Of all of the false and insidious talking points trumpeted out by Israel and its allies in the U.S. corporate media over the past two months, the one that stands out as possibly the most deceitful is the one which claims Hamas uses Palestinian civilians, including children, as “human shields”. The fact that Israel should use this as an imagined justification for blowing up people in Gaza without even trying to distinguish is bad enough. What makes it much worse, however, is that Israel has used Palestinian children as human shields as part of a known military tactic called the “neighbor procedure” for years now with complete impunity.
Since Israel’s 2002 assault on the West Bank known as “Operation Defensive Shield“, soldiers serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) increasingly began to see Palestinian civilians, including children, as a useful means to safeguard themselves from potential retaliatory attacks that may arise from Palestinians. Israeli soldiers would often kidnap a Palestinian youth and force them to walk in front of IDF tanks and military vehicles, to prevent rocks from being hurled at them by residents who defied the occupation. Another method of this ‘human shield’ defense tactic involved forcing a captive to walk into a home Israeli soldiers suspected was actually booby-trapped. This way the poor Palestinian’s life was the one at risk of being blown to smithereens instead of that of the Israeli soldier. According to Reuters, in the decade spanning the years 2002-2012,
“an estimated 7,000 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, but some as young as nine, had been arrested, interrogated and detained […]
Many are brought in leg chains and shackles before military courts, while youths are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for months”.
Israel is the only nation in the world where children are tried and sentenced by military courts, Palestinian children that is. A multitude of children have been kidnapped and arrested on the suspicion of “throwing rocks” at soldiers and tanks which have been illegally occupying their territories since 1967. The penalty for rock-throwing is potentially a prison sentence of up to 20 years! Furthermore, detainees are often forced to sign their names to confessions written in a language foreign to them – Hebrew – all while being either tortured or threatened with torture.
The 2013 investigative report by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child found that children
living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories continued to be:
(a) Routinely arrested in the middle of the night by soldiers shouting instructions
at the family and taken hand-tied and blindfolded to unknown destination without having
the possibility to say good bye to their parents who rarely know where their children are
(b) Systematically subject to physical and verbal violence, humiliation, painful
restraints, hooding of the head and face in a sack, threatened with death, physical violence,
and sexual assault against themselves or members of their family, restricted access to toilet,
food and water. These crimes are perpetrated from the time of arrest, during transfer and
interrogation, to obtain a confession but also on an arbitrary basis as testified by several
Israeli soldiers as well as during pretrial detention;
(c) Held in solitary confinement, sometimes for months.
The first time an alarm was sounded over soldiers’ use of human shields was in 2002 by the infamous Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem (*), which charged that the IDF was carrying on with the practice in defiance of an order forbidding it. When a High Court ruling was handed down in 2005 reaffirming the illegality of the practice, the IDF vowed to appeal it even as they maintained it was not their practice to use people as human shields in the first place. It wasn’t until 2009, however, that these insanely cruel tactics started gaining widespread attention. That year an Israeli-based organization called Breaking the Silence published a report consisting of eye-witness testimonies by current and former soldiers who served in the Israeli “Defense” Forces. When the report was initially released, IDF spokespeople dismissed it as “lacking credibility”, citing the fact that all of the eyewitness testimony was given by soldiers who chose to remain anonymous (Their reasons for doing so are obvious). At the time, Defense Minister Ehud Barak touted the oft-repeated and totally discredited line, “The IDF is the most moral army in the world and it operates according to the highest ethical code.”
Unfortunately for the IDF, the charade could not last forever. Once veritable images emerged in the press showing Israeli army vehicles with Palestinian children strapped down to the hoods of cars, the jig was up.
In spite of the overwhelming evidence, those who had the ability to put an end to these practices were never brought to justice. In fact only two officers would ever be even mildly disciplined, and the punishment meted out to them amounted to a mere slap on the wrist. As Human Rights Watch reported:
The court ruling, which demoted two staff sergeants to the rank of sergeant and gave them suspended three-month sentences, sends a dangerous signal that the Israeli military justice system will not seriously sanction soldiers convicted for offenses that are war crimes under international law, Human Rights Watch said.
The mainstream media in the U.S. was completely silent when it came to these astounding revelations of the cruel military treatment inflicted on a beleaguered and occupied population. Contrast this with how skewed the news outlets are in their coverage of the Palestinian Resistance organization known as Hamas. Over the past two months, as Israel relentlessly and mercilessly shelled and bombarded just about every quarter of the enclosed Gaza Strip, the American media’s imperialist agenda became clear for all the world to see. All of the sudden every single media pundit without exception was regurgitating the same exact talking point: “Hamas is using its own people as human shields.” This, we are assured, is all the proof that is needed to justify the hugely disproportionate number of Palestinian lives Israel is taking. But it couldn’t be any further from the truth. The IDF’s immense propaganda machine has little use for truth, however. It only seeks to demonize its victims to the point that their humanity is no longer recognized. Case in point, the following works of illustrated propaganda:
The message the IDF is promoting is quite clear: We are human and we share your values, whereas they are not human; they are something less than human. Once a group of people has their humanity stripped away from them in the public mind, anything that is done to them and is justified. Quite honestly, if the Israel Defense Force had any decency it would be embarrassed that they’re even capable of producing such filth.
**WARNING: There is graphic imagery ahead that many viewers will find disturbing. Do not view in the presence of small children. Viewer discretion advised.
Like any good imperialist ally, the United States is on-board is on board entirely, at least as far as the nation’s quasi-elected representatives are concerned. The U.S. House of Representatives all but unanimously passed a pointless and despicable resolution condemning the Palestinian Resistance, holding them responsible for all the civilians Israel kills. The July 30 resolution is particularly callous in light of the fact that the U.S. has used its veto-power on the United Nations Security Council to shield Israel from being held accountable for war crimes some 45 times! Clearly this is an abuse of the veto if there ever was one. But Congress isn’t concerned with any of that. The House Resolution (H.R. 107) holds that “the use of human shields violates international humanitarian law.” In reality Israel is among the most frequent violators of international law and is the single biggest violator of UN security resolutions, largely because America has ensured that there is no entity capable of holding it to account. But the lies don’t stop here. The resolution goes on to praise the Israel Defense Force because, as opposed to Hamas, the IDF “goes to extraordinary lengths to target only terrorist actors.” 75% of Israel’s Gaza victims during Operation “Protective Edge” were civilians; 1 in 5 were just children.
So, if we are to take Congress’s logic seriously, the following deaths are all justifiable because they’re “only terrorist actors”:
It’s time for an end to the bullshit lie that would have you believe these people were killed because they’re either “terrorists” or “human shields”. It was not Hamas weapons that annihilated these people, but weapons that were in all likelihood Made in the U.S.A. Such barbaric atrocities do not weaken Hamas and strengthen ‘reconciliation’ groups like Fatah. In fact the opposite is true. The immense amount of slaughter, carnage and destruction only serves as a reminder that the other side is not someone who can be negotiated with. As Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) once said, “In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience.” To those who’ve had to see their loved ones shredded to pieces before their very eyes, who’ve seen their houses demolished, whose every movement is restricted, whose access to food and water is minimal, who’ve seen their lands be systematically taken from them even as the occupying power claims to be open to “peace”, it’s difficult to conceive of their opponent having much of a conscience.
The House Resolution ends with the rather bizarre statement that Congress “condemns the United Nations Human Rights Council’s biased commission of inquiry into Israel’s Gaza operations.” Congress is essentially saying that the rest of the world is incredibly biased and only the United States, in spite of that whole GITMO torture house and all, is the only country capable of having an unbiased opinion. This would be laughable if they did not sincerely believe it to be true. And this is truly a non-partisan affair. Former President Bill Clinton, who long championed a so-called peace agreement “that gets Israel security and recognition and a peace that gets the Palestinians their state“, blames all the unconscionable acts of violence carried out by Israel solely on the Palestinian Resistance. The former president recently described a diabolical Hamas “strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them.” Let us suppose for a moment this theory is correct (which it isn’t). Does Israel bombing and maiming people in hospitals, ambulances, beaches and UN schools do anything to counteract this strategy? Of course it doesn’t. War-mongers like Clinton are just making excuses for the genocidal policies of the United States and Israel.
“They made us kill them because they had human terrorist shields” is not a good defense. It is little more than a cruel and deceitful way to justify the slaughter of an already oppressed population whose only crime is being born on lands desired by someone else. What is the real strategy here? Is it to make Gaza and the West Bank so unlivable that the current inhabitants will either die off or be forced to flee to some other place? Why else have the settlements in the occupied territories continued to expand even as lip-service is given to a so-called “two-state solution”? The two-state plan, for all intents and purposes, is dead. Israel killed it. There is no point in even pretending that two states are possible. The Palestinians have been systematically pushed further and further off their lands while Jewish settlements appear in place of their homes. Palestinians will not give up the fight for self-determination. By killing the last chance for a two-state solution, Netanyahu and Likud have ensured the Israelis and Palestinians will be battling each other for generations to come.
* It’s no surprise that B’Tselem, as Israel’s premier human rights organization, is coming under harsh, potentially dangerous attack from high level officials in Israel. According to Haaretz:
The witch hunt against leftist and civil-rights organizations in Israel is picking up speed just as Operation Protective Edge winds down. This week the director of the National Service Administration, Sar-Shalom Jerbi, informed the director of B’Tselem, Haggai Elad, that he was disqualifying B’Tselem as a receiving organization for civilian national service volunteers.