Human Dignity – The IDF and its soldiers are obligated to protect human dignity. Every human being is of value regardless of his or her origin, religion, nationality, gender, status or position.
Human Life – The IDF servicemen and women will act in a judicious and safe manner in all they do, out of recognition of the supreme value of human life.
Purity of Arms – The IDF servicemen and women will use their weapons and force only for the purpose of their mission, only to the necessary extent and will maintain their humanity even during combat. IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property.
Back in the 1970s, a young Juliano Meir-Khamis, later to become one of Israel’s most celebrated actors, was assigned the job of carrying a weapons bag on operations in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. When Palestinian women or children were killed, he placed a weapon next to the body.
In one incident, when soldiers playing around with a shoulder-launcher fired a missile at a donkey, and the 12-year-old girl riding it, Meir-Khamis was ordered to put explosives on their remains.
That occurred before the Palestinians’ first mass uprising against the occupation erupted in the late 1980s. Then, the defence minister Yitzhak Rabin – later given a Hollywood-style makeover himself as a peacemaker – urged troops to “break the bones” of Palestinians to stop their liberation struggle.
The desperate, and sometimes self-sabotaging, lengths Israel takes to try to salvage its image were underscored last week when 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi was grabbed from his bed in a night raid.
Back in December he was shot in the face by soldiers during an invasion of his village of Nabi Saleh. Doctors saved his life, but he was left with a misshapen head and a section of skull missing.
Mohammed’s suffering made headlines because he was a bit-player in a larger drama. Shortly after he was shot, a video recorded his cousin, 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, slapping a soldier nearby after he entered her home.
Ahed, who is in jail awaiting trial, was already a Palestinian resistance icon. Now she has become a symbol too of Israel’s victimisation of children.
So, Israel began work on recrafting the narrative: of Ahed as a terrorist and provocateur.
It emerged that a government minister, Michael Oren, had even set up a secret committee to try to prove that Ahed and her family were really paid actors, not Palestinians, there to “make Israel look bad”. The Pallywood delusion had gone into overdrive.
Last week events took a new turn as Mohammed and other relatives were seized, even though he is still gravely ill. Dragged off to an interrogation cell, he was denied access to a lawyer or parent.
Shortly afterwards, Israel produced a signed confession stating that Mohammed’s horrific injuries were not Israel’s responsibility but wounds inflicted in a bicycle crash.
Yoav Mordechai, the occupation’s top official, trumpeted proof of a Palestinian “culture of lies and incitement”. Mohammed’s injuries were “fake news”, the Israeli media dutifully reported.
Deprived of a justification for slapping an occupation soldier, Ahed can now be locked away by military judges. Except that witnesses, phone records and hospital documentation, including brain scans, all prove that Mohammed was shot.
This was simply another of Israellywood’s endless productions to automatically confer guilt on Palestinians. The hundreds of children on Israel’s incarceration production line each year have to sign confessions – or plea bargains – to win jail-sentence reductions from courts with near-100% conviction rates.
It is more Franz Kafka than Hollywood.
A second army narrative unravelled last week. CCTV showed Yasin Saradih, 35, being shot at point-blank range during an invasion of Jericho, then savagely beaten by soldiers as he lay wounded, and left to bleed to death.
It was an unexceptional incident. A report by Amnesty International last month noted that many of the dozens of Palestinians killed in 2017 appeared to be victims of extra-judicial executions.
Before footage of Saradih’s killing surfaced, the army issued a series of false statements, including that he died from tear-gas inhalation, received first-aid treatment and was armed with a knife. The video disproves all of that.
Over the past two years, dozens of Palestinians, including women and children, have been shot in similarly suspicious circumstances. Invariably the army concludes that they were killed while attacking soldiers with a knife – Israel even named this period of unrest a “knife intifada”.
A half-century of occupation has not only corrupted generations of teenage Israeli soldiers who have been allowed to lord it over Palestinians. It has also created an industry of lies and self-deceptions to ensure that the consciences of Israelis are never clouded by a moment of doubt that maybe their army is not so moral after all.
In June 1967, I was in my final weeks in college when the Arab-Israeli war broke out. At the time, I knew little about the Middle East as I was engaged in the anti-Vietnam war and civil rights movements. And so as I watched the UN Security Council debates that preceded and followed the war, I saw what was unfolding through the prism of those struggles with which I was more familiar: the one in opposition to the war in Vietnam and the other for civil rights and justice in America. As a result, I was sceptical both about the United States and Israel’s justifications for the war and the reporting and political commentary that followed. The story, as it was being told, was too simple. I knew there had to be more.
The war started and ended quickly and in the US, the media and political establishment were quick to celebrate the Israeli victory. It was, we were told, “clean and quick” and “miraculous”. There were two haunting photos from that period that were intended to capture the essence of the war. One featured handsome and hopeful young Israeli soldiers standing next to Jerusalem’s Western Wall. It was meant to convey their joyous victory and their conquest of Jerusalem. The other was a picture of shoes in the Sinai’s desert sand. We were told that they had been left by fleeing Egyptian soldiers, clearly intending to portray Israel’s enemies as vanquished cowards.
I knew enough about the “fog of war” to know that we didn’t know the whole story, but it wasn’t until years later that the horrors that accompanied these pictures became known, proving that this war had neither been clean nor miraculous.
In September 1995, The New York Times ran a story under the headline Egypt says Israelis killed POWs in the 1967 War. The story reported on the discovery of mass graves in the Sinai desert containing the bodies of Egyptian soldiers, together with eye witness accounts of the killings. One former Egyptian soldier reported: “I saw a line of prisoners, civilian and military, and they [the Israelis] opened fire at them all at once. When they we’re dead, they told us to bury them.”
While this crime was news to Times readers, it had been known in Israel for years, since Israeli officers had, previously admitted to killing unarmed prisoners. Nevertheless, the story died because neither the US nor the Egyptian government wanted to pursue it out of fear that it would disrupt the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”. For their part, the Israelis being masters at brushing off bad news, as if it didn’t happen, knew that it would go away. And it did. The story of the Western Wall was no less troubling. Here, too, what happened to the Palestinian inhabitants of the Moughrabi neighbourhood that was adjacent to the Wall has long been ignored. Just last week, an Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, published an account of the way Israel quickly moved to consolidate its hold over Jerusalem by demolishing the entire neighbourhood of 135 Palestinian homes that bordered the wall, forcibly evicting its residents.
The story’s intent was to romanticise how 15 Israeli contractors came together quickly to plan the demolition of the Arab homes in order to create a plaza where Jewish worshippers could come to pray at the wall. Their goal, as they described it, was to “purify” the area. They called it a “great and glorious mission”. In reality it was neither great nor glorious.
One of these contractors related, with chilling calm, how they went into the neighbourhood with a megaphone and “asked the people [the Palestinian inhabitants] to gather” and then ushered them out as the bulldozers began their work. Some “residents refused to leave and left only when the bulldozers rammed” into their homes. One old woman was buried alive in the rubble of her home. The article describes a picture, from that time, showing a demolished home “with furniture, curtains, and a vase with flowers inside”. It was “ethnic cleansing” of innocent Palestinians to “purify” an area in order to provide Israelis a place to pray.
Looking at the official records of the deaths of the 1967 War, we are told that 10,000 Egyptians died while another 5,000 were listed “missing”. Why was there no accounting for this large number? What other secrets still reside beneath the Sinai’s sands? A total of 300,000 new Palestinian refugees were created by that war, losing their homes and belongings, retaining only their memories.
Celebrating victories while ignoring victims, only ensures that no lessons are learnt, thereby only serving to lay the predicate for the next war.
As it is, the sins of the 1967 War are still with us. Not only in the crime of the occupation, but also in the unanswered questions and the still unaccounted for victims of the horrors that occurred 50 years ago. If we don’t commit ourselves to finding the “missing”, providing the displaced with justice they deserve, and calling to account those who committed these crimes, we will stand as failures in the eyes of history and our fellow man.