Take us to your leader®. Then take us to your reader®.
How it works? [Click here]
Who we are
Our Agenda

Latest News
Good & Bad News

101 Palestinian History
Link & Resources
The Valley Galleria
nileMedia Reader

Join US
Contact Us

August 01, 2002
The Thin Line Between Murder and Routine

By Ramzi Baroud


The recent Israeli war crime in Gaza, which now occupies a special day of mourning in the Palestinian calendar of tragedies as the "Gaza Massacre", sparked condemnations and provoked questions. Most of these condemnations from around the world were strong and sharp, save the United States, Israel and maybe Micronesia. But other condemnations are left open for interpretation, like in the case of the United States.

The Israeli air strike was "heavy handed" or so said Ari Fleischer, uttering the White House statement a whole day after the news about a massacre in Gaza. We are also told that the US is concerned about the Israeli action, for it defers the attention from its priority, 'reforming' the Palestinian Authority.

But what does 'heavy handed' really means? Does it mean that its alright for Israel to assassinate people whenever it decides that these people are "terrorists" and "militants", but it should avoid heavy civilian casualties while conducting its dirty business?

What else could such a statement mean? Of course, it can never mean that the US "strongly condemned the despicable act of terrorism" committed by Israel, a statement often used to refer to Palestinian suicide bombings. It also cannot mean that the US condemns the Israeli assassination policy altogether.

It only means one thing, that the long awaited US criticism of Israel was a mere disagreement over some technical aspects. Describing the strike as "heavy handed" was even less critical of the massacre than statements made by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who said Israel has made a big mistake and had "miscalculated."

So, again, we are dealing with technicalities here. I wonder, if Israel dropped a 100-lb bomb, instead of a 1000-lb, is that still heavy handed?

If only two children died in the strike, not ten, in addition to the commander of Hamas military brigades, is that still "heavy handed"?

Is it the concept of the death of innocents that the United States regrets, or is it just an attempt to avoid an embarrassment before the world: for its either showing some "concern" over the killings, or once again side by Israel's Sharon who celebrated the massacre with a provocative smile and warm words of congratulations to his army's "great success"?

If the US administration opposes the killing of innocent civilians, it would loudly demand an Israeli pullout of the West Bank, an immediate freeze on the building or expansion of militant outposts (the Jewish settlements), and internationally monitored peace talks based on the spirit of international law, not Israel's jungle law.

If the United States honestly opposes wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians, it would hold its billions of dollars of annual aid to Israel, and billions of dollars in deadly weapons used against unarmed civilians.

But its neither. Washington chose to use carefully selected words to criticize the killings in Gaza, because Arab foreign envoys were flooding the White House in an attempt to decide the fate of the Palestinians, a fate dictated by Washington and Tel Aviv, leaving some trivial details to be worked out by the Arabs.

On the other hand, while world governments were busy deliberating the indecency of the Israeli occupation, warning of the bloodshed that such a crime would provoke, the US Congress passed a bill granting Israeli an additional $200 million to be used in an alleged "fight on terror."

Thanks to the Congress, the Israeli pilots who murdered the 16 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded 170 more will get paid for months to come, while the Palestinians were left to search for body parts using their bare hands and other primitive means to remove the debris from Gaza's ground zero.

The issue here is not simple hypocrisy as some might rush to say. It's a well calculated policy by the United States government, aimed at supporting Israel endlessly, even in times when Sharon's thirst for murder could put the US itself in an embarrassing position before the rest of the world.

No, it was not the high civilian costs that prompted the American shy statement of criticism. If it was, then where was Fischer with his gentle criticism of Israel when Israel killed 58 Palestinians only from the start of its most recent invasion of the West Bank on June 19, 2002 to July 19, 2002 two days before the Israeli massacre in Gaza?

I guess it was acceptable when Israel shelled a market in Jenin killing four children accompanyed by their parents to stock up on food before the re-imposing of the miltiary curfew. Four children (Raed Gazawi, 11, Ahmed Gazawi, 5, Faris Sadi, 13, and Sujud Turkey, 7) and a Jenin man, Hilal Shteia, 60, were blown to pieces collected from many yards apart when the soldiers, according to a BBC footage opened fire for no reason and without any provocation.

How about the killing of six people by Apaches, passengers of two taxis in Rafah on June 24, just based on suspicion that a Palestinian on Israel's wanted list was in one of the cabs?

How about Skukri Abdul Haj, 6, from Qalqylia who was shot in the head during the Israel invasion of the city and died on July 7?

How about all others? Every one of them? Innocent as innocent can be? Civilians as their ages, professions and the way there were murdered all indicate.

Too bad for those who die alone and in small numbers, for no matter how young or innocent they were, few would bother to address their death with anger and outrage.

But even collective deaths barely provoke meaningful response. Nonetheless, Palestinians now have a standard to live by: if the death toll is 16 or over, and wounded over 170, and the chances of doubting the nature of killings are little, and the whole world happened to see the blown up children on television, and the whole world happened to strongly condemned the killing, then for the United States, the Israeli action is "unhelpful", and "heavy handed."

But the US standards on all other related matters remains the same: it's the PA's need for reforms, not the bloody Israeli occupation that complicates this conflict. It's still the Palestinians' fault, not the Israeli army policy of despair and murder. It's Arafat who deserves to be scolded and insulted on television, by every American official and at every White House press conference. You see, Sharon is still Bush's "man of peace," who truly earned those additional $200 million dollars by killing and wounding scores in just one blow.

So, bombing children in markets is okay, blowing up two taxis cabs is also okay. Killing 58 Palestinians, individually or in small groups is most certainly okay. It's okay as long as it's not caught on tape and as long as the Israeli army spokesman has a less hard time finding a lie or two to justify the murder. Bombing a sleeping neighborhood, leaving to chances of discussion on the motives of the murder is just bad publicity, heavy handed indeed. But if Israel waited for the Hamas commander to ride in a busy cab or shop in the Gaza vegetable market, and killed him then, with a few other passersby, then there would be no need for silly condemnations. Then it would just be another routine killing.

How absurd.

By Ramzy Baroud
Editor-in-Chief (PalestineChronicle.com)

Want to help spread quality independent journalism?
Donate to NileMedia and watch us grow.

Friend's Name: 
Friend's E-mail: 
Your Name: