Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Human shields in Palestine

The Israeli Army ordered its soldiers to stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields back in May 2002. Until then, it had been commonplace.

That report from (I think) the Daily Mail of April 23rd 2004 suggests that the order was not always respected: or perhaps the Border Police considered it didn't apply to them. Rather surprisingly the BBC covered the story as well, though if course they made sure to include this gem:

Israeli police spokesman Gil Kleiman said: "It's unclear what happened, we do not expose civilians to physical damage willingly."

Given the evidence of a police Land Rover with a Palestinian child plasticuffed to it, one can only assume that poor policemen were coerced by intolerable pressure, such as being scared to get out of their Land Rover to confront unarmed kids without one should perhaps call the "enhanced armour option".

Anyway, they're still at it. As the guy from Adalah said, it's more common for human shields to be used in military operations than against stone-throwers (why waste a useful resource on unarmed kids you can simply shoot?) Now they use them to set off booby-traps and be shot in ambushes.

This report from the BBC quotes Amnesty International as calling for both sides to stop endangering civilians. Let us leave aside, as AI correctly does, any question of whether it is more culpable to shoot from near civilians (Hamas) or to take civilian hostages (IDF), However, the BBC reporter appears to think the Israeli Supreme Court banned the IDF from pushing civilians ahead of them to trip booby-traps and so on only in 2005 (perhaps he was familar with the 2004 story above and -naturally - assumed the Israelis had acted legally). He also seems to think the IDF stopped using human shields once it was made illegal. (Umm, yes, like the government demolished all the West Bank settlements once the Supreme Court declared them illegal.)

Yet the overwhelming impression from the British media (banned from entering Gaza during the offensive and gratefully swallowing everything the Israeli government supplied) is that it is Hamas who were using "human shields" and that the IDF were taking great risks to avoid civilian casualties. (Don't you love the way Israeli spokesmen kept stressing that they'd sent mobile phone messages to Gazans telling them to flee? Q1: Flee to where exactly, since the borders were sealed? Q2: Just how many mobile phone masts do you imagine were still working after the Israeli airstrikes? Q3: In a country with no electricity thanks to the Israelis, what are these mobile phones supposed to run on?)

Truly, Israeli propaganda is (in Norman Finkelstein's memorable phrase) Beyond Chutzpah.


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