Myths & Facts Online
The Palestinian Uprisings
intifada was a spontaneous uprising, resulting solely from Arab anger
at Israeli atrocities.
The intifada was a spontaneous uprising, resulting solely from Arab anger at Israeli atrocities.
False charges of Israeli atrocities and instigation from the Muslim clergy in the mosques played an important role in starting the intifada (popularly translated as "uprising," but literally means "shaking off"). On December 6, 1987, an Israeli was stabbed to death while shopping in Gaza. One day later, four residents of the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza were killed in a traffic accident. Rumors that the four had been killed by Israelis as a deliberate act of revenge began to spread among the Palestinians.1 Mass rioting broke out in Jabalya on the morning of December 9, during which a 17-year-old youth was killed by an Israeli soldier after throwing a Molotov cocktail at an army patrol.2 This soon sparked a wave of unrest that engulfed the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.
The intifada constituted passive resistance. At its worst, it involved nothing more than children tossing stones at heavily armed soldiers.
The intifada was violent from the start. During the first four years of the uprising, more than 3,600 Molotov cocktail attacks, 100 hand grenade attacks and 600 assaults with guns or explosives were reported by the Israel Defense Forces. The violence was directed at soldiers and civilians alike. Between December 9, 1987, and the signing of the Oslo accords (September 13, 1993), 160 Israelis were killed, including 100 civilians. Thousands more were injured.3
Media coverage of the intifada was fair and balanced.
Candid members of the media admitted that coverage of the intifada was skewed. According to Steven Emerson, then a CNN correspondent, U.S. reporters acquiesced to Palestinian control over what was filmed. An Israeli cameraman who worked for several U.S. networks told Emerson that "if we aim the camera at the wrong scene, we'll be dead." In other instances, the networks handed out dozens of video cameras to Palestinians so that they could provide footage of strikes, riots and funerals. "There is absolutely no way to ensure the authenticity of what is filmed, nor is there any way to stop the cameras from being used as a tool to mobilize a demonstration," he wrote.4
Although nearly one-third of all Palestinians murdered in 1989 were killed by their Arab brethren, only 12 of the more than 150 stories filed by U.S. networks from the West Bank that year dealt with the internecine warfare. "While Palestinian political terror on the West Bank fails to make the news," Emerson wrote, "utter fabrications about Israeli brutality are reported uncritically."
For example, in early 1988, reporters were called to el-Mokassed Hospital in Jerusalem to film a dying Palestinian boy. His Palestinian doctor showed him hooked to life-support tubes, and claimed the child had been savagely beaten by Israeli troops. On February 8, 1988, ABC's Peter Jennings introduced the report by saying UN officials "say that the Israelis have beaten another Palestinian to death in the territories." NBC and CBS also gave the claims wide publicity.
But the story wasn't true. According to the child's autopsy and medical records, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He had been sick for more than a year. Overall, the U.S. networks, Emerson wrote, "have been complicit in a massive deception about the West Bank conflict."
NBC's Tel Aviv bureau chief Martin Fletcher acknowledged that the intifada posed a fairness problem. He noted the Palestinians manipulated the Western media by casting themselves as "David" against the Israeli "Goliath," a metaphor used by Fletcher himself in a 1988 report.
"The whole uprising was media-oriented, and, without a doubt, kept going because of the media," he said. Fletcher openly admitted accepting invitations from young Palestinians to film violent attacks against Jewish residents of the West Bank.
"It's really a matter of manipulation of the media. And the question is: How much do we play that game? [We do it] in the same way that we turn up at all those Bush or Reagan photo opportunities. We play along because we need the pictures."5
The PLO had no role in fomenting intifada violence.
Throughout the intifada, the PLO played a lead role in orchestrating the insurrection. The PLO-dominated Unified Leadership of the Intifada (UNLI), for example, frequently issued leaflets dictating which days violence was to be escalated, and who was to be its target.
In 1989, for example, the PLO declared February 13 a day for "escalating attacks on the collaborators" and "traitors" who work for the Civil Administration in the territories. The PLO's Baghdad radio station described methods of arson through which "the orchards and fields of the Zionist enemy can be set ablaze."6
The New York Times described the discovery of "a cache of detailed secret documents showing that the PLO hired local killers to assassinate other Palestinians and carry out 'military activity' against Israelis." One document described how the PLO wanted the attacks credited to fictional groups so as not to disturb the U.S.-PLO dialogue.7
Yasser Arafat defended the killing of Arabs deemed to be "collaborating with Israel." He delegated the authority to carry out executions to the intifada leadership. After the murders, the local PLO death squad sent the file on the case to the PLO. "We have studied the files of those who were executed, and found that only two of the 118 who were executed were innocent," Arafat said. The innocent victims were declared "martyrs of the Palestinian revolution" by the PLO.8
Palestinians were stabbed, hacked with axes, shot, clubbed and burned with acid. The justifications offered for the killings varied. Sometimes, being employed by the Civil Administration in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was reason enough. In other cases, contact with Jews warranted a death sentence. In October 1989, a Palestinian father of seven was knifed to death in Jericho after selling floral decorations to Jews who were building a succah. Accusations of "collaboration" with Israel were sometimes used as a pretext for acts of personal vengeance. Women deemed to have behaved "immorally" were also among the victims.9
The UNLI's calls for violence escalated after the 1990 Temple Mount riot in which 17 Arabs were killed.. Yasser Abd-Rabbo — formerly the PLO's interlocutor in its dialogue with the U.S. — declared that "the war of stabbing with knives against the usurpers of Jerusalem is just beginning."10
The PLO continued its efforts to foment violence throughout 1991. On March 3, the UNLI issued a communiqué calling for "increased confrontation" with Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza. Another PLO leaflet, issued in September, called for the "execution" of anyone who sells property in Jerusalem to Jews.11
According to the Israeli government, the PFLP alone carried out 122 terrorist attacks during 1991, resulting in the murders of 18 residents of Israel and the territories. Crimes committed by Fatah included the July 4 murder of a 61-year-old Arab villager near Jenin; the September killing of Israeli Sgt. Yoram Cohen and the October murder of a man found stabbed to death in a Gaza street, his head covered with a sack. A note bearing the words "Force-17," denoting Arafat's personal bodyguard, was found on the body.12
The Palestinians who died in the intifada were all killed by the Israelis.
Initially, more Palestinians died in clashes with Israeli troops — battles usually triggered by Arab attacks against soldiers — than were killed by their fellow Palestinians in the intrafada. This changed dramatically in early 1990. In that year, the number of Palestinians dying in engagements with Israelis fell by more than half. More Palestinians were murdered by Palestinians in the intrafada during that period. The internecine killings increased in 1991, with 238 Palestinians (up from 156) dying in the intrafada, more than triple the number who died at the hands of Israelis.13
Nearly 200 Palestinians were killed by their fellow Palestinians in 1992, more than double the number killed in clashes with Israeli security forces. The methods of murder, Steven Emerson reported, included beheading, mutilation, cutting off ears and limbs and pouring acid on a victim's face.14
The reign of terror became so serious that some Palestinians expressed public concern about the disorder. The PLO began to call for an end to the violence, but murders by its members and rivals continued.
When many Palestinians heard a knock at the door late at night, the New York Times reported, they were relieved to find an Israeli soldier rather than a masked Palestinian standing outside.15 Even after the intifada fizzled out following the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993, internecine warfare among the Palestinians continued, and persists to this day.
Israel closed West Bank schools during the intifada to deprive Palestinians of an education.
Educational opportunities in the territories greatly improved under Israeli rule. The number of elementary and secondary schools increased by more than a third from 1967-88. Women were major beneficiaries of the boom. From 1970-86, for example, the percentage of women who had not attended school was slashed by more than half, from 67 percent to 32 percent. Before 1967, no universities existed on the West Bank; six were built under Israel's administration.
Despite the intifada, nursery schools, kindergartens and most West Bank vocational schools remained open because none were used to instigate violence. Gaza schools also stayed open because militant Islamic fundamentalists there used the mosques, not schools, to incite their followers.
The PLO used many schools, however, to stimulate attacks against Israelis. Caches of knives, clubs and iron bars were found hidden in school buildings. "Schools are the natural place for a demonstration to begin," wrote Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab. "In school, demonstrations and stone-throwing are part of a tradition....To hit an Israeli car is to become a hero."16
In 1988, Israel closed some secondary schools and colleges in the West Bank that were being used to orchestrate the insurrection. After it announced the closures, Israel offered to reopen any school whose principal would guarantee that his school would be used to educate children, not to encourage rioting. But educators, many cowed by the uprising leadership, remained silent. When the violence subsided, Israel reopened all high schools, colleges and universities.
Interestingly, when the U.S.-led coalition attacked Afghanistan in October 2001, the Palestinian Authority reacted to violent protests by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by closing universities and schools there.17
The outbreak of violence in late 2000, dubbed by Arabs the al-Aksa intifada, was provoked by Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.
To believe Palestinian spokesmen, the violence was caused by the desecration of a Muslim holy place – Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount) – by Likud leader Ariel Sharon and the thousands of Israeli soldiers who accompanied him. The violence was carried out through unprovoked attacks by Israeli forces, which invaded Palestinian-controlled territories and massacred defenseless Palestinian civilians, who merely threw stones in self-defense. The only way to stop the violence, then, was for Israel to cease fire and remove its troops from the Palestinian areas.
The truth is dramatically different.
Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority Communications Minister, admitted months after Sharon's visit that the violence had been planned in July, far in advance of Sharon's "provocation." "It [the uprising] had been planned since Chairman Arafat's return from Camp David, when he turned the tables on the former U.S. president and rejected the American conditions."18
The violence started before Sharon's September 28, 2000, visit to the Temple Mount. The day before, for example, an Israeli soldier was killed at the Netzarim Junction. The next day in the West Bank city of Kalkilya, a Palestinian police officer working with Israeli police on a joint patrol opened fire and killed his Israeli counterpart.
Official Palestinian Authority media exhorted the Palestinians to violence. On September 29, the Voice of Palestine, the PA's official radio station sent out calls "to all Palestinians to come and defend the al-Aksa mosque." The PA closed its schools and bused Palestinian students to the Temple Mount to participate in the organized riots.
Just prior to Rosh Hashanah (September 30), the Jewish New Year, when hundreds of Israelis were worshipping at the Western Wall, thousands of Arabs began throwing bricks and rocks at Israeli police and Jewish worshippers. Rioting then spread to towns and villages throughout Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami permitted Sharon to go to the Temple Mount – Judaisms holiest place – only after calling Palestinian security chief Jabril Rajoub and receiving his assurance that if Sharon did not enter the mosques, no problems would arise. The need to protect Sharon arose when Rajoub later said that the Palestinian police would do nothing to prevent violence during the visit.
Sharon did not attempt to enter any mosques and his 34 minute visit to the Temple Mount was conducted during normal hours when the area is open to tourists. Palestinian youths eventually numbering around 1,500 shouted slogans in an attempt to inflame the situation. Some 1,500 Israeli police were present at the scene to forestall violence.
There were limited disturbances during Sharon's visit, mostly involving stone throwing. During the remainder of the day, outbreaks of stone throwing continued on the Temple Mount and in the vicinity, leaving 28 Israeli policemen injured, three of whom were hospitalized. There are no accounts of Palestinian injuries on that day. Significant and orchestrated violence was initiated by Palestinians the following day following Friday prayers.
The real desecration of holy places was perpetrated by Palestinians, not Israelis. In October 2000, Palestinian mobs destroyed a Jewish shrine in Nablus – Josephs Tomb – tearing up and burning Jewish prayer books. They stoned worshipers at the Western Wall, and attacked Rachels Tomb in Bethlehem with firebombs and automatic weapons.
None of the violent attacks were initiated by Israeli security forces, which in all cases responded to Palestinian violence that went well beyond stone throwing. It included massive attacks with automatic weapons and the lynching of Israeli soldiers. Most armed attackers were members of the Tanzim – Arafats own militia.
Since all attacks were initiated by Palestinians under Arafats orders, only Arafat has the power to end the violence. Israel and the United States have repeatedly called on him to do so and renew the peace process.
A handful of Israelis have been killed in the uprising while thousands of innocent Palestinians have been murdered by Israeli troops.
During the "al-Aksa intifada," the number of Palestinian casualties has been higher than the figure for Israelis; however, the gap has narrowed as Palestinian suicide bombers have used increasingly powerful bombs to kill larger numbers of Israelis in their terror attacks. As of September 2005, nearly 3,500 Palestinians and 1,061 Israelis had been killed.
The disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties is primarily a result of the number of Palestinians involved in violence and is the inevitable result of an irregular, ill-trained militia attacking a well-trained regular army. The unfortunate death of noncombatants is largely due to the habit of Palestinian gunmen and terrorists using civilians as shields.
What is more revealing than the tragic totals, however, is the specific breakdown of the casualties. According to one study, Palestinian noncombatants were mostly teenaged boys and young men. “This completely contradicts accusations that Israel has indiscriminately targeted women and children,’” according to the study. “There appears to be only one reasonable explanation for this pattern: that Palestinian men and boys engaged in behavior that brought them into conflict with Israeli armed forces.”
By contrast, the number of women and older people among the noncombatant Israeli casualties illustrates the randomness of Palestinian attacks, and the degree to which terrorists have killed Israelis for the "crime" of being Israeli.22 Israeli troops do not target innocent Palestinians, but Palestinian terrorists do target Israeli civilians.
Violence is an understandable and legitimate reaction to Israel's policies.
The basis of the peace process is that disputes should be resolved through negotiations. One of the conditions Israel set before agreeing to negotiate with the PLO was that the organization renounce terrorism. It formally did so; however, the PLO and other Palestinian groups and individuals have consistently resorted to violence since the Oslo process began in 1993. Whether or not Israel made concessions, Palestinians have still committed heinous attacks. In some instances atrocities are perpetrated because of alleged mistreatment; in other cases, they are deliberate efforts to sabotage negotiations. Regardless, the Palestinian Authority, which has a nearly 40,000-person police force (larger than allowed under the peace agreements), and multiple intelligence agencies, must be held responsible for keeping the peace.
Israeli Civilians and IDF Forces Killed in Al-Aksa Intifida23
(Sept. 29, 2000 - February 10, 2005)
*Totals are updated, but breakdown has not been updated by the IDF.
The al-Aksa uprising has been conducted only in the disputed territories and has had no impact on Israel.
Palestinian violence in the West Bank and Gaza has taken the lives of numerous civilians and soldiers. In addition, terrorists acting in the name of the uprising have carried out heinous attacks inside Israel. The violence also has collateral impact on the Israeli psyche, military and economy.
Israelis must now be careful traveling through many parts of Israel and the territories that should be safe. Palestinians have also sniped at Jews in cities such as Gilo that are outside the territories. The violence has severely undermined the faith Israelis had that if they made territorial concessions, peace with the Palestinians was possible.
The uprising also affects military readiness because troops must be diverted from training and preparing against threats from hostile nations and instead must focus on quelling riots and fighting terrorism.
Finally, the violence has had a devastating impact on the Israeli economy. Israel lost 2 precent of its Gross Domestic Product during the first two years of violence; on a per capita basis, the decline was 3 percent per year. Unemployment has soared above 10% as 50,000 businesses closed in 2002. The tourist industry alone is losing about $2 billion per year.24
It is not only the Israelis who suffer. The loss of tourism also hurts Palestinians. The number of visitors, for example, who normally visit Bethlehem for Christmas was significantly lower than usual. The same is true in other pilgrimage sites in the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian shopkeepers in places like the Old City are also affected by the drop in tourism. The terror campaign forced Israel to severely restrict the number of Palestinian workers from entering Israel, hurting individuals trying to make a living and provide for their families.
Israel uses excessive force to respond to children who are just throwing stones.
Palestinians, young and old, attack Israeli civilians and soldiers with a variety of weapons. When they throw stones, they are not pebbles, but large rocks that can and do cause serious injuries.
Typically, Israeli troops under attack have numbered fewer than 20, while their assailants, armed with Molotov cocktails, pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, hand grenades and explosives, have numbered in the hundreds. Moreover, mixed among rock throwers have been Palestinians, often policemen, armed with guns. Faced with an angry, violent mob, Israeli police and soldiers often have no choice but to defend themselves by firing rubber bullets and, in life-threatening situations, live ammunition.
The use of live-fire by the Palestinians has effectively meant that Israeli forces have had to remain at some distance from those initiating the violence. In addition, the threat of force against Israelis has been a threat of lethal force. Both factors have inhibited the use of traditional methods of riot control.
According to the rules of engagement for Israeli troops in the territories, the use of weapons is authorized solely in life-threatening situations or, subject to significant limitations, in the exercise of the arrest of an individual suspected of having committed a grave security offense. In all cases, IDF activities have been governed by an overriding policy of restraint, the requirement of proportionality and the necessity to take all possible measures to prevent harm to innocent civilians.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians escalated their violent attacks against Israelis by using mortars and anti-tank missiles illegally smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have fired mortar shells into Jewish communities in Gaza and Israel proper, and IDF reports indicate that anti-tank missiles have been fired at Israeli forces in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has also been stockpiling weapons smuggled into Gaza by sea and underground tunnels linked to Egypt.
The possession and use of these weapons and other arms by the Palestinians violates commitments they made in various agreements with Israel. Under the Oslo accords, the only weapons allowed in the Palestinian-controlled areas are handguns, rifles and machine guns, and these are to be held only by PA security officers. The recent violence makes clear that in addition to the police, Palestinian civilians and members of militias, such as the Tanzim, also are in possession of such weapons.26
The number of Palestinian casualties in clashes is regrettable, but it is important to remember that no Palestinian would be in any danger or risk injury if they were not waging a terror campaign. If children were in school or at home with their families, rather than throwing rocks in the streets, they too would have little to fear. And children throw more than rocks. Abu Mazen, Yasser Arafat's deputy revealed that children are paid to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel. He told a Jordanian newspaper that "at least 40 children in Rafah lost arms from the throwing of Bangalore torpedoes [explosive charges]. They received five shekels [approximately $1.00] in order to throw them."27
Also, while the number of Palestinians who have died is greater than the number of Israelis, that should not minimize the traumatic loss of life on the Israeli side. From September 29, 2000, through June 7, 2005, 1,061 Israelis, including more than 730 civilians, were murdered by Palestinians. Contrary to Palestinian assertions that they are fighting a war against armed forces, fewer than one-third of the Israelis that have been killed were soldiers. In 2004, Palestinians successfully carried out 15 suicide attacks and Israeli security forces thwarted 367 others.28
It is also worth considering how police in the United States and other nations react to mob violence. Abuses do sometimes occur when police are under attack, but no one expects them to stand by and allow their lives to be put in danger to assuage international opinion. In fact, the Palestinian Authority itself does not hesitate to use lethal force against protestors. For example, after the U.S. coalition attacked Afghanistan, Hamas organized a rally in the Gaza Strip in which thousands of Palestinians marched in support of suspected terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. Palestinian police killed two protestors when they tried to break it up.29
It is only Israelis who are denied their right to self-defense or see it used as a propaganda weapon against them.
The Palestinian Authority is acting to prevent violence by arresting terrorists and confiscating illegal weapons.
At times cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces has been good, and Israel has publicly commended the Palestinian Authority (PA). More often, however, the PA has failed to take adequate measures to prevent attacks against Israelis. While many terrorists have been apprehended, they are usually released shortly afterward and, at least some of them have subsequently been involved in assaults against Jews. In May 2001, for example, Yasser Arafat freed more than a dozen Islamic radicals who had been in jail since a wave of suicide bombings that killed 60 Israelis in eight bloody days in 1996.30
The PA is also filled with illegal weapons, including machine guns, hand grenades, explosives and mortars. Despite repeated promises, no effort has been made to collect the weapons. On the contrary, the PA has been actively stockpiling them. This is a serious violation of the agreements signed with Israel, one that provokes mistrust and threatens Israeli security.
The shooting of a child being protected by his father shown on TV proves Israel does not hesitate to kill innocent Palestinian children.
Perhaps the most vivid image of the “al-Aksa intifada” was the film of a Palestinian father trying unsuccessfully to shield his son from gunfire. Israel was universally blamed for the death of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura, but subsequent investigations found that if the boy was indeed killed, it was most likely by Palestinian bullets.
The sketch below shows an IDF aerial photo of the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip where al-Dura was killed. The sketch marks the location of the father and son, who took cover adjacent to a Palestinian shooting position at the junction. After Palestinian policemen fired from this position and around it toward an IDF position opposite, IDF soldiers returned fire toward the sources of the shooting. During the exchanges of fire, the Palestinian child was hit and killed.
Contrary to the conventional belief that the footage of the incident was live, it was actually edited before it was broadcast around the world. Though a number of cameramen were in the area, only one, a Palestinian working for France 2, recorded the shooting. Raw footage of the day shows a far more complex picture of what was taking place and raised questions about the universal assumption that Israel had killed the boy.
An IDF investigation of the incident released November 27, 2000, found that al-Dura was most likely killed by a Palestinian policeman and not by IDF fire. This report was confirmed by an independent investigation by German ARD Television, which said the footage of al-Dura's death was censored by the Palestinians to look as if he had been killed by the Israelis when, in fact, his death was caused by Palestinian gunfire.31
James Fallows revisited the story and found that “the physical evidence of the shooting was in all ways inconsistent with shots coming from the IDF outpost.” In addition, he cites a number of unanswered questions, which have led some to conclude the whole incident was staged. For example, Fallows asks, “Why is there no footage of the boy after he was shot? Why does he appear to move in his father's lap, and to clasp a hand over his eyes after he is supposedly dead? Why is one Palestinian policeman wearing a Secret Service-style earpiece in one ear? Why is another Palestinian man shown waving his arms and yelling at others, as if ‘directing’ a dramatic scene? Why does the funeral appear — based on the length of shadows — to have occurred before the apparent time of the shooting? Why is there no blood on the father's shirt just after they are shot? Why did a voice that seems to be that of the France 2 cameraman yell, in Arabic, ‘The boy is dead’ before he had been hit? Why do ambulances appear instantly for seemingly everyone else and not for al-Dura?”32
Denis Jeambar, editor-in-chief of the French news weekly l'Express, and filmmaker Daniel Leconte, a producer and owner of the film company Doc en Stock, saw raw, unedited video of the shooting and said the boy could not have been shot by Israeli soldiers. “The only ones who could hit the child were the Palestinians from their position. If they had been Israeli bullets, they would be very strange bullets because they would have needed to go around the corner.” France 2 claimed that the gunshots that struck al-Durra were bullets that ricocheted off the ground, but Leconte dismissed the argument. “It could happen once, but that there should be eight or nine of them, which go around a corner?”32a
Despite the growing body of evidence that the report was inaccurate, France 2 refuses to retract the story.
When Jewish activist Phillipe Karsenty publicized information suggesting France 2 and its Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin knowingly misrepresented the circumstances surrounding the death of al-Dura, he was sued for libel. After losing the suit, Karsenty appealed the verdict and it was overturned by the French Court of Appeals.
“The verdict means we have the right to say France 2 broadcast a fake news report, that [al-Dura’s shooting] was a staged hoax and that they duped everybody – without being sued,” Karsenty said after the court decision.32b
The IDF reiterated the findings of its investigation in a letter written to France 2 in 2008. Col. Shlomi Am-Shalom, the deputy commander of the IDF Spokesman’s Office, wrote, “The general [OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yom Tov Samia] has made clear that from an analysis of all the data from the scene, including the location of the IDF position, the trajectory of the bullets, the location of the father and the son behind an obstacle, the cadence of the bullet fire, the angle at which the bullets penetrated the wall behind the father and his son, and the hours of the events, we can rule out with the greatest certainty the possibility that the gunfire that apparently harmed the boy and his father was fired by IDF soldiers, who were at the time located only inside their fixed position [at the junction].”32c
Israel uses rubber bullets to maim and kill unarmed Palestinians.
Rubber bullets are an imperfect means of pacifying a violent mob. They are designed to minimize the risk of serious injury but they cannot alleviate it altogether. In the overwhelming majority of cases, rubber bullets do not cause death or serious injury. In many circumstances, they may be the only available option short of live-fire. Children using guns, or intent on causing injury or death to their intended target by some other means, pose a lethal threat, particularly when that threat takes the form of a large-scale attack.
Many police forces around the world use rubber bullets to disperse violent crowds. For example, following the victory of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 National Basketball Association finals, Los Angeles police used rubber bullets to end violent outbursts by rowdy fans.34 The police felt compelled to use this method of crowd control with a group of overly exuberant basketball fans who turned violent celebrating their team's victory, while Israel uses it against a hostile population with whom it is essentially at war.
The Mitchell Report made clear that Israeli settlement policy is as much to blame for the breakdown of the peace process as Palestinian violence and that a settlement freeze is necessary to end the violence.
In November 2000, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell was appointed to lead a fact-finding committee to investigate the cause of the "al-Aksa Intifada" and explore how to prevent future violence. The report his committee issued on April 30, 2001, did recommend a settlement freeze as one of more than 15 different confidence-building measures but Mitchell and Warren Rudman, another member of the committee, explicitly stated in a letter clarifying their view: "We want to go further and make it clear that we do not in any way equate Palestinian terrorism with Israeli settlement activity, 'seemingly' or otherwise."
Mitchell and Rudman also disputed the idea that the cessation of settlement construction and terrorism were linked. "The immediate aim must be to end the violence....Part of the effort to end the violence must include an immediate resumption of security cooperation between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority aimed at preventing violence and combating terrorism." They added, "Regarding terrorism, we call upon the Palestinian Authority, as a confidence-building measure, to make clear through concrete action, to Israelis and Palestinians alike, that terror is reprehensible and unacceptable, and the Palestinian Authority is to make a total effort to prevent terrorist operations and to punish perpetrators acting in its jurisdiction."35
Israel's use of F-16 fighter jets typifies the disproportionate use of force applied by Israel against innocent Palestinian civilians.
How do you determine the proportionate use of military force? When Palestinian terrorists plant bombs at Israeli shopping malls and kill and maim dozens of civilians, would the proportionate response be for Israelis to plant bombs in Palestinian malls? No one in Israel believes this would be a legitimate use of force. Thus, Israel is left with the need to take measured action against specific targets in an effort to either deter Palestinian violence or stop it.
In the specific case of Israel's use of F-16s, Major General Giora Eiland, Head of the IDF Operation Branch, explained Israel's reasoning:
Israel's deployment of the fighters came after 88 Israelis had already lost their lives, including 55 civilians. The civilians were not killed accidentally, they were deliberately targeted. In the previous two-and-a-half months, Palestinians had attempted to place 28 bombs inside Israel. The F-16 attack came in direct response to one that exploded at a Netanya shopping mall May 18, 2001, killing five Israelis.
A month before deploying the F-16s, the U.S. State Department accused Israel of an "excessive and disproportionate" response to Palestinian violence when it launched air strikes against targets in Gaza, even though the spokesman admitted the retaliation was "precipitated by the provocative Palestinian mortar attacks on Israel."37 The U.S. position is ironic given the so-called Powell Doctrine enunciated by Secretary of State Colin Powell, which holds that "America should enter fights with every bit of force available or not at all."38 Consider a few examples of the application of this doctrine:
The United States has not hesitated to use overwhelming force against its adversaries, even though the threats have been distant and in no way posed a danger to the existence of the nation or the security of its citizens. While U.S. military objectives were accomplished, they also were routinely accompanied by errors and collateral damage that resulted in the loss of civilian lives.
Israel is in a different position. The threat it faces is immediate in time and physical proximity, and poses a direct danger to Israeli citizens. Still, Israel has not used its full might as the Powell Doctrine dictates. The use of force has been judicious and precise. In those instances where mistakes occur as inevitably happens in war the incidents are investigated.
The bottom line is that Israel would have no need to respond with military force if the Palestinians were not attacking its citizens and soldiers.
Arafat can't control militant Palestinians.
The premise of the peace process was that by reaching an agreement with Yasser Arafat, violence could be controlled. If he cannot control the behavior of the people under his authority, then the agreements have little value. On the other hand, if he does have control, then it is clear he is using it to foment violence rather than prevent it.
The evidence suggests that Arafat does have control over most activities by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Arafat has demonstrated an ability to quickly eliminate Palestinians who challenge his rule by arresting and, in some cases, executing them. When he chooses, he has also arrested members of terrorist groups, but he has routinely released them so they can continue to attack Israel. He has allowed the terrorist organizations to produce explosives, build mortars, train members and recruit youngsters for suicide missions. One of the clearest examples of Arafat's unwillingness to act is the fact that the leader of Hamas, the organization that publicly claims credit for many of the suicide bombings, is not in jail. In fact, he regularly holds public rallies of his supporters in Gaza.
Israel has consistently refused to take any steps to calm the situation, and its unrelenting attacks provoked Palestinian violence despite Yasser Arafat's appeals for restraint.
On May 22, 2001, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared a unilateral cease-fire in an effort to calm the situation, and in the hope the Palestinians would reciprocate by ending their violent attacks against Israelis. Instead the Palestinians intensified the level of violence directed at Israeli civilians. Yasser Arafat did nothing to stop or discourage the attacks. More than 70 attacks were recorded in the next 10 days, during which Israel held its fire and eschewed any retaliation. The campaign of Palestinian terror during the Israeli cease-fire culminated with the suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv disco June 1 that killed 20 people and injured more than 90, mostly teenagers. In the face of overwhelming international pressure generated by the horrific attack, and the fear of an Israeli counterattack, Arafat finally declared a cease-fire. It too didn't last.
Israel has no justification for withholding tax monies due to the Palestinian Authority.
At the beginning of 2001, Israel decided to withhold more than $50 million in taxes it owed to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in response to the ongoing violence. U.S. officials, and others, pressured Israel to transfer the money because of the PA's dire financial straits and inability to pay many of its bills. Israel recognized that its action was harsh, but believed it was necessary to demonstrate to the Palestinians that the unwillingness to stop the violence had a cost. Israel must use whatever leverage it can to protect its citizens and this economic sanction was a milder response than a military one.
While Israel's action was blamed for the sorry state of the Palestinian economy, the truth was the Arab countries suspended the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars, collected as donations, meant for the PA. The justification for the Arab states' action was their concern that the funds would be embezzled and encourage further corruption in the PA.42 For example, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported that Yasser Arafat stole more than $5 million in foreign aid intended for needy Palestinians.43
In July 2002, Israel agreed to transfer some of the tax revenues to the Palestinians as a confidence-building measure after Palestinian violence subsided, and an agreement was reached to set up a committee of U.S. representatives to oversee the transaction. In October, Israel agreed to release additional funds after the United States agreed to monitor how the PA used the funds. Starting in December 2002, Israel began regular monthly payments of tax payments due to the PA and portions of the money frozen since the early days of the violence.44
Palestinians attack Israeli forces in spontaneous outbursts of frustration.
Occasionally, Palestinians riot spontaneously for any number of reasons, from frustration to anger. More often, however, Palestinian violence is premeditated and planned by either terrorist cells within the Palestinian Authority or by the PA's own leaders. In the summer of 2001, for example, Palestinian commanders circulated instructions on confronting Israeli troops. The orders included the preparation of Molotov cocktails, hand grenades and barricades. Explosive "belts" were to be prepared for "hundreds of suicide youths who will be willing to confront the advancing troops." The insturctions also suggested conserving ammunition and attacking tanks only with "suitable weapons" and not with light guns. "Forward positions should be established by fighters willing to sacrifice their lives to stop the advancing enemy."46
The Palestinians have observed the cease-fire negotiated by CIA Director George Tenet.
In June 2001 CIA Director George Tenet traveled to the Middle East in an effort to solidify a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and lay the groundwork for a resumption of peace talks. The Tenet Plan called for an end to all violent activities. In the six weeks following Tenet's visit, however, Palestinians carried out 850 terrorist attacks resulting in 94 Israeli casualties, 17 of them fatalities.48
Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian terrorists is immoral and counterproductive.
Israel is faced with a nearly impossible situation in attempting to protect its civilian population from Palestinians who are prepared to blow themselves up to murder innocent Jews. One strategy for dealing with the problem has been the peace process. Since 1993, Israel believed that negotiating was the way to reach peace with the Palestinians, but after Israel gave back much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and offered virtually all of the remainder, the Palestinians rejected their concessions and chose to use violence to try to force Israel to capitulate to all their demands.
A second strategy is for Israel to "exercise restraint," that is, not respond to Palestinian violence. The international community lauds Israel when it simply turns the other cheek after heinous attacks. While this restraint might win praise from world leaders, it does nothing to assuage the pain of the victims or to prevent further attacks. Moreover, the same nations that urge restraint to Israel have often reacted forcefully when put in similar situations. For example, the British assassinated Nazis after World War II and targeted IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland. And, in the wake of the murderous attack by terrorists on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it was revealed that the Clinton Administration had attempted to assassinate Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden in 1998 in retaliation for his role in the bombings of the United States embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. The Administration of George W. Bush has said it also would not hesitate to kill bin Laden and has targeted a number of other al-Qaeda operatives.50 On November 4, 2002, for example, the United States killed six suspected al-Qaeda members in Yemen with a Hellfire missile fired from an unmanned CIA drone at the car in which they were traveling.51
In April 1986, after the U.S. determined that Libya had directed the terrorist bombing of a West Berlin discotheque that killed one American and injured 200 others, it launched a raid on a series of Libyan targets, including President Muammar Qaddafi's home. This was widely viewed as an assassination attempt. Qaddafi escaped, but his infant daughter was killed and two of his other children were wounded. In addition, a missile went off track and caused fatalities in a civilian neighborhood. Reagan justified the action as self-defense against Libyas state-sponsored terrorism. "As a matter of self-defense, any nation victimized by terrorism has an inherent right to respond with force to deter new acts of terror. I felt we must show Qaddafi that there was a price he would have to pay for that kind of behavior and that we wouldn't let him get away with it."53 More recently, George W. Bush ordered “hits” on the Iraqi political leadership during the 2003 war in Iraq.
Israel has chosen a third option eliminating the masterminds of terror attacks. It is a policy that has caused great debate in Israel, but is supported by a vast majority of the public (70 percent in an August 2001 Ha'aretz poll). The policy is also supported by the American public according to an August 2001 poll by the America Middle East Information Network. The survey found that 73 percent of respondents felt Israel was justified in killing terrorists if it had proof they were planning bombings or other attacks that could kill Israelis.54
Deputy Chief of Staff Major-General Moshe Ya'alon explained the policy this way:
The Israeli government also went through a legal process before adopting the policy of targeted killings. Israel's attorney general reviewed the policy and determined that it is legal under Israeli and international law.56
Targeting the terrorists has a number of benefits. First, it places a price on terror: Israelis can't be attacked with impunity anymore, for terrorists know that if they target others, they will become targets themselves. Second, it is a method of self-defense: pre-emptive strikes eliminate the people who would otherwise murder Jews. While it is true that there are others to take their place, they can do so only with the knowledge they too will become targets. Third, it throws the terrorists off balance. Extremists can no longer nonchalantly plan an operation; rather, they must stay on the move, look over their shoulders at all times, and work much harder to carry out their goals.
Of course, the policy also has costs. Besides international condemnation, Israel risks revealing informers who often provide the information needed to find the terrorists. Soldiers also must engage in sometimes high-risk operations that occasionally cause tragic collateral damage to property and persons.
The most common criticism of "targeted killings" is that they do no good because they perpetuate a cycle of violence whereby the terrorists seek revenge. This is probably the least compelling argument against the policy, because the people who blow themselves up to become martyrs could always find a justification for their actions. They are determined to bomb the Jews out of the Middle East and will not stop until their goal is achieved.
Israel indiscriminately murders terrorists and Palestinian civilians.
It is always a tragedy when innocent civilians are killed in a counterterrorism operation. Civilians would not be at risk, however, if the Palestinian Authority arrested the terrorists, the murderers did not choose to hide among noncombatants and the civilians refused to protect the killers.
Israel does not attack Palestinian areas indiscriminately. On the contrary, the IDF takes great care to target people who are planning terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Israeli forces have a history of accuracy in such assaults, nevertheless, mistakes are sometimes made. Whereas the terrorists make no apology for their attacks on civilians, and purposely target them, Israel always investigates the reasons for any errors and takes steps to prevent them from reoccurring.
Israel is not alone in using military force against terrorists or in sometimes inadvertently harming people who are not targets. For example, on the same day that American officials were condemning Israel because a number of civilians died when Israel assassinated the leader of the military wing of Hamas, news reports disclosed that the United States bombed a village in Afghanistan in an operation directed at a Taliban leader that instead killed 48 Afghan civilians at a wedding party. In both cases, flawed intelligence played a role in the tragic mistakes.
Israel's use of American-made weapons in retaliatory attacks against the Palestinians is illegal.
The United States has been closely monitoring Israeli actions. Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell asking whether Israel was violating U.S. law by using American arms in its strikes against Palestinian terrorists. Powell responded in a letter dated August 17, 2001, that Israel's actions did not violate U.S. law.
The law in question is the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and it states that defense articles will be used only for specified purposes, including internal security and legitimate self-defense. Israel has maintained that it has been acting in self-defense and the Bush Administration concurs.61
Israel perpetrated a massacre in the Jenin refugee camp in April 2002.
Secretary of State Colin Powell concisely refuted Palestinian claims that Israel was guilty of atrocities in Jenin. I see no evidence that would support a massacre took place.62 Powell's view was subsequently confirmed by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and an investigation by the European Union.63
The Palestinians repeatedly claimed that a massacre had been committed in the days immediately following the battle. Spokesman Saeb Erekat, for example, told CNN on April 17 that at least 500 people were massacred and 1,600 people, including women and children, were missing. The Palestinians quickly backpedaled when it became clear they could not produce any evidence to support the scurrilous charge, and their own review committee reported a death toll of 56, of whom 34 were combatants. No women or children were reported missing.64
Israel did not arbitrarily choose to raid the refugee camp in Jenin. It had little choice after a series of suicide bombings had terrorized Israeli civilians for the preceding 18 months. To defend itself and bring about hope for peace, Israeli forces went into Jenin to root out one of the principal terrorist bases.
The Palestinian Authority's own documents call Jenin the "suiciders capital." The camp has a long history as a base for extremists, and no less than 28 suicide attacks were launched from this terror nest during the wave of violence that preceded Israel's action. These terrorists violated the cease-fire agreed to by Israel and undermined Israeli efforts to resume political negotiations toward a final peace agreement.
Palestinian snipers targeted soldiers from a girls' school, a mosque, and a UNRWA building, and, in returning fire and pursuing terrorists, some noncombatants were hit. Any civilian casualty is a tragedy, but some were unavoidable because Palestinian terrorists used civilians as shields. The majority of casualties were gunmen.
Israel also kept the hospital running in Jenin. Lt. Col. Fuad Halhal, the Druze commander of the district coordinating body for the IDF, personally delivered a generator to the hospital under fire during the military operation.65
While Israel could have chosen to bomb the entire camp, the strategy employed by the U.S. in Afghanistan, the IDF deliberately chose a riskier path to reduce the likelihood of endangering civilians. Soldiers went house to house and 23 were killed in bitter combat with Palestinian terrorists using bombs, grenades, booby-traps and machine guns to turn the camp into a war zone.
Television pictures gave a distorted perspective of the damage in the camp as well. Jenin was not destroyed. The Israeli operation was conducted in a limited area of the refugee camp, which itself comprises a small fraction of the city. The destruction that did occur in the camp was largely caused by Palestinian bombs.
Palestinians have learned from fabricating atrocity stories in the past that a false claim against Israel will get immediate media attention and attract sympathy for their cause. The corrections that inevitably follow these specious charges are rarely seen, read, or noticed.
Israel opposed an investigation by the United Nations because it wanted to conceal the crimes it committed in Jenin.
Israel had nothing to hide and invited an impartial fact-finding team to visit Jenin.66 The historical animosity of UN bodies toward Israel raised questions, however, about the fairness of its representatives. These doubts were reinforced when the UN refused to include in the proposed team any military or counterterrorism experts who could have assessed the terrorist threat Israel faced from Jenin. One delegate appointed to the UN team previously compared a Star of David with a swastika.67
The hypocrisy of the UN and others concerned about Jenin is evident from the fact that they never condemn or investigate the repeated massacres by Palestinian suicide bombers.
Israel prevents Palestinian ambulances from taking sick and injured Palestinians to hospitals.
One of the unfortunate results of the violence during the "al-Aksa intifada" has been the allegations of Israeli abuse against Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances, which it is alleged, has resulted in inconveniences, medical complications and even death to the sick passengers on board. These accounts tend to portray the delays as wanton acts of cruelty on the part of Israeli soldiers against Palestinians in need of medical attention.
These allegations are correct in one regard: ambulances are indeed stopped and searched at Israeli checkpoints. They fail, however, to put the facts into a broader context. The reason that ambulances have been held and searched at checkpoints is due to the very real threat that they pose to Israel and its citizens. Ambulances have frequently been used as a means to transport terrorist bombs, and many of the militants who have triggered suicide bombings in Israel gained access by driving or riding in Red Crescent ambulances. For example:
The accusations leveled against Israel by its critics have frequently been based on statements of international law, such as the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is true that the Geneva Convention does place particular emphasis on the immunity and neutrality of ambulances and emergency medical personnel. But the conclusion that Israel must ignore a clear and present danger to its citizens, or else violate international law, is a distortion. By using ambulances to smuggle explosives into Israel, it is the Palestinian terrorists who are compromising the Red Crescents immunity and neutrality.
Israel closed three colleges in the Palestinian Authority in January 2003 to punish and humiliate the Palestinians.
Despite more than two years of violence and provocation, some of which emanated from West Bank colleges, Israel did not interfere with classes. The hope was that Palestinians would focus their attention on their studies rather than poitical activities. Unfortunately, these schools increasingly directed their energies to promoting violence rather than education. Israel only acted against the colleges after it became clear that they had become centers of incitement and indoctrination rather than education.
When Israeli forces entered the schools they found banners, posters, flags, tapes and children's notebooks adorned with the pictures of suicide bombers. Classrooms were filled with posters praising terrorism and glorifying suicide bombers. Cassettes calling for the destruction of Israel made by different terroist organizations were found in other classrooms. These were not just materials brought into the schools by students, some were distributed by the colleges.
The situation on the Palestinian campuses illustrates the difficulty of persuing a peace process while young Palestinians are being taught in their schools to pursue terror and the destruction of its neighbor. The materials being distributed, and that are part of the curriculum, also violate the peace agreements the Palestinians signed forswearing such incitement.
Israel took these measures to protect its citizens, not to punish or humiliate the Palestinians. Incidentally, the Palestinian Authority has also closed colleges in the territories on occasion when officials believed students were behaving in ways that threatened their authority.
Israel uses checkpoints to deny Palestinians their rights and humiliate them.
It is not unusual for nations to guard their borders and to establish checkpoints to prevent people from illegally entering their countries. The United States has checkpoints at its borders and airports and, as Americans saw on September 11, these are necessary but not foolproof security precautions.
In the case of Israel, the necessity for checkpoints has been created by the Palestinians. By pursuing a violent campaign of terror against Israel’s citizens, they have forced Israel to set up barriers to make it as difficult as possible for terrorists to enter Israel or travel through the territories to carry out acts of violence. The checkpoints are an inconvenience to innocent Palestinians, but they do in fact prevent terror and save lives.
For example, on November 2, 2002, a van carrying boxes of jeans pulled up at a checkpoint. Soldiers checked the IDs of the men in the van and discovered one of the passengers was a wanted man. The van was unloaded and it was not until the soldiers opened the last box that they discovered an explosive belt that was being delivered to a suicide bomber. Two weeks later a taxi pulled up to the same checkpoint. Soldiers found two computers in the trunk that seemed unusually heavy. They opened the boxes and found two explosive belts. They also found a bag with a gun.73
On December 29, 2005, an army jeep stopped a Palestinian taxi at a temporary checkpoint. Troops were acting on an intelligence tip about terrorists planning an attack in Israel during Chanukah. Lt. Uri Binamo, 21, told the occupants to get out of the vehicle. The three Palestinian men inside complied with the order, but once out of the taxi, one of them lifted his shirt to reveal a suicide belt. He then detonated the belt, killing himself, the two Palestinians and Binamo. The three soldiers covering the officer were wounded and an innocent Palestinian bystander was killed.73a
These are just two of many examples of how checkpoints have prevented terrorists from infiltrating Israel.
Hyperbolic media reports and anti-Israel propaganda have suggested Israel is harrassing Palestinian women at checkpoints. It is unfortunate that women cannot be ignored as potential security threats. Border policemen at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem, for example, arrested a Palestinian woman pushing a baby stroller that concealed a pistol, two ammunition clips, and a knife.73b
Commercial goods, food, medicine, ambulances, and medical crews continue to circulate freely, hampered only by continuing attacks. Palestinian workers going to jobs in Israel also may pass through the checkpoints with the proper identification; restrictions are only imposed when necessitated by the security situation.
Barriers are not set up to humiliate Palestinians, but to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens. Unfortunately, every time Israel has relaxed its policy and withdrawn checkpoints, Palestinian terrorists have taken advantage of the opportunity to launch new attacks on innocent Israelis.
Israel’s complaints about Palestinian terrorists hiding among civilians are just an effort to justify their murder of innocent people.
Israel never intentionally targets civilians. Unfortunately, Palestinian terrorists have purposely tried to hide among the civilian population in an effort to use the Israeli army's morality against it. The terrorists themselves do not care about the lives of innocent Palestinians, which is why they are not hesitant to use them as shields. This behavior is a violation of international law. Article 51 of the 1977 amendment to the 1949 Geneva Conventions specifically prohibts the use of human shields:
Thus, the Palestinian terrorists are ultimately responsible for noncombatants who are inadvertently killed or wounded as a result of the terrorists' practice of hiding among civilians to use them as shields.
Palestinian women are joining the ranks of suicide bombers only because of their commitment to 'liberate' Palestine.
It may be that some Palestinian women share the sick ideology of the terrorists who believe that blowing up innocent men, women, and children will achieve their political objective, but many others are being blackmailed into carrying out suicide attacks by sadistic and manipulative Palestinian men.
More than 20 Palestinian women have engaged in suicide attacks and the terrorist organizations that recruit them do so in part because they believe women will generate less suspicion and that Israeli soldiers will be more reticent to search them.
Some of the women have been convinced to engage in terrorist attacks to rehabilitate their reputations in their community if they have acquired a bad name or done something to bring shame upon their family. Shame is a powerful force in Arab society, and women who are promiscuous, engage in adultery, become pregnant out of wedlock, or behave in other ways deemed improper may be ostracized or severely punished (e.g., husbands may kill wives who shamed them in so-called “honor crimes”).
Terrorist organizations have used emotional blackmail against these often vulnerable women to convince them that by carrying out a suicide attack against Jews, they may restore their honor or that of their family. Israeli intelligence declassified a report that said Fatah operatives went so far as to seduce women and then, after they became pregnant, used their condition to blackmail them into committing heinous crimes. The report cited two specific cases, one involved a 21-year-old from Bethlehem who blew herself up in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, killing six and wounding more than 60, and the other was an 18-year-old from the Dehaishe refugee camp who blew up a Jerusalem supermarket and killed two people and wounded 22 others.75
These examples show the merciless way Palestinian terrorists treat not only their victims, but their own people.
“Rachel Corrie was murdered by Israel while she was peacefully protesting against the illegal demolition of a Palestinian home.”
American Rachel Corrie was killed in the Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003, when she entered an area where Israeli forces were carrying out a military operation. The incident occurred while IDF forces were removing shrubbery along the security road near the border between Israel and Egypt at Rafah to uncover explosive devices, and destroying tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists to illegally smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza. Corrie was not demonstrating for peace or trying to shield innocent civilians, she was interfering with a military operation to legally demolish an empty house used to conceal one of these tunnels.
A misleading photo published by the Associated Press gave the impression that Corrie was standing in front of the bulldozer and shouting at the driver with a megaphone, trying to prevent the driver from tearing down a building in the refugee camp. This photo, which was taken by a member of Corrie’s organization, was not shot at the time of her death, however, but hours earlier. The photographer said that Corrie was actually sitting and waving her arms when she was struck.76
Israel’s Judge Advocate’s Office investigated the incident and concluded that the driver of the bulldozer never saw or heard Corrie because she was standing behind debris that obstructed the view of the driver whose field of view was limited by the small armored windows of his cab. An autopsy found that the cause of Corrie’s death was falling debris.77
The State Department warned Americans not to travel to Gaza, and Israel made clear that civilians who enter areas where troops are engaged in counter-terror operations put themselves unnecessarily at risk.
This was not the first time protestors have tried to obstruct Israeli operations, and the IDF has made every effort to avoid harming them. This case received worldwide publicity in large measure because it was the first such incident where a protestor was killed. In fact, the army had told Corrie and other demonstrators from the anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to move out of the way. “It’s possible they [the protesters] were not as disciplined as we would have liked,” admitted Thom Saffold, a founder and organizer of ISM.78
The death of an innocent civilian is always tragic, and the best way to avoid such tragedies in the future is, first and foremost, by the Palestinian Authority putting an end to violence, and stopping the smuggling operations that have brought huge quantities of illegal weapons into the Gaza Strip. Activists interested in peace should be protesting the Palestinian actions. Activists also have every right to express their views about Israel’s policies, but they should take care to avoid the appearance of siding with the terrorists or placing themselves in positions where they could be inadvertently caught in the crossfire of a counter-terror operation or otherwise endangered by entering an area where military operations are being conducted.
“Palestinians interested in peace and preventing terror are respected and allowed freedom of speech by the Palestinian Authority.”
One of the principal deterrents to speaking out against Palestinian irredentism and terror in the Palestinian Authority is the threat of being murdered. By the end of the first intifada in the early 1990s, more Palestinians were killed by their fellow Palestinians than died in clashes with Israeli security forces. Since the uprising began in September 1990, Palestinians have again used intimidation and murder to try to prevent dissent. Usually those seeking peace or an end to terror are labeled "collaborators" and, if they are lucky, arrested by the Palestinian Authority. The unlucky ones are murdered, often in grisly and public ways, such as stringing them up from lamp posts in public squares, aimed at sending the message that a similar fate awaits anyone who dares cross those seeking Israel's destruction.
There are no exact figures for the number of Palestinians killed in the internecine war, but the State Department human rights report said that 250 alleged collaborators had been arrested, and civilians had killed at least 35 in 2002 alone. The Israeli human rights group B'tselem recorded 142 Palestinian deaths between September 2000 and August 26, 2003, while a Palestinian human rights group said 76 were executed and another 22 murdered between September 2000 and October 2002. The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism recorded 303 Palestinians killed by their own side. In its 2003 report on the PA, Amnesty Internation said "scores of Palestinians" had been unlawfully killed and that the PA "consistently failed to investigate these killings and none of the perpetrators was brought to justice.80
A Palestinian need not be interested in peace to become a target of violence; one need only express opposition or offer a challenge to Yasser Arafat and his Fatah party. For example, after student elections at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah resulted in the Islamic Bloc of Hamas and Islamic Jihad receiving more votes than Fatah, Palestinian security forces and members of Fatah attacked members of the Islamic groups and their supporters. Security forces opened fire on the crowd and wounded more than 100 students.80a
Palestinian journalists are particular targets of the PA, which demands that all journalists refrain from criticism of the PA or its officials. In January 2004, for example, journalists working for Arab satellite TV stations were told to refer to all Palestinians killed by the IDF as shaheeds (martyrs). Numerous incidents have also been reported of physical attacks on journalists who offended PA officials. A reporter for a Saudi-owned news channel was wounded by gunfire when he was driving through the Gaza Strip. He was then dragged from his car and beaten because his station had allowed criticism of Yasser Arafat and other officials. A week later, 100 Palestinian journalists went to Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah to pledge allegiance to him. Of course, most already were in his pocket, since all of the Palestinian newspapers receive money from Arafat.80b
“Israel’s policy of assassinating terrorists is illegal and rejected even by Israelis, as evidenced by the refusal of Air Force pilots to carry out the policy.”
As noted elsewhere, Israel faces a difficult quandary in deciding how best to protect its citizens from the attacks of terrorists whose principal aim is to murder innocent people. The Israeli government believes that one way to reduce the danger is to target the Palestinians responsible for these war crimes. The IDF never targets innocent Palestinians and numerous examples can be cited of cases where pilots have returned to base without firing because civilians were in danger of being harmed. Still, tragedies have occurred in which innocent Palestinians have been casualties of the war against terror.
It is especially because of the concern for the innocent, and the difficulty of targeting terrorists who intentionally choose to hide among civilians, that Israelis debate whether targeted attacks are the best policy. The public overwhelmingly supports the policy to date,81 and only 27 pilots – 18 who are retired – signed a letter saying they wouldn’t carry out missions in the territories. As in an earlier case where a group of reserve soldiers said they wouldn’t serve either, the decision is a political act that has no place in any military, and did not receive popular support either from their fellow soldiers or the general public.
The pilots are entitled to their opinion, and to express it through Israel’s vibrant democratic process, but, like other soldiers, their duty while in uniform is to implement policies made by elected civilian leaders so long as their orders are recognized by Israel’s courts as legal. Both Israel’s courts and international law allow for the current Israeli policy.
Meanwhile, the political debate as to the wisdom and effectiveness of the policy will undoubtedly continue.
“The Palestinian Authority is cooperating in the investigation of the terrorist ambush that killed three Americans in Gaza.”
On October 15, 2003, a powerful roadside bomb ripped apart an armored vehicle in a U.S. diplomatic convoy traveling through the Gaza Strip, killing three Americans and wounding one. After the attack, Palestinians streamed to the site and “picked through the twisted metal with visible delight” and then threw stones at American investigators who arrived at the scene, forcing them to leave.82
In a scene right out of Casablanca, Palestinian authorities then rounded up the usual suspects, detaining seven men from a rogue group that included former members of the Palestinian security forces. American officials, however, did not believe these were the perpetrators, and the FBI team probing the terrorist attack returned to the United States after expressing dismay over the lack of cooperation it received from the Palestinian security services. Predictably, the Palestinians who were arrested were released several months later.82a
U.S. officials said the Palestinian Authority failed to provide FBI investigators with sufficient access to the bombing site and allowed pedestrians to enter the scene of the attack and destroy evidence. The Bush Administration subsequently banned visits by U.S. officials to the Gaza Strip because of the lack of cooperation with the investigation.83
After three months of obstruction, U.S. officials informed the Palestinian Authority in December 2003 that special road map envoy John Wolf would not return to the region until progress was made in the investigation. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and other officials also delivered a series of sharp messages to PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and other Palestinian officials over the lack of progress in the probe.84
In early January 2004, it was reported that the Palestinian security services were refusing to arrest or question new suspects. U.S. government sources suggested that Fatah might have been behind the attack and that Yasser Arafat was blocking progress in the investigation for fear that the Americans would discover that he was connected to the attack. Arafat adviser Jibril Rajoub later accused the U.S. of "blackmailing" the Palestinians by threatening to disengage from peace-making and stop U.S. aid unless they find those behind the bombing, a charge the State Department labeled “ridiculous.”85 Nevertheless, in May 2004, the U.S. suspended two water development projects in the Gaza Strip over the failure of the Palestinian police to arrest those responsible for the ambush.85a
In September 2004, Gen. Musa Arafat, the overall commander of the Palestinian Authority's National Security Forces in the Gaza Strip, said the PA security forces knew the identities of the perpetrators of the attack on the U.S. convoy; but he said the PA security forces couldn't act against the suspects while fighting with Israel continues. “We find Musa Arafat's statement, if he is correctly quoted by Reuters, to be totally unacceptable and outrageous,” a State Department spokesman said in response. “The US has consistently demanded that the PA take action to locate, apprehend, and bring to justice the killers of our three colleagues....The PA performance on this issue has been unacceptable to us. We have not seen the PA demonstrate the will, much less the capacity, to investigate this case seriously. If it is true that the PA knows the identities of the murderers, we expect immediate action to be taken to arrest, prosecute and convict them.”85b
The U.S. is now offering up to $5 million to anyone who provides information that leads to the "conviction or arrest" of those responsible for the attack.
“Palestinians do not encourage children to engage in terror.”
Most Palestinians who adopt terror in the hope of either “ending the occupation” or destroying Israel do so because they freely choose murder over any other option. Palestinian terrorists also use children, however, to do their dirty work. On March 15, 2004, for example, Israeli security forces caught an 11-year-old boy attempting to smuggle a bomb through a roadblock. The boy was promised a large sum of money by Tanzim activists in Nablus if he delivered a bag containing a bomb stuffed with bolts to a woman on the other side of the checkpoint. If the boy was stopped and searched, the terrorists who sent him planned to use a cell phone to immediately detonate the 15 to 22 pounds of explosives he was carrying, murdering nearby soldiers as well as the boy. The plan was foiled by an alert Israeli soldier, and the bomb apparently malfunctioned when the terrorists tried to remotely detonate it. A week later, on March 24, 2004, a 14-year-old Palestinian child was found to be carrying explosives when attempting to pass through the Israeli army checkpoint at Hawara, at the entrance of the town of Nablus.86 Just over a year later, on May 22, 2005, a 14-year-old boy was again arrested at the Hawara checkpoint with two pipe bombs strapped to a belt he was wearing. A few days later, a 15-year-old tried to get through the checkpoint with two more pipe bombs. Yet another teen, a 16-year-old, was caught on July 4, 2005, attempting to smuggle a bomb and homemade handgun. In August, another 14-year-old boy was caught carrying three pipe bombs packed with explosives, shrapnel and glass balls.86a
These were just the latest examples of the cynical use of children by Palestinians waging war on Israel. Young Palestinians are routinely indoctrinated and coerced into the cult of martyrdom.
Despite occasional claims that terror is only promoted by “extremists,” the truth is the Palestinian Authority (PA) has consistently incited its youth to violence. Children are taught that the greatest glory is to die for Allah in battle as a Shahada. The PA regularly broadcast television shows that encouraged children to embrace this concept. One film used the death of Muhammad Al-Dura, the child killed in the crossfire of a shootout between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli forces, to show that life after death is paradise. An actor playing Al-Dura is shown in an amusement park, playing on the beach, and flying a kite. The Al-Dura in the film invited viewers to follow him. Similar messages extolling the virtue of the Shahid can be found in school textbooks and sermons by Muslim clergy.88
The indoctrination is having an impact. According to one Palestinian newspaper, 79-80% of children told pollsters they were willing to be Shahids.89
Palestinian children now play death games, competing to see who will be the Shahid. They also collect “terrorist cards” the way American kids collect baseball cards. The maker of the Palestinian cards sold 6 million in just over two years. “I take hundreds of these pictures from children every day and burn them,” said Saher Hindi, a teacher at a Nablus elementary school. “They turn children into extremists.”90
Many Palestinian youngsters have gone from pretending to carrying out actual terrorist attacks. More than two dozen suicide bombers have been under the age of 18. Between 2001 and March 2004, more than 40 minors involved in planning suicide bombings were arrested. In those years, 22 shootings and bombings were carried out by minors. For example, teens ages 11-14 attempted to smuggle munitions from Egypt into the Gaza Strip; three teenagers, ages 13-15, were arrested on their way to carry out a shooting attack in Afula; and a 17-year-old blew himself up in an attempted suicide attack. In just the first five months of 2005, 52 more Palestinian minors were caught wearing explosive belts or attempting to smuggle weapons through checkpoints in the West Bank.91
The situation has finally gotten so out of hand that Palestinian families are starting to protest. The mother of one of the three teenagers sent to carry out the Afula attack said of the letter he had left behind, “My son doesn’t know how to write a letter like that and has never belonged to one of the organizations. Some grownup wrote the letter for him.” The boy’s father added, “Nobody can accept to send his children to be slaughtered. I am sure that whoever recruits children in this kind of unlawful activity will not recruit his own children.”92
Martin Fletcher interviewed the parents of the 15-year-old stopped at the Hawara checkpoint. His parents expressed their anger at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, calling its operatives criminals and saying that Allah would punish them. The correspondent spoke with the boy and read him a letter from his mother asking him to confess and to give Israel all the information in his possession about the men who had sent him.92a
Whenever the use of children in terror operations provokes an outcry, the terrorist groups either claim ignorance or promise never to do it again. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority does nothing to stop the recruitment of children or to dismantle the organizations responsible for drafting them in their terror war.
“Israel created Hamas.”
Israel had nothing to do with the creation of Hamas. The The organization grew out of the ideology and practice of the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood movement that arose in Egypt in the 1920s.
Hamas was legally registered in Israel in 1978 as an Islamic Association by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Initially, the organization engaged primarily in social welfare activities and soon developed a reputation for improving the lives of Palestinians, particularly the refugees in the Gaza Strip.
Though Hamas was committed from the outset to destroying Israel, it took the position that this was a goal for the future, and that the more immediate focus should be on winning the hearts and minds of the people through its charitable and educational activities. Its funding came primarily from Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The PLO was convinced that Israel was helping Hamas in the hope of triggering a civil war. Since Hamas did not engage in terror at first, Israel did not see it as a serious short-term threat, and some Israelis believed the rise of fundamentalism in Gaza would have the beneficial impact of weakening the PLO, and this is what ultimately happened.
Hamas certainly didn’t believe it was being supported by Israel. As early as February 1988, the group put out a primer on how its members should behave if confronted by the Shin Bet. Several more instructional documents were distributed by Hamas to teach followers how to confront the Israelis and maintain secrecy.
Israel’s assistance was more passive than active, that is, it did not interfere with Hamas activities or prevent funds from flowing into the organization from abroad. Israel also may have provided some funding to allow its security forces to infiltrate the organization.94 Meanwhile, Jordan was actively helping Hamas, with the aim of undermining the PLO and strengthening Jordanian influence in the territories.
Though some Israelis were very concerned about Hamas before rioting began in December 1987, Israel was reluctant to interfere with an Islamic organization, fearing that it might trigger charges of violating the Palestinians’ freedom of religion. It was not until early in the intifada, when Hamas became actively involved in the violence, that the group began to be viewed as a potentially greater threat than the PLO. The turning point occurred in the summer of 1988 when Israel learned that Hamas was stockpiling arms to build an underground force and Hamas issued its covenant calling for the destruction of Israel. At this point it became clear that Hamas was not going to put off its jihad to liberate Palestine and was shifting its emphasis from charitable and educational activity to terrorism. Israel then began to crack down on Hamas and wiped out its entire command structure. Hamas has been waging a terror war against Israel ever since.95
“Israel is illegally, and without justification, destroying Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.”
The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly made commitments to stop terror against Israel. In the most recent agreement, the road map, the PA agreed to “declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere.” To date, the PA has not fulfilled this commitment and, as recently as May 15, 2004, Yasser Arafat called on Palestinians to “find what strength you have to terrorize your enemy and the enemy of God.”97
In Gaza, terrorists have acted with impunity since the PA was created. They intentionally hide in refugee camps and elsewhere among the civilian population. They do so knowing that Israel will make every effort to avoid attacking them out of concern for innocent lives. The civilian population puts itself at risk, however, by allowing the terrorists to use them as shields.
When it comes to homes that Israeli security forces have demolished, they are not chosen at random. These dwellings are used by terrorists as hideouts, bomb factories, and sniper and ambush sites. Buildings near the Egyptian border are used by terrorists to conceal tunnels that allow them to smuggle arms, explosives and other terrorists into Gaza for the express purpose of killing Israelis. The government of Egypt, which could stop the smuggling and provocation immediately, refuses to do so.
As is the case in fighting terrorism generally, the question that must be asked about Israel's decision to demolish homes is: What alternatives are open to Israel? If the Palestinian authorities were doing their jobs, and fulfilling their promises, the terrorists would be in jail, the bomb factories, closed, and the tunnels filled in. Since they are not, Israel must find a way to protect its citizens, and security forces have concluded that demolitions are the most effective tool.
Unlike the PA, Israel is governed by the rule of law, and even the decision to demolish homes is subject to review by its judiciary. When terrorists fire at Israeli soldiers or civilians from residential buildings or activate roadside charges from orchards and fields, military necessity dictates the demolition of these locations and international law recognizes them as legitimate targets. Israel’s Supreme Court, the most independent judicial body in the Middle East, has ruled the army’s actions are legal.
Innocent lives have been lost during Israeli operations. As the United States has discovered in fighting an urban war against anti-American insurgents in Iraq, it is virtually impossible to engage gunmen in populated areas and avoid civilian casualties. Like the U.S. army in Iraq, Israeli forces are defending themselves and seeking to minimize collateral damage.
Reports about Palestinians being hurt describe them being in the midst of gun battles.98 If Palestinians are shooting at Israeli soldiers, then clearly the Israelis are not attacking innocent civilians. And the media never bothers to ask a more fundamental question; that is, why do any of the Palestinians in Gaza have guns to shoot at the Israelis in the first place? Again, according to agreements the Palestinians signed, the only people entitled to have weapons are the police, and the PA is obligated to confiscate all illegal weapons.
In the course of Israel’s operations, it is tragic that civilians sometimes suffer. Rather than blame Israel, however, the Palestinians should demand the democratic election of new leaders who will dismantle the terrorist networks so that Israel has no need to take defensive measures.
“The ‘al-Aksa intifada’ has helped win support for the Palestinians and forced Israel to capitulate to their demands.”
The Palestinian uprising has brought nothing but sorrow to the Palestinians and Israelis. After four years of violence, 1,017 Israelis were killed, 70 percent of whom were civilians. Nearly 5,600 Israelis were injured, 82 percent of them civilians. During this period, Palestinian terrorists perpetrated 13,730 shooting attacks and 138 suicide bombings.99
The uprising has been even more costly to the Palestinians. More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in confrontations with security forces defending Israel’s citizens from the terror onslaught. Tragically, this figure also includes many civilians. The difference, however, is that Palestinian terrorists deliberately target the innocent while Israeli forces seek to avoid civilian casualties.
The uprising began because many Palestinians thought they could replicate the success of Hizballah, which they believe drove Israel out of Lebanon with terror. The Palestinians miscalculated, however, failing to understand that Israel had no claim to territory in Lebanon, and that unilaterally withdrawing from the security zone there ultimately saved Israeli lives without compromising Israel’s security or political position.
Because Israel has claims to the West Bank, and a large population of citizens live in areas that most Israelis believe should eventually be part of Israel, there was never any chance that terror would drive Israel out of Judea and Samaria. The situation in Gaza is slightly different, because few Israelis believe that this area should be part of Israel, and most have long been prepared to withdraw. If the Palestinians had lived up to their obligations in the Oslo agreements and the road map to stop the violence, Israel would have long ago pulled out of Gaza. Israel has subsequently decided it is in its own security interests to disengage from Gaza, which the Palestinians should encourage by suppressing the terrorists, but, instead, they bombard Israel with rockets that kill more innocent people and stimulate opposition within Israel to Prime Minister Sharon’s plan.
The intifada has also been devastating to the Palestinian economy. Thousands of Palestinians made their living by working in Israel, but the violence made it impossible for Israel to allow them into Israel because too many engaged in terrorism. Ongoing fighting between Palestinians and Israelis has made commerce in the Palestinian Authority (PA) difficult and, sometimes, impossible. The Palestinian unemployment rate has skyrocketed.
Prior to the uprising, the PA was responsible for 98 percent of the Palestinians in the territories. It controlled the major Arab cities and had the chance to develop democratic institutions that could be the foundation for statehood. By instigating violence, rather than dismantling the terrorist infrastructure – as they promised by accepting the road map – the PA forced Israel to engage in military operations in areas the PA should have been policing. And rather than adopting the reforms suggested by President Bush, and codified in the road map, the PA has remained an Arafat-run dictatorship recognized both by Palestinians and the international community as corrupt.
The uprising’s negative impact was exemplified when a senior Palestinian official contacted different governments to complain about Israeli “massacres” in Gaza and was shocked to discover the Palestinians’ usual allies sympathized with Israel’s motives for mounting an operation, which began after two infants were killed by Kassam rockets in the Israeli town of Sderot. One senior European diplomat said, “Before you call us to complain about Israeli atrocities, why don’t you tell Yasser Arafat and Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israeli cities.”101
Palestinians now admit they made a serious mistake. Former Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, for example said, “I think now that the intifada in its entirety was a mistake and it should not have continued....”102
Israel and the rest of the world is waiting for the Palestinians to correct this mistake by stopping the violence and fulfilling their other treaty commitments.
York Times, (December 14, 1987).
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