Sunday, October 21, 2007

Israeli Soldiers Beat Women and Children

A shocking story from today's Observer about conditions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. A study by a leading Israeli psychologist has found tales of immense brutality on the Palestinians. The study by Nufar Yishai-Karin was based around interviews with 21 Israeli soldiers in which they confessed to frequent, brutal assaults. According to one soldier:

'We were in a weapons carrier when this guy, around 25, passed by in the street and, just like that, for no reason - he didn't throw a stone, did nothing - bang, a bullet in the stomach, he shot him in the stomach and the guy is dying on the pavement and we keep going, apathetic. No one gave him a second look.'

Women weren't spared from this horrific treatment:

'With women I have no problem. With women, one threw a clog at me and I kicked her here [pointing to the crotch], I broke everything there. She can't have children. Next time she won't throw clogs at me. When one of them [a woman] spat at me, I gave her the rifle butt in the face. She doesn't have what to spit with any more.'

Even children are subjected to horrendous abuses:

'After two months in Rafah, a [new] commanding officer arrived... So we do a first patrol with him. It's 6am, Rafah is under curfew, there isn't so much as a dog in the streets. Only a little boy of four playing in the sand. He is building a castle in his yard. He [the officer] suddenly starts running and we all run with him. He was from the combat engineers.

'He grabbed the boy. I am a degenerate if I am not telling you the truth. He broke his hand here at the wrist, broke his leg here. And started to stomp on his stomach, three times, and left. We are all there, jaws dropping, looking at him in shock...

'The next day I go out with him on another patrol, and the soldiers are already starting to do the same thing.'

The revelations have provoked a massive debate within Israeli society about the legitimacy of the actions of the IDF. Israeli society is seriously beginning to question some of the abuses that are conducted in their name. This recent shift in attitudes has been reflected in a massive rise in conscientious objection, as well as widespread draft-dodging. As the Telegraph reported earlier in the year, the figures for draft-dodging in 2006 were the highest in Israeli history. Twenty-five percent of Israelis avoided their military service as a result of growing disquiet about the activities of the Israeli Defence Force.

And yet, the blood thirsty drum beaters still play the same tune. Witness Melanie Phillips' recent defence of the state that can do no wrong:

‘Every time I visit, the situation seems to have worsened,’ he [John Dugard, the UN human rights envoy for the Palestinian Territories] said in a BBC interview. This time, I was very struck by the sense of hopelessness among the Palestinian people.’ Mr Dugard attributed this to ‘the crushing effect of human rights violations’, and in particular Israeli restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement.

Yes, the Palestinians’ situation has worsened. This is principally the result of two things. a) The regime of terror instituted by the Hamas administration for which the Palestinians so unwisely voted and which is progressively making their lives a misery; and b) the restrictions imposed by the Israelis to counter the rockets which the Palestinians are lobbing at Israeli towns from Gaza, and the human bomb attacks they are ceaselessly attempting to perpetrate against Israelis. Strangely, Dugard makes no mention of either.

He said that although Israel did have a threat to its security, ‘its response is very disproportionate’.

Let’s see now: checkpoints to stop its citizens from being murdered? Very disproportionate. Targeted assassinations, to kill terror godfathers while sparing innocent Palestinians as far as possible? Very disproportionate. Sitting on Israeli hands while rockets fired from Gaza slam into southern Israeli towns? Very disproportionate.

Her willful denial of the very facts provided above show just how out of touch with reality she really is. The IDF is guilty of considerable human rights violations. It's treatment of innocent civilians is an utter disgrace. Disproportionate?? I would argue that that would put it very mildly indeed. These offences are off the scale. Beating women and children and failing to differentiate between genuine threats and innocent civilians, is systematic of a brutal, abusive regime. That the Israeli people are realising this is a very welcome development indeed.