16 September 2010

"During war there are no civilians"

"During war there are no civilians." The words of an Israeli Defence Forces training unit leader testifying at the Rachel Corrie trials being held in Haifa.

Rachel Corrie was killed by a bulldozer while she and other members of the nonviolent International Solidarity Movement were attempting to prevent demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli military on March 16, 2003 in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Her parents are suing the Israeli government, claiming it was an intentional act, a view denied by the Israelis.

This open admission of an indiscriminate policy towards civilians, Palestinian or foreign, shocked many in the courtroom, but it is hardly surprising after Israel's invasion of Gaza in 2009 when Israel killed 1,400 Gazans, including 400 children. It does, however, prompt a question about terrorism. If it truly is Israel's policy that "during war there are no civilians," and one would have to assume it is if an Israeli military spokesman testified to it in a court of law, then how can Israel claim that terrorist attacks on its civilians are illegitimate?

If Hamas, or any other group considers itself to be at war with Israel, then purposely killing civilians, i.e. terrorism, would seem to be a legitimate strategy. Whether or not the group is pursuing a legitimate cause is of course another matter, but considering the situation of the Palestinians -- both their oppression by Israel and their lack of military means to do much about it -- their cause would seem to be very legitimate indeed.

When we contemplate a terrorist attack by Palestinians against their oppressor, we should therefore keep in mind they are using a weapon that Israel itself has apparently legitimized.


  1. The Geneva Conventions, to which Israel is a bound signatory, make clear the obligations on nations to safeguard civilians when waging war. There is no exemption for collateral damage either.

    Israel may be legally and morally bound by the Geneva Conventions but those are obligations honoured in the breach when that's convenient. This is particularly true of the provisions of the 4th Convention under which Israel's occupation and annexation of Palestinian lands is prohibited. Israel argues that the interpretation given this convention by the civilized world is wrong insofar as it applies to the West Bank and Gaza.

    In other words Israel places itself outside the law of nations, even those laws it has expressly committed itself to uphold. That makes Israel an outlaw state a situation that has continued, and worsened, for forty years.

    That Israel breaches its legal obligation to protect civilians is anything but out of character.

  2. Here is a different perspective to the Rachel Corrie trial...

    On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie was killed while protesting the Israeli military’s presence in Gaza, when she was run over by a bulldozer that did not see her. Corrie, a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), traveled to Israel with other members to the UNRWA Rafah refugee camp.

    Along with her peers, she protested the presence of Israeli tractors, some of which were involved with home demolitions of terrorists, and which were also involved in detecting Hamas’s weapons tunnels as well.

    Rachel's presence in an active war zone put not only herself in danger of crossfire.

    In the case of Rachel Corrie herself, when she crouched in front of an armored bulldozer at dusk, the risk became massively multiplied.

    What has hardly been reported was what her fellow demonstrator, Joe Smith, told our news agency the day after he saw the tragedy: "When the bulldozer started to dig in the dirt pile, the pile started to move, and she could have rolled sideways quickly or fallen backwards to avoid being hit. But Rachel leaned forward to climb to the top of the dirt pile. The bulldozer's digging drew her downward, and its driver could not see her anymore. So without lifting the scoop, he turned backward and she was already underneath the blade,”

    Clearly, Smith’s comments contradict claims made by the Corrie family and the ISM. They say that the tractor driver could clearly see Rachel Corrie. This statement would strongly suggest premeditated murder and not only a mere accident.

    Even though Smith and other of Rachel Corrie's friends told the media that that nobody at the time of her death had a camera, the ISM immediately distributed a picture of the scene upon the news of her death. The image that ISM claimed was taken minutes before the incident depicted Corrie holding a megaphone in broad daylight, in what looked like a noontime picture. However, the ISM also immediately distributed a second photograph that depicted Corrie's body on the ground immediately after she was hit. There are clear discrepancies in the two pictures. In the picture showing Corrie having already been hit by the tractor, it is clear that the time of day is dusk, that the color of the bulldozer itself is different, and that the scenery has changed.

    However, since the incident in March 2003, Corrie’s death has been transformed into a symbol of Israeli brutality. Her life has been translated into a one-woman off Broadway
    dramatic production that has circled the globe, there are websites dedicated to her cause, and her name was even borrowed for one of the ships in the recent flotilla to Israel. Corrie, a young Christian American woman killed in a freak accident, became a martyr for the plight of the Palestinian people.

  3. Sam, could you identify the "news organization" you're with? Please identify this Joe Smith fellow. You clearly place great credence in his statements.

    It sounds to me, Sam, that you're putting a great deal of spin on this incident. The Israeli bulldozers demolishing homes of "terorists" for example seems unduly exculpatory. Are you suggesting that the only homes the Israelis bulldoze are those belonging to terrorists? That would be one for the books.