful brutality on the part of Israeli forces.
So where do we go from here? The UN has contemplated investigating Israeli war crimes. Though given the record of the Rafik Hariri investigation, we shouldn’t expect much from this avenue. We also have the precedent of Balthazar Garzon’s indictment of six high level Bush administration officials for culpability for the U.S. torture policy. This Spanish judge would seem to be an ideal candidate with whom to share evidence.
The EU has notified Israel that its acceptance into a special economic class within the Union is dependent on the next government making serious progress toward a 2 state solution. Divestment campaigns are rippling their way through multiple U.S. university campus.
These are the types of carrots and sticks that will be necessary to ratchet up pressure on Israel.
Comment is Free has asked me to write more about the war crimes campaign and how to hold Israel accountable for its actions in Gaza. I’d be eager to hear readers’ views on this as well.