Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Most Moral Army in the World Executes Unarmed People?

Yesterday I wrote about an Israeli settler, Meir Hair, who was murdered. Today I am writing about three Palestinians who were murdered. The Palestinians killed were connected with the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, and were allegedly connected to the killing of Meir Hai.

The premier Israeli human rights group, B'tselem, has been investigating the IDF's killing of these three Palestinians in Nablus. B'tselem has been suggested that these were executions carried out by the IDF. An IDF spokesperson rejected that the Palestinians had been executed (as B'tselem suggested):
"the soldiers called on the terrorist to surrender and turn himself in. He refused and hid in his room and sent his wife out toward us. In cases where there is a threat to our troops and a wanted militant refuses to surrender, IDF forces are permitted to open fire in order to neutralize the threat. I am pleased that none of our fighters were hurt, but the risk factor was very high in this operation."
Not terribly conclusive, but the spokesperson clearly doesn't claim that the Palestinian man opened fire or was carrying a gun, only that he didn't come outside at the demand of the occupying military force, and was thus shot and killed.

Another military spokesperson speaks a bit more directly:
"a senior IDF official told Israel Radio that the three militants had not fired at Israeli troops and that two of them were unarmed, but that the Israeli soldiers knew that the terror squad that carried out Thursday's attack, to which the three belonged, were highly skilled and had access to firearms and therefore posed a threat. He stressed that the operation was carried out in accordance with IDF regulations, and that the soldiers first fired protest dispersal ammunition, then fired at the walls, and only later fired at the militants."
I appreciate the explanation, I do. But I have a few issues with the statement.

First, an army that continually claims that it is the most moral in the world, as the IDF continually does, cannot kill unarmed people. That's immoral under pretty much anyone's moral code.

Second, they fired protest dispersal ammunition, fired at walls, then killed the militants? So they fired tear gas first? Then they fired live ammo at the walls? Then they fired live ammo at live people? I am not sure that I see the natural progression and the increasing danger in that instance. I am sure it's hard to know if someone is wielding a gun or not. But it seems like the process this spokesperson is suggesting is, "Shoot tear gas, shoot wildly around the room, shoot people -- ask questions later." And seriously, if you were in your room, scared to death because soldiers are screaming at you, tear gas starts choking away your oxygen, you hear live ammo being fired against the wall....what are you supposed to do? Explain that you don't intend to kill anyone?

Thirdly, I live near a settlement that has a shooting range. There are often settlers out at the shooting range training to hit targets with accuracy. I have witnessed instructors teaching inexperienced people. I have also witnessed experienced shooters taking target practice. Settlers in this area (no, I am not speaking about soldiers or police) routinely carry M-16s as they walk around. So I would argue that "shooting first" and "asking questions later" when it involves people who are "highly skilled and [have] access to firearms and [pose] a threat," is a policy that ONLY applies to Palestinians and NOT to Israelis. I have witnessed many cases of Israeli settlers displaying how experienced they are with M-16s and how easily that can access these weapons. Yet, I have not seen the IDF respond with these execution-style tactics when responding to settler violence.

The fact that an Israeli human rights group is calling these "executions" should raise some red flags for ya' all.

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