Sunday, December 12, 2004

Israeli officer: I was right to shoot 13-year-old child

Judge for yourself – I used to shed tears silently in my small room each time a news report of footage of another Palestinian death flashed repeatedly on Channel 4 or BBC News. In Malaysia we are too insulated from the suffering and we move on ignoring the atrocities, never wanting to lift a finger, accepting that it is God’s ordained fate for us Muslims, dismissing ourselves as weak and defenceless. Shame on us.

Each time revelations like this hit the media, my confidence of the greater good of mankind is demoted to another notch downwards. I become a racist, pre-judging the people of Israel and their supporters in the Western world as willing collaborators to this act of genocide, openly blessing the murderous and barbarous act of the soldiers, silently rejoicing the death of another Palestinian’s life.

It is only in the people like Noam Chomsky, Jon Pilger, Jeremy Corbyn, Ang Swee Chai, those IDF’s soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories and countless Jewish, Christian, atheist and Muslim peace activists around the world that my belief in mankind’s inherent kindness and sense of justice is restored. Al-Quran repeatedly confirmed that all humans are born equal, you are not judged by your colour, size of your nose, nationality save your deeds while you wander on this Earth that Allah SWT has created for mankind to dwell.

My heart goes out to the little girl murdered by hatred, but my heart also tells me that Heaven awaits you O little girl. Go and rest in peace, for this world is no longer for peace loving mankind, it is for the strong to trample on the weak.

Israeli officer: I was right to shoot 13-year-old child
Radio exchange contradicts army version of Gaza killing

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Wednesday November 24, 2004
The Guardian


An Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old.

The officer, identified by the army only as Captain R, was charged this week with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other relatively minor infractions after emptying all 10 bullets from his gun's magazine into Iman al-Hams when she walked into a "security area" on the edge of Rafah refugee camp last month.

A tape recording of radio exchanges between soldiers involved in the incident, played on Israeli television, contradicts the army's account of the events and appears to show that the captain shot the girl in cold blood.

The official account claimed that Iman was shot as she walked towards an army post with her schoolbag because soldiers feared she was carrying a bomb.

But the tape recording of the radio conversation between soldiers at the scene reveals that, from the beginning, she was identified as a child and at no point was a bomb spoken about nor was she described as a threat. Iman was also at least 100 yards from any soldier.

Instead, the tape shows that the soldiers swiftly identified her as a "girl of about 10" who was "scared to death".

The tape also reveals that the soldiers said Iman was headed eastwards, away from the army post and back into the refugee camp, when she was shot.

At that point, Captain R took the unusual decision to leave the post in pursuit of the girl. He shot her dead and then "confirmed the kill" by emptying his magazine into her body.

The tape recording is of a three-way conversation between the army watchtower, the army post's operations room and the captain, who was a company commander.

The soldier in the watchtower radioed his colleagues after he saw Iman: "It's a little girl. She's running defensively eastward."

Operations room: "Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?"
Watchtower: "A girl of about 10, she's behind the embankment, scared to death."

A few minutes later, Iman is shot in the leg from one of the army posts.

The watchtower: "I think that one of the positions took her out."

The company commander then moves in as Iman lies wounded and helpless.

Captain R: "I and another soldier ... are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill ... Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her ... I also confirmed the kill. Over."

Witnesses described how the captain shot Iman twice in the head, walked away, turned back and fired a stream of bullets into her body. Doctors at Rafah's hospital said she had been shot at least 17 times.

On the tape, the company commander then "clarifies" why he killed Iman: "This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over."

The army's original account of the killing said that the soldiers only identified Iman as a child after she was first shot. But the tape shows that they were aware just how young the small, slight girl was before any shots were fired.

The case came to light after soldiers under the command of Captain R went to an Israeli newspaper to accuse the army of covering up the circumstances of the killing.

A subsequent investigation by the officer responsible for the Gaza strip, Major General Dan Harel, concluded that the captain had "not acted unethically".
However, the military police launched an investigation, which resulted in charges against the unit commander.

Iman's parents have accused the army of whitewashing the affair by filing minor charges against Captain R. They want him prosecuted for murder.

Record of a shooting
Watchtower
'It's a little girl. She's running defensively eastward'
Operations room
'Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?'
Watchtower
'A girl of about 10, she's behind the embankment, scared to death'
Captain R (after killing the girl)
'Anything moving in the zone, even a three-year-old, needs to be killed'

Israel shocked by image of soldiers forcing violinist to play at roadblock

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Monday November 29, 2004
The Guardian


Of all the revelations that have rocked the Israeli army over the past week, perhaps none disturbed the public so much as the video footage of soldiers forcing a Palestinian man to play his violin.

The incident was not as shocking as the recording of an Israeli officer pumping the body of a 13-year-old girl full of bullets and then saying he would have shot her even if she had been three years old.

Nor was it as nauseating as the pictures in an Israeli newspaper of ultra-orthodox soldiers mocking Palestinian corpses by impaling a man's head on a pole and sticking a cigarette in his mouth.

But the matter of the violin touched on something deeper about the way Israelis see themselves, and their conflict with the Palestinians.

The violinist, Wissam Tayem, was on his way to a music lesson near Nablus when he said an Israeli officer ordered him to "play something sad" while soldiers made fun of him. After several minutes, he was told he could pass.

It may be that the soldiers wanted Mr Tayem to prove he was indeed a musician walking to a lesson because, as a man under 30, he would not normally have been permitted through the checkpoint.

But after the incident was videotaped by Jewish women peace activists, it prompted revulsion among Israelis not normally perturbed about the treatment of Arabs.

The rightwing Army Radio commentator Uri Orbach found the incident disturbingly reminiscent of Jewish musicians forced to provide background music to mass murder. "What about Majdanek?" he asked, referring to the Nazi extermination camp.
The critics were not drawing a parallel between an Israeli roadblock and a Nazi camp. Their concern was that Jewish suffering had been diminished by the humiliation of Mr Tayem.

Yoram Kaniuk, author of a book about a Jewish violinist forced to play for a concentration camp commander, wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the soldiers responsible should be put on trial "not for abusing Arabs but for disgracing the Holocaust".

"Of all the terrible things done at the roadblocks, this story is one which negates the very possibility of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. If [the military] does not put these soldiers on trial we will have no moral right to speak of ourselves as a state that rose from the Holocaust," he wrote.

"If we allow Jewish soldiers to put an Arab violinist at a roadblock and laugh at him, we have succeeded in arriving at the lowest moral point possible. Our entire existence in this Arab region was justified, and is still justified, by our suffering; by Jewish violinists in the camps."

Others took a broader view by drawing a link between the routine dehumanising treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the desecration of dead bodies and what looks very much like the murder of a terrified 13-year-old Palestinian girl by an army officer in Gaza.

Israelis put great store in a belief that their army is "the most moral in the world" because it says it adheres to a code of "the purity of arms". There is rarely much public questioning of the army's routine explanation that Palestinian civilians who have been killed had been "caught in crossfire", or that children are shot because they are used as cover by fighters.

But the public's confidence has been shaken by the revelations of the past week. The audio recording of the shooting of the 13-year-old, Iman al-Hams, prompted much soul searching, although the revulsion appears to be as much at the Israeli officer firing a stream of bullets into her lifeless body as the killing itself. Some soldiers told Israeli papers that their mothers had sought assurances that they did not do that kind of thing.

One Israeli peace group, the Arik Institute, took out large newspaper adverts to plead for "Jewish patriots" to "open your eyes and look around" at the suffering of Palestinians.

The incidents prompted the army to call in all commanders from the rank of lieutenant-colonel to emphasise the importance of maintaining the "purity of arms" code.

The army's critics say the real problem is not the behaviour of soldiers on the ground but the climate of impunity that emanates from the top.

While the officer responsible for killing Iman al-Hams has been charged with relatively minor offences, and the soldiers who forced the violinist to play were ticked off for being "insensitive", the only troops who were swiftly punished for violating regulations last week were some who posed naked in the snow for a photograph. They were dismissed from their unit.

Last week the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem criticised what it described as a "culture of impunity" within the army. The group says at least 1,656 Palestinian non-combatants have been killed during the intifada, including 529 children.

"To date, one soldier has been convicted of causing the death of a Palestinian," it said.

"The combination of rules of engagement that encourage a trigger-happy attitude among soldiers together with the climate of impunity results in a clear and very troubling message about the value the Israeli military places on Palestinian life."

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