Gee, thanks, Human Rights Watch. We never would have guessed. Despite the video evidence, and despite the report released yesterday by HRW, Israel continues to insist that live ammunition wasn’t fired.
Or in other words, “That’s our lie and we’re sticking to it.”
Here are a few choice excerpts from the report:
Video footage clearly shows Israeli soldiers firing in the direction of the boys, Nadim Nawareh and Mohammed Salameh, and the boys falling to the ground. Medical records indicate that the two boys, as well as 15-year-old, Mohammed Azza, whom Israeli forces also shot and seriously wounded, suffered wounds to the chest caused by live ammunition…
“The willful killing of civilians by Israeli security forces as part of the occupation is a war crime,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Israel has a responsibility to prosecute the forces who targeted these teens, and also those responsible for assigning the use of live ammunition to police a demonstration.”
The Israeli military stated that it is investigating the killings but that its forces “did not use live fire,” only rubber bullets and teargas. However, rubber bullets are specifically designed not to penetrate bodies. It is highly unlikely that, at a range of at least 60 meters, rubber bullets would have caused the injuries that killed Nawareh and Salameh and wounded Azza. Nawareh’s family retrieved what may be the live bullet that killed him…
And here we get into the Israeli coverup:
The Israeli defense and foreign ministers both suggested, and an unnamed senior defense official claimed, that Palestinians falsified video evidence of the fatal shootings, Israeli media reports said. However the officials did not provide an alternative version of events. Witness statements, medical reports, security camera videos, news media videos and photographs by journalists, which Human Rights Watch viewed, indicate that Israeli forces fired live ammunition…
The military responded with statements that “the video in question was edited in a biased way” and “does not reflect the reality of the day in question, the violence [by Palestinian protesters].” An unnamed senior defense ministry official told Israel media that it was “likely doctored.”
Human Rights Watch obtained the unedited videos from three security cameras from the rights group and spoke to Fakher Zayed, 47, who owns the cameras. Two of the cameras were focused on the area in front of Zayed’s building, and the camera videos show the boys as they were shot, while the third camera was focused on the area between the building and the nearest group of Israeli forces. Zayed has a carpentry shop on the ground floor of the building and lives in an apartment on the first floor. He said he witnessed the shootings from his balcony. The unedited videos show no evidence that the boys posed a threat to the soldiers at any point while they appear in the videos, including the moments when they were shot…
On May 22, CNN published its own video footage showing one of the Israeli border police forces stationed about 60 meters from the Palestinian protesters firing toward the location where Nawareh was killed. Seconds later, the video shows a group of Palestinians carrying Nawareh away toward an ambulance…
Some commentators and news reports have incorrectly stated that the CNN footage could not show Israeli forces shooting live ammunition because the assault rifles seen in the footage have attachments that are used to fire rubber bullets. However, the Israeli military has used at least one type of assault-rifle attachment, produced by Israel Military Industries, that allows forces to fire rubber bullets, but also to fire live ammunition without removing the attachment. A brochure states that the 22-centimeter-long “launcher” can be “attached to any rifle with NATO flash suppressor” and allows “immediate 5.56-mm lethal firing capability without removing adapter.”…
On May 28, Israeli media reported that after reviewing the CNN footage of the protest on May 15, an Israeli military police investigation determined that a soldier from the military spokesperson’s office had fired two rubber bullets at a wall near the Palestinian demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them. The soldier had asked a border police commander to use the latter’s assault rifle, fired the shots, and returned the weapon, the investigation found. The military suspended the soldier because he was not authorized to take an active part in the crowd-dispersal operation or to fire the rubber bullets. However the investigation reportedly cleared the soldier of suspicion of firing live ammunition.
The Israeli daily Haaretzreported that unnamed “Israeli military investigators said […] the shots may have been fired by the Palestinian side, rather than by Israeli troops.” Zayed, the store owner who witnessed the shootings, said that on May 23 he overheard military officials who came to his home speaking to one another in Hebrew and speculating that a Palestinian fired the shots.
However, the victims’ entry wounds, video footage, and witness statements all strongly indicate that the shots were fired from the direction where Israeli forces were positioned. It seems highly unlikely that a Palestinian repeatedly firing an assault rifle in that area would have gone unnoticed by Israeli forces, demonstrators, and journalists who were at the scene continuously for several hours before and after the shootings.
In addition to shooting the teenagers with live ammo, the Israeli soldiers, apparently for sport, also fired off a rubber bullet at an ambulance worker who arrived at the scene to provide medical assistance:
Nazzal took a rapid series of photographs that show a projectile flying toward the group evacuating Nawareh, and apparently striking the head of a man wearing a medic’s fluorescent vest. The man stumbles and holds his head in subsequent images. Nazzal said:“A bunch of boys rushed to help [Nawareh] and take him away, and while they were taking him to an ambulance that was about 50 meters away, the rubber bullets and teargas never stopped. One of the ambulance men rushed to meet the boys halfway, and while he was carrying Nadim to the car, he got shot with a rubber bullet in the back of his head. He held his head and fell to the ground.”
You have to remember that all this didn’t take place as a “rapid fire” sequence of events, as it were. It was a reality game of “shooting gallery” that went on for several hours over the course of an afternoon. The first boy was shot at 12:20 p.m.; the second at 1:45 p.m.; and the third at 2:58 p.m. Then the ambulance arrived at some point in all this, presumably around 2 o’clock, at which point they shot the medic in the back of the head.
Meanwhile, keep in mind, the Israelis are claiming it was the Palestinians who shot themselves.
Since September of 2000 Israeli forces have killed more than 3,100 Palestinians “who were not taking part in hostilities,” the HRW report adds. And in that time, just six–count’em six–Israeli soldiers have been convicted for unlawful killing of Palestinians. And get this–of those six, the most severe sentence handed down was seven and a half months.
Clearly a culture of impunity exists in the Israeli military–perhaps in the population as a whole. Maybe that’s what they mean when they call it “the Jewish state.” Jews get to kill anybody they want as long as it’s not another Jew.
A couple of days ago I posted an article about the upcoming Presbyterian General Assembly, to be held June 14-21 in Detroit. One of the items up for consideration will be divestment from Israel, but as I mentioned, the measure is running up against stiff opposition from some within the church.
I profoundly hope that such people will take a close look at the HRW report and then do the decent, humane thing. Any delegate attending this convention who votes against the divestment measure is in effect saying, “Murder is okay when committed by Israeli soldiers.” There really aren’t many other interpretations you can give it.