Posted by Bob Lord
Salon posted a chilling piece today containing interviews of Israeli veterans regarding Gaza. First, the background on the suffocating control Israel exercises there:
Israeli naval blockades stop Gazans from fishing, a main source of food in the Strip. Air blockades prevent freedom of movement. Israel does not allow building materials into the area, forbids exports to the West Bank and Israel, and (other than emergency humanitarian cases) prohibits movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It controls the Palestinian economy by periodically withholding import taxes. Its restrictions have impeded the expansion and upgrading of the Strip’s woeful sewage infrastructure, which could render life in Gaza untenable within a decade. The blocking of seawater desalination has turned the water supply into a health hazard. Israel has repeatedly demolished small power plants in Gaza, ensuring that the Strip would have to continue to rely on the Israeli electricity supply. Daily power shortages have been the norm for several years now. Israel’s presence is felt everywhere, militarily and otherwise.
The interviews really should be read in their entirety, but here are some of the passages I found especially chilling:
What’s the procedure?
Gather the family in a certain room, put a guard there, tell the guard to aim his gun at them, and then search the rest of the house. We got another order that everyone born after 1980… everyone between sixteen and twenty-nine, doesn’t matter who, bring them in cuffed and blindfolded. They yelled at old people, one of them had an epileptic seizure but they carried on yelling at him. Every house we went into, we brought everyone between sixteen and twenty-nine to the school. They sat tied up in the schoolyard.
Did they tell you the purpose of all this?
To locate weapons. But we didn’t find any weapons. They confiscated kitchen knives. There was also stealing. One guy took twenty shekels. Guys went into the houses and looked for things to steal. This was a very poor village. The guys were saying, “What a bummer, there’s nothing to steal.”
That was said in a conversation among the soldiers?
Yeah. They enjoyed seeing the misery, the guys were happy talking about it. There was a moment someone yelled at the soldiers. They knew he was mentally ill, but one of the soldiers decided that he’d beat him up anyway, so they smashed him. They hit him in the head with the butt of the gun, he was bleeding, then they brought him to the school along with everyone else. There were a pile of arrest orders signed by the battalion commander, ready, with one area left blank. They’d fill in that the person was detained on suspicion of disturbing the peace. They just filled in the name and the reason for arrest. There were people with plastic handcuffs that had been put on really tight. I got to speak with the people there. One of them had been brought into Israel to work for a settler and after two months the guy didn’t pay him and handed him over to the police.
During the operations in Gaza, anyone walking around in the street, you shoot at the torso. In one operation in the Philadelphi corridor, anyone walking around at night, you shoot at the torso.
How often were the operations?
Daily. In the Philadelphi corridor, every day.
When you’re searching for tunnels, how do people manage to get around — I mean, they live in the area.
It’s like this: You bring one force up to the third or fourth floor of a building. Another group does the search below. They know that while they’re doing the search there’ll be people trying to attack them. So they put the force up high, so they can shoot at anyone down in the street.
How much shooting was there?
Say I’m there, I’m up on the third floor. I shoot at anyone I see?
But it’s in Gaza, it’s a street, it’s the most crowded place in the world.
No, no, I’m talking about the Philadelphi corridor.
So that’s a rural area?
Not exactly, there’s a road, it’s like the suburbs, not the center. During operations in the other Gaza neighborhoods it’s the same thing. Shooting, during night operations — shooting.
It there any kind of announcement telling people to stay indoors?
They actually shot people?
They shot anyone walking around in the street. It always ended with, “We killed six terrorists today.” Whoever you shot in the street is “a terrorist.”
So, if you're a dead Palestinian, you're defined as a terrorist.
And then there's this one —
One company told me they did an operation where a woman was blown up and smeared all over the wall. They kept knocking on her door and there was no answer, so they decided to open it with explosives. They placed them at the door and right at that moment the woman came to open it. Then her kids came down and saw her. I heard about it after the operation at dinner. Someone said it was funny that the kids saw their mother smeared on the wall and everyone cracked up. Another time I got screamed at by my platoon when I went to give the detainees some water from our field kit canteen. They said, “What, are you crazy?” I couldn’t see what their problem was, so they said, “Come on, germs.” In Nahal Oz, there was an incident with kids who’d been sent by their parents to try to get into Israel to find food, because their families were hungry. They were fourteen- or fifteen-year-old boys, I think. I remember one of them sitting blindfolded and then someone came and hit him, here.
On the legs.
And poured oil on him, the stuff we use to clean weapons.
The rest of the world pretty much recognizes that Israel lost the moral high ground a long, long time ago. It's about time we in the U.S. do as well.