The Washington Post reports: Just a year ago, Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers fought a lopsided eight-day war in the skies that the United Nations said left more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis dead.
The period since last November’s cease-fire, though, has been the calmest between the two sides in more than a decade.
Israeli military commanders, although still wary of armed factions in Gaza, offer unexpected praise for Hamas, the Islamist militant and political organization that governs the enclave. Not only have Hamas and its armed military wing shown restraint, the Israeli commanders say, but they also have demonstrated that they can rein in the more radical factions, such as Islamic Jihad, that operate alongside them.
“Hamas was able to prove to us that it can control rocket fire from Gaza,” said Brig. Gen. Mickey Edelstein, commander of the Israeli military’s Gaza division. “This is an achievement.” [Continue reading...]
The Guardian reports: Palestinian civilians are being embroiled in Israeli military training, including mock arrests, raids on private homes and incursions into villages, without being told they are involved in army exercises.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) defended the training exercises following complaints from an Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, about two separate drills held earlier this year. In the first, a large number of troops in full combat gear spread out in a small Palestinian village for several hours, causing alarm and fear among its population. In the second, about 15 armed soldiers raided the house of a family while they were finishing their evening meal during Ramadan. In neither case were residents told that it was a training exercise.
The Palestinians caught up in training drills are not informed in advance that an arrest or raid is an exercise. According to the testimonies of former Israeli soldiers, civilians with no connection with militant activity are usually selected for such exercises. “We used houses, streets, people like cardboard practice targets,” said one. [Continue reading...]
Avner Cohen writes: week is the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, perhaps the most traumatic moment in Israel’s history. On Oct. 7, 1973 — the second day of the war — Israel’s borders along the Suez Canal in the south and the Golan Heights in the north collapsed under a massive assault by a coalition of Arab armies. Israel was caught unprepared.
The previous morning, Oct. 6, Moshe Dayan, Israel’s defense minister and a hero of the 1967 Six-Day War, had been so confident of Israel’s security that he’d opposed mobilizing the entirety of the reserve force, despite intelligence reports indicating that an Arab military offensive was imminent.
Just one day later, after visiting the front lines, Mr. Dayan was transformed into a prophet of doom. In a well-documented episode, he warned his generals of the demise of the “Third Temple,” a reference to the modern state of Israel. Mr. Dayan believed the country was fighting for its survival, and his mind turned to options of last resort. Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which first came into being on the eve of the 1967 war, had by 1973 grown to 10 or 20 atomic weapons. It was Israel’s ultimate insurance policy at a time of existential threat.
In the four decades since the 1973 war, rumors have blossomed that Israel stood at the nuclear brink during that war’s darkest hours. A number of journalists and scholars have asserted that during a dramatic meeting in one of the war’s early days, a panic-stricken Mr. Dayan persuaded the Israeli war cabinet, including the prime minister, Golda Meir, to arm the country’s weapons with warheads for possible use.
Some analysts have even claimed that Israel used this “nuclear alert” to blackmail the Nixon administration into providing Israel with a huge airlift of military supplies. Although these stories were based on anonymous sourcing and circumstantial evidence, they have become a central part of the lore surrounding the Yom Kippur War. Even my own early scholarship was to some degree influenced by this mythology. But in a January 2008 interview I conducted, Arnan Azaryahu, a senior aide to an Israeli cabinet minister at the time of the war, negated and refuted the nearly four-decade-old mythology alleging that Israel almost reached the nuclear brink in 1973. [Continue reading...]
See more interviews at The Avner Cohen Collection.
Israel is very attached to its US-funded Qualitative Military Edge. The idea is that Israel is uniquely vulnerable in a uniquely dangerous neighborhood and the only way it can guarantee its survival is by keeping technologically ahead of its enemies. But there’s another dimension to this that gets far less attention: Israel’s need to perpetuate a climate of war in order to sustain a demand for innovation among the customers of its lucrative arms industry. If regional and global peace were to ever break out, it would be a disaster to Israel’s economy.
At Wired, Amir Mizroch writes: Nano drones that an infantryman can pull out of his pocket; helicopters piloted by robots who extract wounded soldiers from the battlefield; micro satellites on demand; large spy balloons in the upper reaches of the stratosphere; virtual training with a helmet from your office; algorithms that resolve pilots’ ethical dilemmas (so they won’t have to deal with those pesky war crimes tribunals); and farming out code to a network of high school kids.
Since mid-2009, some 300 Israel Air Force officers have been brainstorming about the next steps for one of the world’s most advanced air forces, and the main pillar of Israel’s strategic power. This “IAF 2030″ project has just come to an end. Besides a standard press release issued by the military, little has been disclosed about it. Exclusive details are reported here for the first time.
The task of preparing the project was given to Major Nimrod Segev, head of the IAF’s long-term planning department. Segev divided his 300 officers into nine teams: Advanced Information Technology, Vast Data, Space, Cyber, Environment, Intelligence, Human Factor, Organizational Behavior, and a ‘Red Team,’ to challenge the other eight’s assumptions.
The participants were asked to think ahead — far ahead — something that doesn’t come easy in the military culture here, where long-term planning is almost unheard of. What changes would it have to make in weapons systems, platforms, technology, manpower, and organizational behavior to meet potential new threats? What new planes, guidance systems, and technology would they want? Let loose, the officers were told. Don’t worry about the how and the how much; just let your imaginations go. The air force even brought in Israel’s number one dreamer — President Shimon Peres — to fire their imaginations with a pep talk.
Haaretz reports: Undercover soldiers hurled stones in the “general direction” of IDF soldiers as part of their activity to counter weekly demonstrations in the Palestinian village of Bil’in, the commander of the Israeli Prison Service’s elite “Masada” unit revealed during his recent testimony in the trial of MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash).
Barakeh has been charged with assaulting a border guard in Bil’in who was attempting to arrest a demonstrator.
Since 2005, the weekly protests against the separation barrier in Bil’in, which cuts the village off from much of its residents’ land, have attracted international attention as well as the participation of Israeli and international activists.
Several “Masada” fighters testified two weeks ago in Barakeh’s trial in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s court. The fighters testified from behind a curtain and their identity is to remain secret. The central witness was “Fighter 102,” an officer in “Masada,” who told the court that “we were sent to counter the disruptions at the separation barrier in Bil’in. It was the first time I was undercover. Two men were arrested, they were Palestinians.”
When quizzed by defense attorney Orna Kohn if the undercover soldiers hurled stones, “102″ answered that they did. When asked if he hurled stones toward IDF soldiers, he answered “in the general direction.”
Haaretz reports: On March 23, in the middle of the night, an undercover force of the Duvdevan special-ops unit entered the prosperous and serene Palestinian village of Kafr Ramun, reportedly as part of a training exercise. Three brothers woke up, alarmed, thinking the men outside were thieves, and tried to chase them away with sticks and kitchen knives on the street. Without identifying themselves – the members of this unit operate in the guise of Arabs – the special-ops force fired 11 bullets at the brothers, continuing to shoot even after they were injured. One of the brothers was killed and the other two were severely wounded. The soldiers also kicked one of the brothers, and for a long time prevented all of them from receiving medical attention.
Army Radio initially reported that “terrorists” had tried to stab an Israel Defense Forces soldier; subsequently the IDF announced that the military Criminal Investigation Division would not be looking into the incident.
A few days ago the two surviving brothers were released from a hospital in Israel. They say they are planning to sue the IDF.
The incident would not have occurred if the undercover soldiers had identified themselves to the three men. It also would not have occurred had the IDF refrained from entering a quiet village like Ramun in the middle of the night, ostensibly in order to train among its houses. [Continue reading...]
When video footage showing Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner slamming his rifle into Andreas Ias’ face first went viral, Eisner’s defenders were quick to dispute the evidence. A common refrain was that the clip lacked context, the assumption presumably being that if viewers saw more extended video then Eisner would be exonerated. Well, the context is now available and it turns out Eisner’s unprovoked attack on Ias was one of several caught on video. No wonder the IDF and Israeli government were swift to dismiss the officer rather than dig themselves into a deeper hole trying to defend the indefensible.
Haaretz reports: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday condemned the beating of a pro-Palestinian activist by a senior IDF officer, which was seen in a film posted on YouTube earlier Sunday.
“Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz also commented on the incident in which a senior officer was filmed hitting a leftist activist in the face with an M-16 rifle, saying he sees the incident as very grave.
“The incident does not reflect IDF principles and will be thoroughly investigated,” Gantz said.
On Saturday, a group of some 250 activists, mostly Palestinian youths from the West Bank, went on a bike ride in the Jordan Valley in a silent protest. At a certain point, several dozens of IDF soldiers stopped the activists, and events quickly escalated into a confrontation. IDF soldiers hit the activists and threw their bikes over a tunnel across the road.
In the video, which was posted by the International Solidarity Movement on YouTube on Sunday, Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner is seen beating youths who took part in a pro-Palestinian bike ride in the Jordan Valley.
One of the volunteers who organized the bike ride said that the soldiers were waiting for the activists and began clashing with them.
Lt.-Col. Eisner was filmed hitting one of the activists in the face with his M-16.
“We did not expect any harassment on the part of the Israeli soldiers, we just came for fun,” one of activists told Haaretz. “I tried to talk to them, to say that we only want to enjoy the beautiful road and the Jordan Valley in the springtime, but we were unsuccessful. The activists were beaten badly, and the officers just told us we couldn’t be in that area.”
Four activists who sustained wounds on their faces and backs were evacuated to a hospital in Jericho, while three more youths who were beaten refused to receive medical care.
Eisner recounted his version of events, and said that the youth that he beat had hit him beforehand, and even broke two of his fingers. He said that the incident lasted two hours, and that the activists were trying to block a road in the Jordan Valley.
Eisner claimed that he carried out his job after two hours of trying to stop lawbreakers.
Palestinian media reported on Saturday on the events that took place during the bike ride. After the video was posted Sunday and showed testimony of what transpired, GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon ordered the IDF to investigate the matter.
As Israel’s top officials try to portray Eisner’s assault as an aberration, it’s worth noting how the incident was treated on Nablus TV which first aired the footage on Saturday.
The attack was only shown midway through their report. For the Palestinian reporters this was just one more example of Israeli brutality that is far from exceptional.
As painful as it must have been for the young Danish activist to have an M-16 slammed in his face, this particular incident is unfortunately relatively minor in the history of the institutionalized violence which provides the foundation for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.
Zvi Bar’el writes: Advocates of a strike on Iran couldn’t have hoped for a more convincing performance than the current exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza. “A million Israelis under fire” is only a taste of what is expected when Iran’s nuclear project is completed. When that happens, seven million Israelis will be under the threat of fire and nuclear fallout.
This is what happens when “only” the Islamic Jihad fires Grad rockets, when Hamas stays out of the fight, and when the “miraculous system” that prevents missiles from falling on kindergartens still works. Under the threat of a nuclear Iran, miracles won’t help, and people in Tel Aviv will also be forced to hide in bomb shelters or escape to Eilat.
Here’s the proof: There is no alternative to striking Iran and there is no better time than the present, when the weather permits and world diplomacy is preoccupied with Syria. For Israelis, there is no better proof that no harm will come to them as a result of an attack on Iran than the performance of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, which has demonstrated a 95% rate of effectiveness. The escalation in Gaza is good for Israel – that is, for that part of Israel that wants to strike Iran.
It is hard to understand what basis there is for the assertion that Israel is not striving to escalate the situation. One could assume that an armed response by the Popular Resistance Committees or Islamic Jihad to Israel’s targeted assassination was taken into account. But did anyone weigh the possibility that the violent reaction could lead to a greater number of Israeli casualties than any terrorist attack that Zuhair al-Qaisi, the secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, could have carried out?
In the absence of a clear answer to that question, one may assume that those who decided to assassinate al-Qaisi once again relied on the “measured response” strategy, in which an Israeli strike draws a reaction, which draws an Israeli counter-reaction. Everything is proportionate, and Israel controls the height of the flames, while proclaiming that “Israel does not seek to escalate the situation.”
Is that so?
And what IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz’s statement a few weeks ago that there will be no alternative to a large-scale operation in Gaza? And what if the Islamic Jihad does not adopt the Israeli strategy and stop firing? Will Gantz’s threat finally materialize, catapulting Israel into a “Cast Lead Two” scenario?
Unlike Israel, Hamas has an understandable interest in putting an end to the escalation, which caught it off guard. The organization is mired in an internal political struggle. After fleeing Syria, its leadership is looking for a new home. The dialogue with Fatah has yet to produce an agreement on a unity government, and its ideological side must deal with the willingness of the Muslim Brotherhood, its ideological umbrella organization, to carry on a dialogue with the U.S. and respect the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.
Hamas, while it does not fully control the activities of all of the organizations in Gaza, has managed to secure important agreements with most of them, including the Islamic Jihad, which has joined the effort to reconcile with Fatah. Hamas is also dependant on Egypt regarding the passage of civilians through the Rafah Crossing and merchandise through the network of tunnels between the two territories, as well as for the fuel that enables it to provide Gazans with electricity. Even if its leadership was still located in Damascus, Hamas cannot disconnect itself from Egypt and remains shackled to its foreign policy toward Israel.
This dependence on Egypt has managed in the past to produce extended ceasefires which have proven themselves in recent months, especially after the signing of the reconciliation agreement with Fatah, which produced Khaled Meshal’s declarations that Hamas would restrict itself to nonviolent forms of struggle against Israel.
However, it seems that the change in Hamas not only hasn’t convinced Israel, but even stands in the way of its “no partner” policy and could sabotage its efforts to head off the creation of a Palestinian unity government, which would lead to renewed efforts at the UN to secure an independent Palestinian state.
Thus, Hamas must be dragged toward military activity against Israel, and nothing is easier, at least in Israel’s estimation, than to launch a “unilateral” attack against a wanted non-Hamas man, to wait for the response to come, and hope that Hamas joins in.
So far, it hasn’t happened. Hamas still prefers the diplomatic channel and has carried on intensive diplomatic contacts over the past two days with Egypt’s Supreme Military Council. Israel apparently needs to wait for another opportunity. Meanwhile, however, it has already managed to turn the attention of Arab diplomacy away from Syria and toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Assad must be pleased.
David Kindred writes: Until the Israeli sniper shot him, it had been a good day. Shadid’s notebook was full because he had been eyewitness to a drama that was a perfect metaphor for the latest Israel-Palestine war. He started a long walk back to the hotel. There he would write for his newspaper, The Boston Globe. He was looking at his notes when he realized that his body was falling. He was halfway to the ground before he heard the gunshot.
It was March 31, 2002. Shadid remembered the sky over Ramallah as cemetery gray. Once the bustling hub of a new Palestine, the city was cloaked in silence. War in its third day had emptied the streets. That day, as on all days, Shadid was driven by a reporter’s questions: Why? How do I put the pieces of the puzzle together? Here in Ramallah, why did Israel’s army wage war against civilians when the nation’s prime minister said the objective was to eliminate a’ “terrorist infrastructure”?
Shadid had gone to Ramallah Hospital to interview doctors, nurses, ambulances drivers, and humanitarian workers. He wanted to talk to people who had found themselves in harm’s way by leading their everyday lives. As he arrived, so did the roar of war. A tank rolled up, and two armored personnel carriers unloaded soldiers. The soldiers rushed toward the hospital with rifles leveled on people who had come outside. Someone said, “This is a hospital!” The soldiers, seemingly in search of an enemy, shouted, “Everyone back, everybody inside!”
Shadid saw it all. The scene spoke to the asymmetry of the conflict Here were doctors in white smocks facing soldiers with M-16s. As an Israeli lieutenant talked to the hospital chief, Shadid listened. In their confrontation, he saw the war. The lieutenant was an army that had to search among civilians for the enemy. The hospital chief was Ramallah, powerless against power.
“The doctor and this Israeli were face-to-face and they were yelling at each other,” Shadid said. “I’m standing right next to them. And I’m writing down every word. This was one of those moments. Through it, I could tell the entire story of this fifty-year conflict. I was so excited. This is it. You could see how the entire story would be structured. So excited.”
When a peaceful compromise was made, Shadid headed back to his hotel with a colleague, Said al-Ghazali. They walked in the middle of the street lest they raise suspicion by moving along walls. Both wore white flak jackets marked on the back with red-taped “TV,” the best-known symbol for international press. He had his notebook in his hands, flipping pages to read notes.
Then he was falling before he heard the gunshot. “It was deafening, like they shot next to my ear,” he said. “Probably twenty-five feet away.” On the street, he couldn’t move. He first thought someone had thrown a stun grenade, a weapon that momentarily paralyzes its target. Then he felt pain on his spine. “Said,” he said to his friend, “I think I was shot.”
Al-Ghazali was down on the pavement with Shadid, searching for blood. “I don’t see anything,” he said. Shadid now reached behind his flak jacket and brought back a bloody hand. He thought to tell his wife and infant daughter good-bye. He thought of ambulances that couldn’t move on Ramallah’s streets. He also thought, “I’ll die if I wait for help.”
Al-Ghazali carried him twenty yards before they fell. “Journalists!” Al-Ghazali shouted. “Help! Bring us a car!” There was no one in the street, no one could hear them, no one except perhaps the Israeli who shot him. Shadid thought that man might now be watching him struggle toward a vehicle in the street ahead.
“He’s wounded!” al-Ghazali shouted.
An Israeli said, “Show us!”
Al-Ghazali turned Shadid so the soldier could see the white flak jacket red with blood. The bullet had passed through Shadid’s left shoulder, sheared off part of a spinal column vertebra, and burst through his right shoulder, a classic M-16 wound: tiny on entry, huge on exit. Twelve pieces of shrapnel remained inside the reporter’s back. In his Boston apartment years later, I asked Shadid, “Did the guy intend to shoot you?”
“There were rumors that Palestinians were posing as Red Cross workers and journalists. I don’t think if they knew I was an American journalist that I’d have been shot. They might have, who knows? They can be rough on journalists. I think they wanted to teach a lesson. ‘Here’s what we’re going to do to people acting as journalists.’”
“God,” I said.
“A cold-blooded execution.”
“From point-blank range,” I said.
“They were looking to kill me. Crazy, but reading my notes may have saved my life. I think they were aiming at my head, and I moved my head down looking at my notes.”
“The M-16 wound makes you sure an Israeli did it?”
“Yes. And the Israelis were in complete control of that area that day.”
He could have been dead. He could have been paralyzed. Instead, he was in a Ramallah hospital away from the one he had visited that day. From his bed, he called Boston and told his editor what happened. He also said, “I got this great story. I think I can still write it.” And the editor said, “If you think you can do it, we’ll take it.” Before Shadid could get his laptop, common sense, in league with morphine, prevailed against the idea. Besides, he hadn’t been in the hospital an hour before here came more Israeli soldiers, guns drawn, entering his room and shouting something in Hebrew, a language he did not understand. He said, “Back off. I’m an American journalist.” They answered, “Get your hands up”—as if he could. He was mummified in bandages around his chest and shoulders. He raised his forearms.
Later that night, an Israeli army officer stopped by. “If we shot you,” he said, “I apologize on behalf of the army.” Then he shrugged. “But you know, you were in a war zone.” [Continue reading...]
The Guardian reports: The room is barely wider than the thin, dirty mattress that covers the floor. Behind a low concrete wall is a squat toilet, the stench from which has no escape in the windowless room. The rough concrete walls deter idle leaning; the constant overhead light inhibits sleep. The delivery of food through a low slit in the door is the only way of marking time, dividing day from night.
This is Cell 36, deep within Al Jalame prison in northern Israel. It is one of a handful of cells where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old claimed that he had been kept in Cell 36 for 65 days.
The only escape is to the interrogation room where children are shackled, by hands and feet, to a chair while being questioned, sometimes for hours.
Most are accused of throwing stones at soldiers or settlers; some, of flinging molotov cocktails; a few, of more serious offences such as links to militant organisations or using weapons. They are also pumped for information about the activities and sympathies of their classmates, relatives and neighbours.
At the beginning, nearly all deny the accusations. Most say they are threatened; some report physical violence. Verbal abuse – “You’re a dog, a son of a whore” – is common. Many are exhausted from sleep deprivation. Day after day they are fettered to the chair, then returned to solitary confinement. In the end, many sign confessions that they later say were coerced.
These claims and descriptions come from affidavits given by minors to an international human rights organisation and from interviews conducted by the Guardian. Other cells in Al Jalame and Petah Tikva prisons are also used for solitary confinement, but Cell 36 is the one cited most often in these testimonies.
Between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli soldiers each year, mostly accused of throwing stones. Since 2008, Defence for Children International (DCI) has collected sworn testimonies from 426 minors detained in Israel’s military justice system.
Their statements show a pattern of night-time arrests, hands bound with plastic ties, blindfolding, physical and verbal abuse, and threats. About 9% of all those giving affidavits say they were kept in solitary confinement, although there has been a marked increase to 22% in the past six months.
Few parents are told where their children have been taken. Minors are rarely questioned in the presence of a parent, and rarely see a lawyer before or during initial interrogation. Most are detained inside Israel, making family visits very difficult.
Human rights organisations say these patterns of treatment – which are corroborated by a separate study, No Minor Matter, conducted by an Israeli group, B’Tselem – violate the international convention on the rights of the child, which Israel has ratified, and the fourth Geneva convention.
Jewish extremists engaged in 228 attacks on Israeli security forces and dozens of arson attacks on mosques in 2011
Haaretz reports: Israel Police has been unsuccessful in running its agents in the West Bank, a senior police officer said Thursday, adding that officers have been struggling to gather evidence on crimes committed by right-wing activists.
Haim Rahamim, head of the investigations and intelligence wing of the Judea and Samaria District in the West Bank, made the statement during a discussion at the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on law enforcement in the territories.
Rahamim told the committee that over the past year 228 incidents of attacks by right-wing activists on security forces were recorded – not including verbal threats – and that dozens of mosques were set alight. He added that 65 indictments were served against rightist activists on charges of assault and vandalism.
“Ten people were arrested, but they were not indicted so they were released,” said Rahamim. “We have a problem with gathering evidence due to the location of where the crimes are committed.”
MK David Rotem, the head of the Knesset committee, said during the discussion that he expects that the police and other law enforcement authorities will use the tools that the law gives them in order to fight against law-breakers, and to refrain from using administrative orders.
Earlier Thursday, the Israel Defense Forces announced the temporary expulsion of 12 right-wing extremists from the West Bank over suspicions they orchestrated and executed clandestine violent attacks against Palestinians.
News of the activists’ imminent expulsion came after Haaretz reported on Tuesday that the State Prosecutor’s Office intended to indict eight right-wing activists for allegedly tracking IDF activities in the region in the West Bank.
GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi ordered that 12 right-wing activists be notified of their temporary expulsion from the West Bank, for periods ranging from 3 to 9 months.
The military acted on information, according to which the youths were allegedly involved in the planning, direction, and execution of secret violent attacks against Palestinians residents of the West Bank as well as against Israelis security forces.
Sources said the information indicated that the activists actions posed a real threat to human life and a disruption of public order and peace.
The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee reports: Earlier today, an Israeli military sniper opened fire at demonstrators in the village of Nabi Saleh, injuring one in the thigh. The wounded protester was evacuated by a Red Crescent ambulance to the Salfit hospital. The incident takes place only two weeks after the fatal shooting of Mustafa Tamimi at the very same spot. Additionally, a Palestinian journalist was injured in his leg by a tear-gas projectile shot directly at him, and two Israeli protesters were arrested.
The protester was hit by 0.22″ caliber munitions, which military regulations forbid using in the dispersal of demonstrations. Late in 2001, Judge Advocate General, Menachem Finkelstein, reclassified 0.22” munitions as live ammunition, and specifically forbade its use as a crowd control means. The reclassification was decided upon following numerous deaths of Palestinian demonstrators, mostly children.
Despite this fact, the Israeli military resumed using the 0.22” munitions to disperse demonstrations in the West Bank in the wake of Operation Cast Lead. Since then at least two Palestinian demonstrators have been killed by 0.22” fire:
- Az a-Din al-Jamal, age 14, was killed on 13 February 2009, in Hebron,
- Aqel Sror, age 35, was killed on 5 June 2009, in Ni’lin.
Following the death of Aqel Srour, JAG Brig. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit reasserted [PDF] that 0.22” munitions “are not classified by the IDF as means for dispersing demonstrations or public disturbances. The rules for use of these means in Judea and Samaria are stringent, and comparable to the rules for opening fire with ‘live’ ammunition.”
Contrary to the army’s official position, permissive use of 0.22” munitions against demonstrators continues in non life-threatening situations. [Continue reading for more background.]
Mark Perry writes: Seven months ago, during the early morning hours of May 30, Jewish settlers visiting Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus in the Palestinian West Bank engaged in a shoving match with IDF soldiers deployed to protect them. Within minutes, the confrontation escalated; several soldiers were punched by Jewish worshippers and rocks rained down on the soldiers from settlers atop the tomb. A YouTube video of the incident was later circulated on the internet at the request of the IDF. The Nablus incident was among the first in a growing series of confrontations between settlers and the Israeli military — and it sent shock waves through the Israeli military establishment. Brig. General Yoav Mordechai called the settlers “irresponsible lawbreakers” and pointed out that the IDF in the West Bank was deployed to protect settlers from “terrorists.” His message was clear: the settler confrontation had placed the lives of his soldiers at risk.
Mordechai’s statement must have brought wry smiles to Palestinian villagers near Nablus, whose olive groves have been burned and mosques desecrated by the same settlers who attacked the IDF detachment. But the Joseph’s Tomb incident was only the beginning: throughout July and August, settlers from Yitzhar — a hotbed of settler extremism — forced a series of confrontations with the IDF until, in August, a stone-throwing incident pitting settlers against Palestinians threatened to get out of control, with the IDF pushing Palestinians away from the settlers in order to protect them from the violence — and not the other way around. “It was an amazing scene,” a Palestinian organizer who witnessed the incident said during a recent trip to Washington. “At one point, one of the IDF commanders turned to me and said, ‘why don’t you do us a favor and just shoot these people?’”
The settler-on-IDF confrontations have increased over the last weeks, sending ripples of concern through the Israeli establishment. While no senior Israeli elected official has yet to suggest that the program of settlement expansion needs to be rethought, the viewpoint is the subject of sotto voce reflections throughout the Jewish state. After all, the unstated goal of the national settlement enterprise is to put obstacles in the way of Palestinian national claims — not to seed a nascent and nasty internal conflict. Now, and particularly if the confrontations continue (or escalate), Israeli officials will have to ask themselves whether it is wise to continue a program that is providing the equivalent of a Palestinian fifth column. It’s not as if the Palestinians haven’t noticed. Asked about the recent settler-IDF dust-ups near Nablus, a serving Palestinian legislator waves away a question about whether or not Abu Mazen and company will return to the peace talks: “What we ought to do is sit back and watch,” he says, “while Israel starts to unravel.”
“I don’t want to exaggerate, but it’s time to call this what it is,” a veteran IDF officer noted in a recent telephone conversation on the Nablus incident. “It might be news in America, but it’s no secret in Israel. This is a very real crisis. What we have here is the birth of a state within a state. The birth of a kind of Jewish Hezbollah.” [Continue reading...]