Soldier during Gaza war (archives)
Photo: AP
Aviad Kleinberg

What Gaza war crime?

Op-ed: State's refusal to probe killing of two Palestinians by soldiers during Cast Lead disgraceful

On January 16, 2009, during a "humanitarian lull" in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, three members of the Shurrab family (the father and his two sons) were returning from their fields to their home in Khan Younis. IDF soldiers manning a checkpoint let them pass, but soldiers positioned nearby opened fire at the jeep in which the three were traveling from 40 meters away.


Up to this point the incident could be viewed as an accident that resulted from lack of coordination between the Israeli forces. But the story does not end here. As a result of the shooting, the driver of the jeep lost control of the vehicle and slammed into a wall. The soldiers approached the jeep and ordered the three to step out of it. When they emerged from the jeep, the soldiers shot them. One of the brothers died on the spot while the other as wounded in the leg. The soldiers not allow a Palestinian ambulance to evacuate the father and his injured son. They were held up for 23 hours. In the meantime, the injured son quietly bled and died the following day.


The army withdrew from Gaza on January 18. On the face of it, one might assume, the shooting was a war crime, and act of nearly incomprehensible cruelty towards innocent civilians who were not endangering soldiers' lives. The victim who survived the incident thought so as well. His representatives asked the Israeli Defense Ministry to launch an investigation, but their request was denied.


The IDF Spokesperson's Office said, "In general, during the lull the IDF only responded to rocket fire or to shooting attacks on soldiers." The possibility that a war crime had been committed contradicts this statement, so of course the Palestinians' claim should be dismissed out of hand, regardless of the facts. Such claims against the most moral army in the world should be treated as a nuisance: "We do not have the means to investigate and reenact every incident and confirm or deny every piece of information that is presented."


But the annoying victim would not let up. He filed a civil suit in Haifa Magistrate’s Court against the State of Israel. Surprisingly, the state reached a compromise agreement with those who propagate blood libels against IDF soldiers and paid them NIS 430,000 (about $109,000) in compensation. This isn’t bad considering the fact that after the massacre in Kafr Qasem (during which, like in Khan Younis, unarmed people were shot dead at close range as they were returning home from their fields) the person responsible was sentenced to pay the symbolic fine of one agora. We've made progress since then, even if you take inflation into account.


The State of Israel's defense statement, which was not accompanied by any affidavits, claimed that the soldiers were convinced that the jeep was a car bomb because it was travelling toward them at a high speed. But what about the close range shooting? And the prevention of medical treatment for someone who is bleeding to death for nearly a day? Stop talking nonsense. What are you, leftists? Just take the money and say thank you.


Since there is no way of determining which soldiers manned the position (yeah, right) and since it is clear that IDF soldiers who were manning the position could not have committed such a crime (because that would contradict the IDF's 'general rule'), then it is obvious this is a classic case of victims whose killers remain unknown.


Therefore, I suggest we revive the ancient Egla Arufa ceremony, which was conducted when the body of a murder victim was discovered and the culprit's identity was unknown: "If one be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath smitten him; then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain. And it shall be, that the city which is nearest unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take a heifer of the herd, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke. And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which may neither be plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer's neck there in the valley. And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near--for them the LORD thy God hath chosen to minister unto Him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and according to their word shall every controversy and every stroke be. And all the elders of that city, who are nearest unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. And they shall speak and say: 'Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it'," the book of Deuteronomy states.


I know that the members of the Shurrab family are not Jewish, but let's make it an exception in this case and conduct the ceremony anyway. After all, it was not we who spilled this blood.



פרסום ראשון: 09.14.12, 00:57
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