Annihilation and Celebration are Strange Bedfellows: The Israeli-Jewish way of Atonement

From the archive (legacy material)

Anne Gwynne | Axis of Logic | 6 October 2004

Twenty days ago I described the Nablus experience of Jewish Holy Days, and forecast what I thought the hermetic sealing of Palestine, announced by Shaul Mofaz on 10th September and said to be for Israel’s security, would mean for Palestine (Too Much to Atone for on Yom Kippur – Now, judge for yourself – here is a summary of 30 pages of headlines and 2,000 detailed accounts of the thousands of actions of the Israelis, each one of which is adjudged a War Crime under International Law and Custom.
The figures would horrify, even in a war situation, but this is not a war. Rather, it is a monumentally unequal conflict between the world’s fourth-ranking military power, its almost entirely military population operating the world’s most technologically-advanced killing machine, and an entirely civilian population bereft of any defence even armed police, without even a jeep. Israel has, since 1948, been cruelly oppressing an innocent people struggling for their freedom, in its brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine – the longest in modern history – to which armed Resistance is entirely legal.
Over the past four years Israelis have murdered more than 3,600 Palestinians, injured in excess of 50,000, arrested some 30,000, and demolished over 60,000 homes and buildings, bulldozed a million olive trees, stolen 900,000 dunums of the most fertile land together with 89% of the water of Palestine.
So here is how the Israelis celebrated the Jewish Holy Season to 30th September in Palestine. I have included the US equivalents pro-rated for population, for comparison.
Palestinian children killed ………… 32
Israeli children killed ………… 2
US equivalent ……..………….. 2,880
Palestinian civilians killed …….…108
Israeli civilians killed ……..…. 2
US equivalent ……………………… 9,720
Palestinian civilians wounded
(those who reached hospital only) … 740
Israeli civilians wounded ……… 0
US equivalent ………………….. 66,600
Palestinian civilians arrested ….…. 350
Israeli civilians arrested …….… 0
US equivalent ……… 31,500
Palestinian homes demolished ….. 400
Israeli homes demolished ……..0
US equivalent …………………. 36,000
Israelis are thus responsible for irreparably damaging the lives of some 3,600 Palestinian families over 20 days. US equivalent would be 324,000 families destroyed – that is 90 times more than those affected by the attack on the Twin Towers.
The numbers are understated because, in the midst of the devastation, figures are difficult to obtain and to collate since these attacks which celebrated the Jewish New Year and the Jewish Day of Atonement are unusually sweeping in their range, number and ferocity. They do, however, illustrate something of the extent of the murder and maiming, disabling and abduction, razing and destruction perpetrated upon a civilian population to whom Israel has an unequivocal Duty of Protection under both International and Customary Law. (F. Boyle: Palestine, Palestinians and the Law: Clarion Press. 2003). These are War Crimes on an unprecedented scale. It is difficult to explain the duplicitous rubbish masquerading as truthful reporting with which the ‘western’ media is saturated.
All killing is bad and Palestinians mourn any death – ‘Christian, Muslim, Jewish or nothing’ (a phrase I hear all the time in Nablus) – and it is much regretted that 2 Israeli children were unintentionally killed last week but when do we ever hear Israelis express regret at the death of the 700 Palestinian children they have murdered? The sorrow is the same, however death is caused, but the hard fact is that the massacre of the innocents perpetrated by Israeli gunmen is deliberate and cold-blooded as they aim their high-tech weapons , looking down sophisticated gun-sights which can pin-point an eye at a mile, and pull the trigger. Those 700 were not accidental killing. I witnessed 11 massacres in Nablus: many times I saw Israeli soldiers from a few yards away kneel, aim and, with a smile, fire at children, taking away their little lives in cold blood.
In addition to the sickening atrocities perpetrated on individual targets, thousands more crimes, as yet difficult to quantify, were committed against whole areas over the period. Israel asks us to believe that death and destruction on this scale by the most modern military in the world, erasing complete towns, is necessary to prevent the firing of a few small, shoulder-held rockets into the indisputably illegal, Jewish settlements standing on lands stolen with great brutality from its ancient custodians? If the illegal colonies were not there no rockets would be fired .
It is interesting to look up the specification of the missiles used to attack human bodies: the ‘Hellfire’ fired every day from helicopter attack gunships into Palestinian Ambulances, bedrooms, gardens, schools, hospitals, funeral processions and weddings and the 1-ton bombs regularly launched from $45million, F16 fighter-bombers into apartments and market places. You will be shocked at the power and accuracy of these huge weapons which require a trailer to load them, and can pierce tanks and battleships. Israel receives these lethal gifts on condition that they should not be used against civilian targets: they have always been used against civilians: there is nothing else in Palestine. The Qassam rocket – though a tremendous achievement for their designers and constructors, all laymen denied a university education by repeated incarceration, and working without any kind of specialised facilities – are small, shoulder-held weapons, designed to instil fear rather than to kill, without a guidance system and with only a 6-mile range.
In the 20 Holy Days before the current massacre and razing of Jabaliya, thirty villages and towns had been stormed, shelled and bombed, countless scores of homes lie in ruins, hospital corridors are jammed with hundreds of blood-soaked stretchers and dozens of men, women and children were abducted and remain unaccounted for, enduring appalling conditions in the universally-condemned Israeli jails, some of them severely, even fatally wounded. This is not defence and it is not security: it is attack and it is Genocide, meeting 4 out of the 5 conditions of The 1948 Convention on Genocide.
The euphemistically-termed ‘settlers’ enjoy absolute immunity under Israeli law. They can, and do, kill at will without sanction, as they rampage all over Palestine destroying, shooting, beating and running-down children in a frenzy of hatred: as last week destroying the $1million olive press for all the olives of Deir Ballout district and stealing the life and happiness of a whole village, and murdering a taxi driver who stopped to offer help, as well as injuring 150 in al-Khalil. A 16 year-old Palestinian boy who threw stones was sentenced to 28 months in an adult prison: the Jewish settler who tortured and killed a Salem father of ten, got ‘temporary house arrest’. ‘Security’? No, a pretext for massacre and ethnic cleansing.
Cemeteries, Shrines, Mosques and other Holy Places have been attacked, stormed, desecrated and destroyed throughout the land, from the 1948 lands to Jenin, from Tubas to al-Khalil. Worshippers were beaten, humiliated and injured, the call to Prayer forbidden and the Holiest shrine of the al-Aqsa Mosque closed to Muslims. And what did the still, silent sleepers in the cemetery do to threaten the Israelis that they so wantonly disturb their small young bones? Sacrilege and celebration are strange bedfellows, and desecration doesn’t chime well with devotion.
Hospitals, Schools, some of them run by UNRWA, Police Posts and Training Facilities, were shelled, destroyed, closed, or turned into barracks. Children were shot at their school desks. Is Israel expecting us to believe that a 9-year old writing his lessons is a threat? There is a Universal Right to Education for every child except the Palestinian. Ambulances and their crews were attacked throughout the land – fired upon, run-down by military vehicles and obstructed on their errands of mercy, their medics shot, beaten, stripped, humiliated and arrested. Fatally-injured youngsters were kidnapped from Ambulances or Hospital ICU’s to die in agony in an Israeli jail and the sick died at some of the roadblocks – 751 at the last UN count – where soldiers admit to forcing Palestinians to drink the soldiers’ urine.
We all have the Universal Right to Health. We are not Palestinian.
With food sources destroyed, food supplies were not allowed in and there has been widespread destruction of the civil infrastructure, with water wells destroyed or poisoned, electricity supplies blown up or turned-off, sewerage systems gouged out of the earth, and the carbon fibre cables of the telephone network cut and relay masts disabled. There is now no drinkable water in the whole of Ghazza. How is a well a security threat to Israel? Or a telephone call? These violations of basic human rights, carried out on the pretext of security have one purpose: to hasten the much-vaunted ethnic-cleansing or ‘transfer’ as the Israels calls it. Human Rights ‘activists’ constantly talk about the Right to Food, to Water, to Freedom of Communication. But not for Palestinians.
More than 10,000 dunums of productive land, each lovingly-husbanded dunum with its precious, life-preserving crop, were either confiscated for colonisation or razed; thousands of Fruitful Olive Trees were bulldozed and killed – ancient trees that hold the history of a family over the centuries – each one as precious as a human life for Palestinians whose roots in their land go as deep as the roots of the symbolic Olive. Does anyone really believe that the land and the olives threaten Israeli ‘security’? No, it is the millennia-long history of the indigenous people, which threatens to expose the lies and deception underpinning the Zionist project, that Israel seeks to obliterate so brutally with its ‘vile machines’, in a criminal sociocide, as Azmi Bishara MK so eloquently described it.
A father of ten is murdered in cold blood; four thousand lose their livelihood in a village; a hundred-and-fifty violent ‘settlers’ out for blood injure hundreds; 2,000 Olive Trees are killed; ten thousand dunums are lost. Is each one large crime with many components or many crimes? How can we define and categorise the thousands of crimes involved in such devastation? Is it each confiscation, each unit, each farm, each village or each locality? Is the crime against the trees, the farmer, the village or the Palestinian nation? The food for hundreds of thousands gone – how can we record such Crimes against Humanity – crimes against the Humanity of the Palestinian People, the Trees and the Land – the three eternal, united and indivisible – in a meaningful way which will properly reflect the magnitude of what is being done here.
Under the continuing horror of closure and curfew, when people cannot leave the home without the risk of being shot, children cannot go to school nor the sick to hospital, no foreigner is allowed in so that there will be almost no outside no witnesses. The Right to Freedom of Movement? Again no, not in Palestine. We should properly ask – who but the guilty shuts out all observers from the scenes of crimes? Who refuses UN observers and Journalists? And shoots or incarcerated those who are already there? Who but the guilty with everything to hide? If the Israeli contention that all this is for security were not lies they would welcome and encourage observers, journalists and the UN to back them up. In contrast the Palestinians welcome everyone, continually requesting UN and other outside help, always denied to them by their illegal occupiers.
The number of reported, separate War Crimes committed against individual, named persons and against individually-detailed houses and buildings number 1,339 – an average of 45 a day over the 20 days, keeping 50,000 troops busy at the expense of the US taxpayer, surely a record for small states about the size of Wales! It is not within the remit of this article to discuss the destruction and human misery wrought by the daily, ongoing, Israeli criminal acts – for example from the continuation of the Illegal Apartheid Wall, or the hundreds of slow deaths at home resulting from denial of medical access and drugs, like diabetes without insulin, cardiac conditions or kidney failure without dialysis. Nor the living death of the chronically sick who are denied rehabilitation, some of whom I count amongst my friends, youngsters horrifically injured by Israeli bullets and shells, deliberately aimed to disable, or from a hundred shards of shrapnel from Hellfire missiles fired from gunships into bedrooms, kitchens and clinics.
It would require 30 additional pages to list the headlines, and 2000 for the individual reports of the Israeli War Crimes over the 20 Holy Days of Jewish Atonement. This summary of cruelty, barbarity and sadism beyond belief is a chilling catalogue of the continuing extermination of the Palestinian people.
It is terrorism unbridled. When will Israel be sated with Palestinian blood?
Every incident in this article happened many times during the past 20 days. Together with thousands more, every one can be found documented on the websites of the BBC, PRI, Al-Manar, The Guardian, al-Ahram, Palestine Information Center, the International Press Center, The Palestine Red Crescent Society, The Law Society, al-Jazeerah and many, many more.
Anne Gwynne is a 65-year-old grandmother and retired bank manager from Wales. She has worked with the Palestinian Medical Relief Committees in Nablus, from where she has reported for Pacifica Radio’s Flashpoints program. Anne can be reached at