Political intrigue could not stop it. Arafat dying could not stop it.
Thirty men with weapons re-arresting Vanunu in his Christian sanctuary did not do the trick either.
No sustained media event could totally detract public focus from the ongoing events and upheavals taking place in the Israeli Defense Force over the past month throughout Israeli news media. And while a resignation or a dismissal might serve to offset an injustice and create an atmosphere of better commitment towards proper conduct, because of the serious nature of some of the depravities involved, there is little cause for real celebration.
Recent news of IDF activities has run a full spectrum from nude photos of Naval officers to soldiers dutifully following orders and removing an illegal settlement outpost in Gush Katif (Gaza) , that up until a few months ago did not exist. In between suppressing the smirk over language the father of an exposed officer has been quoted in the medias ( "I can’t believe the lack of proportions") and understanding the serious challenge of a commitment to duty in removing illegal settlements among a defiant civilian population, came a small but poignant picture in the news vaguely reminiscent of a different ghetto crossing from half a century ago.
The photo and news story came with an eye witness account of a Palestinian man being forced to play the violin, while other people waited hours to cross at a Checkpoint. Horit Herman-Peled , a "human rights watcher" at Machsom Watch (near Nalbus) and the child of Holocaust survivors was so horrified by the sight, she could not speak but videotaped the action. It can be seen on her web site: http://www.horit.com
What absurdity and facade makes naked naval officers more disgraceful than a video of soldiers acting like fascist bullies at a checkpoint? Proportion has alot to do with it because there is also the other suggestiveness in nakedness; symbolic of closer scrutiny and higher expectation to come. And there appears to be a steady rise in all sorts of behavior unbefitting a civilized human, let alone a defending soldier, a platoon leader, an officer or even a brigadier general who has sworn an oath of service to set the highest standards of his nationalism.
On November 4, 2004 an article appeared in The Jerusalem Post entitled, “Not a Fitting End For A Promising Officer” . It told an amazing story of Gaza Division Brigadier General Shmuel Zakai resigning on the Thursday before, just seven months after taking over his present position as Brigadier General. Almost a month ago, this article reported that it was widely accepted that Zakai resigned over polygraph test results and alleged news media leaks that directly involved Sharon and the IDF’s disagreement to continue the heavy and devastating incursion into Rafah. There was also mention of the previous speculation about Zakia’s resignation, including personality problems and perhaps a conflict of conscience over the future removal of illegal settlements.
Rarely do senior IDF commanders resign, especially one that is popular and so the story had this curiosity about it when suddenly at the end of the article, a child appeared as some small consideration to the issue. There she was! the schoolgirl whose name and story served to illicit a response of horror from around the world just after her slaughter on October 5, 2004 .
Defense of Children International-Palestine reports since September 2000, hundreds of children have been killed in an illegally occupied country where few are able to remember a generation of children ever running and playing freely. In Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah, Gaza, Salfit, Tulkarm, Nablus, Qalqilia and Jenin other children have been killed and even targeted by those sworn to some higher standard of ethics in service to their country.
Operation Rainbow , an incursion that will continue to portray Israel and the IDF to the rest of the world with a historical image closest to that image Minister of Justice, Yusef Lapid implied (for which he was harshly criticized for daring outspokeness) The censorhip for his subjectivity and "criticism" seems to have created a further repressed silence for public human rights concerns among other Knesset members at just the time such input is needed! Silence is the complicity and machination of a governing leadership that has thus far only raised death tolls and/or created a greater situation of homelessness and a greater refugee problem on already stressed borders infested by a poverty that is growing.
Silence and complicity about the deaths of children do not ensure future negotiation for a lasting peace and morally, what is the toll, when we ask a military to include the slaughter of children into a greater nationalist design?
On May 18, 2004 in Rafah a 13 year old contemporary of the above mentioned schoolgirl was intentionally shot along with his 16 year old sister. Single shots to the head killed Asma al-Mughayr on a roof top while she was taking clothes down from from a wash line. Her brother Ahmad was shot and killed also by a single bullet to the head . He appears to have been feeding birds at the time. On first report, IDF officials denied wrongdoing and implied that the children may have had explosive devices. Amnesty International , however, took the testimony of several foreign journalists and reviewed photos inside the nearby house that the IDF was using and where they left garbage and empty ammunition boxes. Amnesty International spoke out about other recent child killings as well. On September 7, 2004 a 10-year-old named Raghda Adnan al-Assar was shot in the head while sitting at her desk at a UNRWA school in Khan Yunis. Another little girl, Ghadeer Jaber Mukhaymar was shot in the stomach. And on October 29, 8 year old Rania lyad Aram was shot while walking to school..
The thirteen year old schoolgirl with the relationship to Zakai did not have her name mentioned in the Jerusalem Post article which was focused primarily on the resignation of a brigadier general and not yet another Palestinian child who was killed. She is, however, easily identified by the nature of the crime perpetuated against her. Her name was Iman Al-Hams and her death and the attempted cover up of her death has directly and indirectly caused a major upheaval within the higher ranks of the IDF.
After a month or so of reports and allegations, Iman Al-Hams appears! to have been shot after having been identified to a platoon leader as a child. Although the soldiers who identified the child repeatedly told the captain not to shoot, he chose to do so anyway and then walked away and back again to the child’s body for a verification killing. In covering for his captain, Brigadier General Shmuel Zakai, former commander of the Golani Brigade and considered to be an outstanding man in service to his country, not only perpetuated a lie about the willful destruction of a child’s body, but in doing so he put the word of his commanding officer and Commander in Chief General Moshe Ya’ alon, in disrespect and jeopardy. General Ya’alon, basing his report upon the word and honor of the commanding officer in charge reported to Knesset that Iman had probably been sent to draw out soldiers for terrorists and that he was satisfied with his officier’s report. According to her mother and the reporting soldiers watching her progress, she was on her way to school , got caught in gunfire , panicked and ran in the wrong direction.
In this way, Iman’s death has become an indirect focus, upon the average soldier’s oath of service conflicted by the lack of morals in a cover-up. Before Zakai’s lie detector tests and the ultimate shock of the video tape, these same soldiers were under suspicion of having intentions other than ethical. But in spite of the implications, these lower ranking soldiers displayed greater intelligence AND integrity, under fire. They also were smart enough to take their story to one of Israel’s largest papers, but until the video tape, this did not place them under less suspicion for coming forward.
For military men who hold values of integrity and honor above the mortal proportions of mercenaries and child killers, this part of the story has the greatest bearing in the resignation of the Brigadier General: in protecting his platoon leader, Brig General Zakai deemed to commit the unpardonable offense in military procedure: he presented a lie to his commander in chief who in turn presented that same untruth to Knesset and stood by it only to have to retract it because of a videotape. He became a high ranking embarassment.
Of course the story did not go unnoticed . After the first cries of outrage, the IDF seemed to flounder amid its usual support in Israeli papers. The soldiers, whose truth was attacked from within and above, ran to Israel’s largest paper , Yediot Ahrohnot , with their story. And by the end of October, the IDF was forced to issue another statement, very different from the first reports of a suspected suicide bomber wearing a suicide belt:
"The military police investigation regarding the circumstances of the killing of the Palestinian girl along the Israeli-Egyptian border near Rafah on Oct. 5, 2004, has raised suspicions that the version of events given by the company commander was false. The company commander was arrested tonight (Tuesday) by the military police and is under investigation. The chief of staff views this matter gravely. Upon the conclusion and findings of the military police investigation, the chief of staff will consider further measures."
Neither the videotape nor the testimony resolved the issue for Iman’s parents. And like the lingering picture of the violinist, there was and still are haunting aspects about this horrendous story, above and beyond the action itself and in how it continues to evolve. There appear more excuses for depravity and lies. Perhaps because of rank and military standing, and in retrospect of the real facts as we are discovering them, there continues to be just too many excuses to be tolerated by Iman’s parents or any parent.
The outrage continues with a "burden of proof " that is further punishing the child’s parents.
On November 18, 2004 the Jerusalem Post reported "that army sought to clear the officer from all charges by demanding an autopsy" . Considering the testimonies and video evidence and also in awareness that Iman’s parents are strict Muslims, how must this last gesture from the Israeli government be considered with respect or rather lack of respect to Iman’s grieving parents?
Palestine Monitor reports that "after consideration" Iman’s parents have now given their consent to the investigation of military charges against the platoon leader, and will permit authorities to exhume their daughter’s remains in order to prove what the video did not show and what the testimony of two soldiers did not say. This last action implies that a count of bullets will determine appropriate action or consideration of the offense. This is difficult to fathom, when the "proper" response would be condolence and assurance of justice.
Major General Amos Yadlin recently issued "Ethical Dilemmas in Fighting Terrorism" a guideline that specifically redefines ethics in the fighting of terrorism. It does not however, provide re-assurance for the non tolerance of unethical behavior by those who are wearing a uniform but acting in the way of a terrorist and not a defending army.
He claims, "The IDF is very sensitive to humanitarian issues"
It is NOT sensitive to humanitarian issues or to moral issues when the burden of a verification kill that has been witnessed by soldiers and caught on video tape requires further "proof" from the child’s parents.
Frontline criticism and even dissidence among enlisted men and women should always be taken as seriously as befits the job that is required of them. A moral and ethical crisis is upon Israel because of where its leadership has led its military. The response of governments in these awkward situations, and I include US use of "company" police in Iraq, is use of a mercenary force that only further complicates and compounds the obstructions posed by conflicted patriotism vs nationalism. In Israel, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon to stop giving polygraph tests to officers.
As an American, fearful for her National Guards’ "re assignment" in ongoing occupation of Iraq, I am apprehensive and sickened by the role model our "Israeli allies" present in managing military standards and Occupation. When the lowest ranking man can not look up to the honor and standard of his superior officer in relationship to his telling the truth I am fearful for the civilian and the soldier. And when the highest ranking officials can not perceive the real issue of killing children to be what is at stake in a ruthless occupation, I am sickened with foreboding for all our children.
In reading one of the many reports about violence enacted against peacekeepers, a very serious report comes from US citizens Chris Brown and Kim Lamberty of Washington DC. They are two Christian Peacekeeper Team members and human rights activists who have recently come under brutal and harmful attack while walking children to school. In relationship to a conscription into the Israel’s armed forces, one must wonder if the thugs who landed this man and woman in the hospital, are Israel’s next generation of army commanders? and what is the message given to Israeli children and Palestinian children by our example to them?
To date, I have not focused my writing upon any individual Israeli child who has been killed by suicide bombers, including the victims of young suicide bombers who are supported in their actions by the most depraved morality that equips and uses them. It is not because these children are any less important or less grieved by their families. And it is not because this seems to always be the excuse of Israel for further revenge on an entire town and population, thus continuing the cycle of violence.
Suicide bombers rarely deny any of their intentions, while some members of the IDF and some members of Israel’s government, not only deny bad intentions and bad procedures about those intentions, but will frequently go to any and great lengths to cover them up as part of "nationalism" and national interest. It is in doing so that they forget ethics and morality IS of national interest. And I am further suggesting that there be a common purpose in protecting children from the Monsters in and out of uniforms. The names of the Israeli children I do not list join the names of the Palestinian children whose names I shall never know and who I have figuratively scrolled together along with the Israeli children on my list of lost joys in accomplishments that the world shall never know.