Why rules of engagement on Gaza border must be revoked
Op-ed: The attempts to intimidate the Israeli public into believing that a murderous crowd is about to cross the border and destroy everything in its way have been revealed as a fiery rhetoric aimed at justifying indiscriminate shooting at thousands of Palestinians.
One might add that every person in Gaza is entitled to the same right. Idan has other rights too. He can, for example, go out and protest for that justified right. Unlike Gaza’s residents, he knows that if he does that, he won’t risk being killed by a sniper.
We, members of four human rights organizations—Yesh Din, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Gisha and HaMoked—which petitioned the High Court of Justice against the rules of engagement, allowing the use of lethal weapon against unarmed protestors, want reality to change and want Idan, the residents of the Sdot Negev Regional Council and all the residents of the Gaza vicinity to live in peace.
We don’t think and we have never claimed that the State of Israel isn’t allowed to defend its border, or that sending burning kites to set fields on fire or planting explosive devices near the fence is justified. Furthermore, international law allows the use of lethal force and firearms against civilians by law enforcement officials—but only in a life-threatening situation.
Gaza’s residents are allowed to protest against Israel. Some parts of the public may not like it, but they have a right to do so. Gaza’s residents are also entitled to hold wild protests. It may be scary, but it doesn’t justify using firearms against them. The protestors may also be Hamas members, but the fact that they are part of a terror organization is not an offense justifying death without a trial.
It is the State of Israel’s duty to defend its citizens. The IDF soldiers standing in front of the fence were deployed there to prevent an infiltration. That’s their job, and we’re not saying that they should be prevented from doing so. International law and Israeli law do not contradict that duty; they reinforce it.
The issue can be emphasizes in military briefings held ahead of the Friday protests, and the soldiers can be given the tools to deal with the protests. But the attempts to intimidate the Israeli public into believing that a murderous crowd is about to cross the border and destroy everything in its way have been revealed in reality as a fiery rhetoric aimed at justifying indiscriminate shooting at thousands who do not pose a risk.
The IDF, the Border Guard and the police have a variety of non-lethal means for dealing with protests, and these means can also be used to prevent damage to the fence or an infiltration into Israel. Firearms should only be used to defend soldiers’ lives and civilians’ lives. This is not only argued by human rights organizations and the law; it’s the IDF’s spirit as well. “IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants… and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property,” the IDF’s Code of Ethics and Mission states.
Nevertheless, the defense minister and the senior military command have chosen to ignore the law and allow the soldiers to shoot anyone who approaches the fence or is perceived as a “main instigator,” even if he is unarmed and poses no risk to anyone.
The result is that 39 people have been killed, including teenagers and journalists, and hundreds have been wounded from live fire. Did they all threaten the soldiers’ lives? That must be investigated, but it’s clear that the real problem is the illegal orders they were given, and those ordered must be revoked before they claim more lives.
Gilad Grossman is the spokesman of Yesh Din, one of the organizations that petitioned that High Court of Justice against the rules of engagement on the Israel-Gaza border.