Monday, March 23, 2009

Israel - have you become the evil you deplored?

This is one of many things that have been written on the wall. Some are humorous, others are angry, some like this one you just cannot get out of your head. I have given this image a great deal of though since I took this picture several weeks ago. As I have talked to people, read the newspaper, and seen for myself how Palestinians are treated by the State of Israel, this question has popped back into my mind time and again. It happened again last Friday while I was reading Haaretz, the most read newspaper in Israel which is published in both Hebrew and English.
One thing you have to say about Israel is that they have never suppressed freedom of speech. Everyday in Haaretz there are articles and editorials that express both right and left wing views on everything that happens here. Articles questioning the actions of the state hit the front page of this newspaper that would never even get a mention in newspapers, much less television news, in the United States because of the censorship of any news that might put Israel in any kind of bad light. In last Fridays edition, the front page headline article was titled, “IDF killed civilians in Gaza under loose rules of engagement”. The article reveals testimonies provided by IDF soldiers who were engaged in direct action in Gaza. Here are a couple of the quotes from those soldiers:

"There was a house with a family inside .... We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family. They had set up positions upstairs. There was a sniper position on the roof," the soldier said. "The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left, but they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go and it was okay, and he should hold his fire and he ... he did what he was supposed to, like he was following his orders."

According to the squad leader: "The sharpshooter saw a woman and children approaching him, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them straight away. In any case, what happened is that in the end he killed them.  "I don't think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he did his job according to the orders he was given. And the atmosphere in general, from what I understood from most of my men who I talked to ... I don't know how to describe it .... The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way," he said.

Another squad leader from the same brigade told of an incident where the company commander ordered that an elderly Palestinian woman be shot and killed; she was walking on a road about 100 meters from a house the company had commandeered.  The squad leader said he argued with his commander over the permissive rules of engagement that allowed the clearing out of houses by shooting without warning the residents beforehand. After the orders were changed, the squad leader's soldiers complained that "we should kill everyone there [in the center of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist."

For the full text of this article you can follow this link: In another article in the same edition of Harretz there was an article about the various t-shirts that Israeli Army units have printed to celebrate the completion of their training. Here is some of that article:

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children's graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques - these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription "Better use Durex," next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter's T-shirt from the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, "1 shot, 2 kills." A "graduation" shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, "No matter how it begins, we'll put an end to it."
There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, "Bet you got raped!" A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies - such as "confirming the kill" (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim's head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.”

For the full text of this article you can follow this link: These reports speak for themselves. One cannot help but question the morality of a society that produces the kind of hate evidenced here. Amazingly, I searched several of the major US print media website to see if these widely reported stories in Israel, Europe and the rest of the world got picked up. Sadly, I did not find it anywhere. If any of you heard about this in the states I would love to here from you.

As part of our Israel exposure week we visited Yad Vashem, the very impressive Holocaust memorial park and museum ( There were many young Israeli army trainees there when we were there as well as current soldiers. They visit Yad Vashem several times during their training and after. The exhibits are very impressive, moving and powerful. As you walk through the museum you trace the history of oppression of the Jewish people culminating with The Holocaust. As I walked through the exhibits related to the Nazi occupation of Poland and specifically the walling up of the Jewish neighborhoods I was completely struck by the parallels to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians. History is clearly repeating itself. One is forced to ask where it will end and who will end it. For the sake of the world, I sincerely hope it ends differently than it did the last time.

60 Minutes - Is Peace Out of Reach?