Gideon Levy: The IDF's shooting range
- The IDF's shooting range
By Gideon Levy - Ha'aretz Feb 15, 2004
It sometimes seems the Gaza Strip has become the central shooting
range of the Israel Defense Forces, the IDF's firing zone and
training field. The weapons in use there are of dubious legality, the
rules of engagement lack the element of restraint, and punitive
measures that Israel would not conceive of inflicting in the West
Bank are par for the course, in a region that produces far less
terrorism than the West Bank.
The operation last Wednesday, in the Sajiyeh quarter of Gaza City, in
which 15 Palestinians were killed - including at least seven
civilians - was the latest illustration, for the time being, of what
Israel allows itself to do in Gaza. Fifteen dead for the sake of
liquidating one Hamas man who wasn't very senior in the organization
is an intolerable price. In Gaza, though, it has become routine: Once
every week or two, the IDF moves in, kills, demolishes and pulls out,
and no one knows exactly what it was all in aid of. Why do wanted
individuals have to be liquidated now in Gaza altogether? Is it only
to bring about more revenge terrorism?
The fact that not one terrorist attack against Israel has originated
from the Gaza Strip, because of the fence there, only heightens these
questions. One begins to suspect that the IDF is behaving like this
in Gaza simply because it can do whatever it fancies there.
The Gaza Strip and the West Bank have always been differentiated in
the Israeli consciousness. Whereas Ramallah and Bethlehem are
considered cities inhabited by people, Gaza has always been portrayed
as a "nest of terrorists." The fact that nearly 1.5 million people
live there, among them farmers and intellectuals, merchants and
craftsmen, religious and secular people - just like anywhere else
- has been deliberately distorted here. Try to tell an Israeli that
the beaches of the Gaza Strip are among the most beautiful in the
Middle East and that the majority of the Gazans are cordial,
especially warm people. Who will believe that? The demonization to
which Gaza has been subjected, going back to the period before the
occupation, has made it possible to behave differently there. Just as
in the Israeli-occupied areas of Lebanon, which were remote and where
almost everything was allowed, the occupation of Gaza, too, has
always been marked by a sense of anarchy, dating back to the
operations carried out there by Ariel Sharon and Meir Dagan (the
current head of the Mossad) in the 1970s.
According to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, there
were five liquidations in the Gaza Strip in the past four months, as
compared with only one in the West Bank. Why this ratio? Is it
because the Gazans are more dangerous, or because more is allowed in
The streets of Rafah resemble the set of a violent war movie. It's
the Grozny of Gaza. To date, Israel has demolished hundreds of homes,
including 40 in one day two weeks ago. The declared pretext - the
arms-smuggling tunnels from Sinai - can't justify destruction on this
scale. The IDF would never dare carry out demolitions of this scope
in the West Bank. Suffice it to recall how Jenin became a worldwide
symbol two years ago, in Operation Defensive Shield. In Rafah the
suffering is greater than in Jenin, but no one takes an interest.
There are hardly any foreign correspondents there, and of course no
Israeli journalists. It's not by chance that peace activists Rachel
Corrie and Tom Hurndall and the cameraman James Miller were killed
It's there that Israel renews its arsenal, too. The miniature black
steel darts that scattered in every direction in September 2002, in
the vineyard of the Hagin family, killing a mother, two sons and
their cousin who were picking grapes, were semi-flechette shells - an
illegal antipersonnel weapon generally fired from tanks. At least
twice the IDF used the destructive shell, whose scattered darts I saw
stuck in the sides of buildings a great distance from the place where
the family members were killed. The IDF has not dared to use
flechette shells in the West Bank. Similarly, the bombing of
population centers from the air has been authorized on a number of
occasions in Gaza. The air force, even under the command of the
unrestrained Major General Dan Halutz, would not have the temerity to
drop a half-ton bomb on a crowded residential area in Ramallah. But
it's okay in Gaza, as in the liquidation of Hamas activist Saleh
Shehadeh in July 2002 with a one-ton bomb.
The rules of engagement are different in Gaza, too. In November 2001
the deputy military judge advocate general admitted that there is
a "vast difference" in the guidelines for opening fire between
Central Command (the West Bank) and Southern Command (the Gaza
Strip). Why should this be so? In the area of the isolated Gaza Strip
settlement of Netzarim and along the fence around the Gaza Strip, the
order is to shoot anything that moves, with no prior warning. The
latest victims were a group of children who approached the fence in
the A-Salem neighborhood of Rafah on the weekend. A 10-year-old boy
was killed and three of his friends were wounded because the soldiers
saw them as "suspicious figures."
Testimony of the "anything goes" atmosphere was given by a senior IDF
officer back in 1998, during a tour of the Gaza Strip by
representatives of human rights organizations. Asked whether Gaza
Strip terrorists were more dangerous, he replied, "No, but here we
can do more."
Twilight Zone / Drawing the line
By Gideon Levy - Ha'aretz Feb 18, 2004
The intercity road between Tul Karm and Nablus is cut off by a locked
iron gate. In front of the gate there is a blurred yellow line.
Whoever crosses the line has his car confiscated immediately. Why?
A yellow line on black asphalt. The line is already blurred and
faded, barely visible. It is located at a distance of several dozen
meters from the yellow iron gate. One line in front of the gate, and
one line on the other side. There are no signs or traffic signals.
The gate, closed with a heavy iron lock, cuts off the Tul Karm-Nablus
road and turns it into a dead end, in both directions. On both sides
of the yellow gate, behind the yellow lines, yellow taxis await
travelers who will go around the gate on foot. None of the drivers
dares to cross the yellow line. We inadvertently pass it by a few
meters, and the drivers are frightened, although there isn't a single
soldier in the area. What are they afraid of?
It turns out that Big Brother sees everything. And in fact, a few
moments later a jeep turns up and soldiers jump out. "Does anyone
have a knife? I'm taking the air out of their tires," says one of the
soldiers. A new cab driver, who is not yet familiar with the
procedures, had dared to let a passenger off beyond the yellow line.
He loses his livelihood on the spot. He crossed the line, and the
soldiers confiscate the keys to his cab. By what right? By what
authority? And for what reason?
Questions that have no answer on the occupation roads, questions that
nobody even bothers to ask any more. That's what the soldier decided,
and that's that. And when will the unfortunate driver get the keys to
his cab back? Nobody knows. Maybe on Wednesday. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe
the next time the jeep makes its rounds. Whenever the soldier
decides, if he remembers.
A white city: On Sunday, Nablus was covered in snow. Snow on Mt.
Gerizim and snow on Mt. Ebal, and in the middle, the battered city
looked like an Alpine landscape. Even the Balata refugee camp looked
for a moment like St. Moritz.
The ambulance driver walks from work in the city to his home in the
village of Beit Fourik. The separation and blocking ditches dug by
Israel on the sides of the roads, to ensure the imprisonment of the
residents, were filled with water. The village children roll up their
pants and enter the large puddle at the outskirts of Beit Fourik.
Now, in the freezing wind, they have a unique opportunity to splash
in the water. "Don't despair," it says in Hebrew on a van that is
The memorial to the fallen at the entrance to Beit Fourik. An Israeli
flag is painted in black on the wall of the site, and all the
tombstones are broken. The names of dozens of fallen from Beit Fourik
are scattered like gravel on the floor.
If anyone has any doubt as to who desecrated their holy place, here
is the evidence: a sooty tin can among the fragments of the
tombstones: "30 cardboard boxes, 6 rolls of rubber in a box." The
defense forces. In the village, they say that about three months ago,
the soldiers came to Beit Fourik and smashed the memorial wall.
The roads of the West Bank are completely deserted. The Palestinians,
it seems, have relinquished the right of movement. Three cars are
waiting in line at the Shavei Shomron checkpoint. The settlers
bypass, as usual. Three Palestinian cars have 25 minutes' wait. The
driver of the cab in front of us smokes three cigarettes before his
turn comes. The soldiers do what they want. They're in no hurry.
The cab driver drove a few meters backward from time to time, a few
meters forward, as though to flex his muscles, to pretend to himself
that he is a free driver in his country. But in fact he waited with
exemplary obedience for the soldier to signal to him. Scattered
showers slowly began. "As the desert longs for rain," sings the band
on the radio. There are already 10 cars in the line.
The yellow gate suddenly appears. You drive unaware on the Nablus-Tul
Karm road, the main highway, and suddenly - the locked gate on the
road. Permanently. In the middle of nowhere. Without soldiers.
Shortly before reaching Anabta. But every cloud has a silver lining:
On the other side of the gate there is already a checkpoint
marketplace, stalls selling coffee for a shekel and kebab for five
shekels. The seller of coffee-for-a-shekel worked for 10 years at the
Sabrina plant in Ramat Hahayal. Now he's here, at the Arcaffe of the
locked gate, and his coffee is excellent.
The row of taxis is parked on either side of the gate; some are
headed toward Tul Karm and its satellite towns, and others toward
Nablus and its satellites. The row of cabs begins at a distance of
several dozen meters from the gate. We park the car closer to the
gate. When we ask, we understand why we're the only ones: the blurred
line on the road. It's forbidden to cross it. There must be order,
and the order here is maintained very carefully. With soldiers, and
without soldiers, too. Has self-discipline developed here? It turns
out that it's not only that. One of the drivers points toward the
high mountain that towers above us, as though hiding a secret. A
watchtower can be seen on the distant summit. There sit the soldiers
watching, day and night, to see whether anyone has crossed the yellow
line in front of the gate. The drivers say that if someone crosses
the line, ajeep comes immediately and confiscates the keys to the
car, or slashes the four tires, or both.
The coffee is steaming. Children run quickly to and fro, pushing iron
carts to transport the baggage of the harassed passengers from one
yellow line to the other, from one yellow cab to the other, for a few
agorot. They assail every approaching cab, competing with one another
for the baggage. Here they are transporting two car engines - they're
having a good day today. A man on crutches hobbles with difficulty
alongside the gate, leaning on the iron for support, almost falling
into the abyss next to him. An acquaintance from the Tul Karm refugee
camp arrives as well: He left Bethlehem at 10 A.M. on his way home.
Now it's already 3 P.M. "In that time one could get to France." A
passerby says that on Friday it took him longer: He left here at 10
A.M. and reached Ramallah only at 6 P.M.
Suddenly an IDF jeep arrives. Immediately there is great tension at
the gate. The passengers and the drivers are nervous; they rush to
get away, to avoid getting into trouble. From the jeep emerge three
reserve soldiers, husky types wearing black stocking caps, carrying
rifles, assailing the passengers and the drivers who want to get home
safely. The bearded one begins to shout. He roars in his unique way
at the people who try to get away from him quickly. One of the
soldiers shouts in Arabic, in accordance with the new policy of
humanitarian gestures at the checkpoints. "Get your car out of here,
fucking Israelis," says the bearded soldier, the huskiest of the
three: "Go on, get a move on."
"You want us to break your camera?" the Arabic speaker asks politely.
Suddenly the unbelievable happens, and attention is diverted from our
car, which is not properly parked, to a much more severe violation. A
yellow cab approaches the gate; it drives slowly, stops, and lets off
a passenger next to the gate, to the amazement of the soldiers. They
can't believe their eyes. Letting off a passenger beyond the line?
The Arabic speaker loses no time, quickly jumps up from his place,
runs in the direction of the cab with his rifle cocked,
shouting: "Pull up at the side and get out, pull up immediately and
From the cab emerges an embarrassed young man, wearing jeans, an
attractive sweater, a kaffiyeh around his neck, still not
understanding what the fuss is about, but already aware that he's in
big trouble. The soldier takes his ID card from his hand, indicates
that he should park his cab at the side and bring his keys. "That's
it, I'm confiscating his cab," reports the soldier proudly to his
friends. "What, is there a wedding here? You can go, the bride has
already given birth," he says, scattering the curious onlookers.
"If my picture is in the paper, they don't remain alive," continues
the Arabic-speaking soldier in Hebrew to his friend. "What did you
write down?" he asks me. "Soon we'll see if it's any of my business."
His friend tries to explain calmly: "You interfered with checkpoint
The taxi driver stands at the side, his eyes downcast, waiting for
orders from the soldier. Submissive, he hands his cab keys to the
soldier. The soldier shoves them into his pocket. Where in civilian
life could he run things like this? But does the IDF instruct its
soldiers to confiscate cars that are illegally parked or that stop in
a place that is off limits?
The IDF spokesman:
"There is no IDF instruction to confiscate keys. The complaints
regarding the incident described will be investigated."
The driver's face is pale. Samar Abdullah from Safarin. Until
recently he worked in construction in Israel. He has a permit, but
because he slipped a disc in his back he stopped working. Three
months ago he bought this taxi, an old Mercedes. Usually he travels
on the Beit Lid-Safarin route. Today is the first time he arrived at
this gate. He has no idea when he'll get his taxi back, and how he'll
get home now. Five children are waiting at home.
'NO JOBS, NO HOPE, NO LIFE, NO FREEDOM': PALESTINIANS AND
THE 'SECURITY' BARRIER
Maxine Frith, Independent, 2/24/04
The young paramedic picked up a blood-soaked school homework sheet
from the remains of the latest bus bomb and said: "This is why we
need this wall. There were children on that bus doing their homework
on the way to school and then they are blown up. How can I see the
Palestinians as human beings when they do things like this? The wall
will save lives. How can anyone argue against something that could
save a child's life?"
A few miles away, Nebal Mara'beh, 10, sat quietly on her father's
knee. She had fallen seriously ill with a fever last week. Her
parents had wanted to take her to a doctor but they could not. They
live in the Palestinian village of Ras Tira; virtual prisoners
because they have been left on the Israeli side of the fence; cut off
from their relatives, jobs, farmland, schools and doctors on the West
Bank; denied permission to travel and work in Israel.
Nebal's father, Tawfiq, said: "We went to the soldiers on the wall
and asked them to open the gate so we could take our daughter to a
doctor. They refused. In the end, the doctor had to come to the wall
at night and try to diagnose our daughter from the other side of the
gate. Last month, a woman had to give birth by the wall because the
soldiers wouldn't let her through the gate. Her baby died.
"We are encaged here. I cannot get to my land on the other side of
the wall because the gate is only opened three times a day and we
have to queue for hours to get through. It is closed at 4pm, so we
have no time to do our work.
"Last year, I grew olives and wheat on my land. This year, it is just
grass. We get food parcels but life is very hard. I talked to my
father and our grandfather, who remember 1967, and they say that they
have never seen things as bad as this."
Ras Tira is one of five Palestinian villages which have been stranded
on the "wrong" side of the security wall, and their plight goes to
the heart of the argument over the legality of what the Israeli
government is doing. The 700km wall - part wall, part fence which in
places stands eight metres high - is not being built along the "green
line" that marks the 1967 boundary between Israel and the occupied
territories, but further into the West Bank.
While the Israelis claim that the wall is purely for security
reasons, its opponents say it is, in effect, grabbing more land from
the Palestinians and being used to protect illegal Jewish
settlements. The wall runs like a scar through the landscape, at some
points twice the height of the Berlin wall, and is patrolled by
Israeli soldiers. Some sections have CCTV cameras and barbed wire; in
places like Ras Tira it is little more than a fence, but it still
imprisons Palestinians in their own homes. There are heavy fines for
being caught crossing the wall and frequent reports of Israeli
soldiers beating those they find trying to do so.
Yaseen Mararba, the leader of the village council in Ras Tira,
said: "One morning we woke up and we saw bulldozers come in and start
to build the wall. I think we found it hard to believe what was
happening. Even when we saw it with our own eyes we didn't want to
believe it. The Israelis say they are doing it for security but it is
only making people more angry. The men have nothing to do; no jobs to
go to. It is destroying lives and families."
Nebal's elder sister, Ma'areb, is 13 and wants to be an accountant
when she grows up but, at the moment, is frightened of going to
school. She said with typical adolescent shyness: "We have to queue,
sometimes for two hours, to get through the gate to school. The
soldiers search us and I hate it. They make us open our coats and I
feel humiliated. It's horrible. Last week, one boy was waiting for so
long at the gate and he threw a stone at the wall. The Israeli
soldiers took him and beat him very badly."
She shrugged when asked how she feels. "It is our life," she
said. "It happens all the time."
Across the valley from Ras Tira lies the Jewish settlement of Giva't
alfei Menashe. The Palestinians claim that the settlers take pot
shots at them with their guns. Mr Mararba said: "How can we see the
Israelis as human beings who want peace when they treat us like this?
They don't want peace. If they do, they should take down this wall
and stop caging us like animals."
The wall separates Jerusalem from the eastern suburb of Abu Dis,
making daily life extremely difficult for the Palestinians who live
in the city. Activists have taken their fight against the wall to the
Israeli Supreme Court, prompting the government to dismantle small
sections in order to let pedestrians pass through. But many
Palestinians believe that this is merely cosmetic; a public relations
exercise timed to coincide with The Hague hearing which opened
yesterday, and that the barriers will go up again soon.
Along one part of the wall, seven-feet high ugly concrete blocks
which make up the wall are covered with graffiti urging peace and
demanding the barrier is dismantled. Amal, 17, said: "They are
separating Palestinians from Palestinians. How does this help the
peace process? They are making people more angry. More people will
want to become suicide bombers because they have no jobs, no hope, no
life, no freedom." Ironically, some Israelis oppose to the wall
because it, in effect, accepts that the West Bank and occupied
territories are separate from Israel.
Some Jewish settlements are on the "wrong side" of the wall, and are
determined to stay put.
While the Israelis cope with the carnage of the bus bomb, the
Palestinians have to suffer daily indignities and denials of human
rights, such as health and education, because of the wall. Dominic
Nutt of the aid agency Christian Aid, said: "The wall is only
increasing the problems endured by the Palestinians.People are being
denied basic rights, and the wall will not bring security and peace
to the area."
Eyes Wide Open': Israeli Video On Palestinian Sufferings
By Samer Khuwayira, IOL Correspondent
NABLUS, February 19 (IslamOnline.net) - To some Israelis, daily
Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation is an unacceptable
fact of life that they refuse and need to highlight with different
methods, the latest of which is using music video to denounce such
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied
Territories, B'Tselem, has produced a song and music video as part of
the organization's campaign against Israel's siege policy.
The music video features footage taken at roadblocks and checkpoints
within the West Bank and shows the daily reality of Israel's siege
policy, B'Tselem's website said.
The song - "Eyes Wide Open" - is a remake of a popular Israeli song,
featuring well-known Israeli artists. The song's lyrics speak of the
need to acknowledge the reality around us, the website added.
"You have to see the wrong in order to fight it... Don't put on
glasses/Rose colored or gray/Look with your eyes/Eyes wide open," the
The video clip is performed by Arab and Israeli artists in an attempt
to reduce the sufferings faced by Palestinians in the occupied lands
and inform the Israeli public opinion of such sufferings.
The tape will be available for Israeli and Palestinian public within
the forthcoming days as a way to "condemn the Israeli military
barriers and convince the Israeli public opinion that such barriers
are illegitimate and unfair," the center said.
The number of copies to be distributed among the Arab and Israeli
public, according to the center, is estimated at 100.000.
The Arab section coordinator at B'Tselem website Suhad Saqallah said
that the video deals with the sufferings faced by the Palestinians
due to the roadblocks and checkpoints through a popular Israeli song
entitled "Seoum", which means "Eyes wide open."
"The song is performed by seven Israeli singers who oppose the notion
of barriers and the policy adopted by the occupation authorities
against the Palestinians. Some words have been modified by the
website itself to suit the issue of Israeli practices on the
barriers," she added.
The original song has been written by the Israeli song writer Nathan
Alterman and previously performed by an Israeli singer called Eric
The song will be accompanied by several shots for the Israeli
roadblocks established on the Palestinian lands as well as some
quotes from Israeli military officers and soldiers who denounce the
policy of siege around Palestinian cities.
B'Tselem website underlined that "all such scenes are realistic and a
genuine expression of events."
The human rights center wishes that this project will have its
repercussion on the international arena in an attempt to change
current policies that lead to such barriers.
Part Of A Campaign
"This project is a part of a huge campaign against the barriers and
the permanent siege imposed on Palestinians," Saqallah pointed out,
adding that the campaign basically focus on the barriers held deep in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip, separating towns and villages in the
The video clip campaign has been launched on February 7, 2004, and
will last for six weeks, the media coordinator added, pointing out
that she will adopt several other methods to activate the project,
including publishing ads in Israeli papers and online in three
languages: Arabic, Hebrew and English.
"Since September 2000, the Israeli army has erected an extensive
network of checkpoints, road blocks, trenches and other obstacles - a
virtual siege around every Palestinian community in the West Bank.
Most West Bank roads are now reserved exclusively for Jewish travel,"
the website said.
"Most checkpoints and physical obstacles do not prevent entry into
Israel; they prevent travel between Palestinian cities and villages
within the West Bank. They disrupt every aspect of Palestinian daily
life. Children cannot get to schools, adults cannot reach jobs, and
patients cannot get medical treatment. The restrictions on movement
have contributed to a collapse of the Palestinian economy," it added.
The checkpoints do not target only those who pose a security threat
to Israel; they target everyone. In fact, those most harmed are
people physically unable to bypass the obstacles: families with small
children, pregnant women, the sick and the elderly, it explains.
"When over two million people cannot travel even a few miles down the
road, cannot conduct any aspect of their daily lives without
encountering innumerable obstacles, such restrictions are no longer
legitimate security measures - they are collective punishments."
This isn't security. It's humiliation, the website concluded.
Israeli Public Participation
Meanwhile, B'Tselem spokesman Nauam Hophtcher said that the
organization seeks to get public figures involved in the campaign
against the barriers.
"We exert constant efforts to talk Israeli prominent public figures
into participating in our activities. Several artists have positively
responded. Our objective is to convey a strong and clear-cut message
to the greatest possible number of Israelis," she said.
Hence, the participation of popular Israeli figures is an integral
part of the campaign," he added.
"We should be watchful and see the whole facts. We can not keep
violating the rights of three millions people. Depriving them from
the means to earn their living and get medical treatment is
unbearable," Israeli actor Yussi Boulak, who has actually joined the
The video clip director Eric Dvidovic has expressed his delight for
such participation, saying "I am very happy that I got this
opportunity to link my art to the principles I adhere to."
Similar Other Calls
"Eyes Wide Open" art work comes to stress the call made by the head
of the civil administration in the West Bank brigadier General Elan
Baz and published by Israeli Yedout Aharonot newspaper on Friday,
January 23, to demolish the separation roadblocks and checkpoints.
"Facilities could and should be provided to the Palestinians,
including the dismantling of the internal barriers," he said.
Permanently-existing Israeli barriers in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, which amount to 50, pose a nightmare that chases Palestinian
citizens and university students since the outbreak of Al-Aqsa
uprising against Israeli occupation in September 28, 2000.
B'Tselem was established in 1989 by a group of prominent academics,
attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document
and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights
violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of
denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human
rights culture in Israel.
B'Tselem in Hebrew literally means "in the image of," and is also
used as a synonym for human dignity.
Eyes Wide Open
Lyrics: Nathan Alterman - Music: Miki Gavrielov - Adaptation: Eldar
There are those who see everything through rose-colored glasses.
That's not healthy everyone says - it's even very dangerous.
There are those who see everything through a gray fog.
It's just a different form of the same disease.
Don't put on glasses Rose-colored or gray.
Look with your eyes -Eyes wide open.
Don't say that we're still just a minority here in this land.
Here, there is room for optimism.
Don't say "Zion, rejoice in song and dance"
Here, a bit of pessimism is warranted.
Don't put on glasses Rose-colored or gray.
Look with your eyes -Eyes wide open.
Get news and commentary from the newspaper
But come to us to get a dose of satisfaction.
You have to see the wrong in order to fight it.
You have to safeguard the good to take some comfort in it.
Don't put on glasses Rose-colored or gray.
Look with your eyes -Eyes wide open.
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