Killing Palestinians with Impunity

— Palestine Monitor

The following update (14th December 2002) was issued by the Palestine Monitor, an information clearinghouse in Ramallah, West Bank. For more information contact: Palestine Monitor +972 (0)2 298 5372 or +972 (0)59 387 087; www.palestinemonitor.org

LAST WEEK’S TRAGIC and brutal shooting of 95-year-old Fatima at a checkpoint near Ramallah highlights the brutality of the Israeli occupation. It is also a perfect illustration of the impunity with which Israeli soldiers act in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); and the complete control the soldiers have over every aspect of the civilians’ lives.

After such an event, like the killing of Fatima, the Israeli military spokespeople are quick to lay the blame at the door of the Palestinians, vindicating their “professional” soldiers of any culpability or guilt in the incidents, often expressing “regret” that the soldiers were forced to carry out such acts.

These statements, however, are merely public relations exercises – if the Israeli military or government regretted, or were remotely concerned about, the deaths of Palestinian civilians, something would be done. Instead heavily armed 18-year-old youths are given carte blanche to act as they wish – unobserved, and secure in the knowledge that their behavior will go unpunished.

The cold-blooded shooting of Fatima – a great grandmother and the oldest Palestinian victim of the Israeli troops – was significant because she was so old. This is why her death and her story received coverage.

But on a daily basis Palestinians are being killed, shot, attacked, beaten, insulted and humiliated and because it happens so frequently and they are not the eldest victim, or the youngest, or the cutest, or the most tragic, or in some way unique, their stories and deaths are ignored.

Examining a few days of the last week it is clear that the impunity with which Israeli soldiers act is killing innocent Palestinian civilians.

Kill First, Investigate Later

These are dramatic cases in which the soldiers’ power and impunity lead to the deaths of innocent Palestinians. A decision to prevent an ambulance is the same as the decision to pull the trigger and open fire on a car – when both result in deaths.

The humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints, using Palestinians as human shields, preventing medical staff from carrying out their work without interference, opening fire on civilians, exploding a house without informing and removing all the residents, shooting and killing first – and investigating later – all stem from the same cause.

Young Israeli soldiers feel they act with impunity, because no one is watching them and no one really cares. The fact that over 2,070 Palestinians have died in the last two years and three months – an average of almost three Palestinian deaths every day – bears out this fact.

ATC 102, January–February 2003