With every day that passes Israel further establishes itself as one of the world's leading violators of human rights. To its British and American allies this may be seen as a gross overstatement; after all there are plenty of despotic, third world countries that arguably have worse human rights records. The question is – how many of them model themselves as democratic, advanced, first world, nuclear allies?
The cold, hard facts of Israel's ever worsening track record are well documented by human rights organisations and the UN, and they speak for themselves.
ABUSES OF PALESTINIAN RIGHTS
Palestinian lives seem to be accorded little, if any, value by the Israeli authorities. Countless human rights reports and investigations have verified the fact that Palestinian children are arrested and abused in Israeli jails; frail and elderly Palestinian men and women are beaten without cause; Palestinian mothers are attacked on the streets; Palestinian men are tortured and executed, family homes are demolished; illegal sieges are imposed as a result of which Palestinian children have died due to restricted access to lifesaving medical treatment and so on… and nothing is done to stop it.
The international community has a moral and legal obligation to intervene, yet we have failed to do so.
This sad state of affairs has been going on for decades now and is only getting worse. However, it is not only Palestinian lives that are being targeted. Anyone who demonstrates any inclination towards supporting the Palestinian people by standing up for human rights is, by mere association, also being targeted. Thus, international solidarity and humanitarian activists working in the occupied territories have become "legitimate" targets of Israeli hostility and violence, regardless of where in the world they come from.
ATTACKS ON SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS
The Palestinian territories attracts large numbers of solidarity activists, due to the nature of the suffering the Palestinians are undergoing and the strong feeling of injustice this has generated amongst millions at the grass roots level globally.
Thus, there are a lot of potential targets for nervy, jumpy or seasoned Occupation force soldiers.
Rachel Corrie (2003)
The most well known death is probably twenty three year old American peace activist Rachel Corrie. Having taken a year off from college, Rachel travelled to Gaza in 2003 where she was working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) which is a Palestinian-led organisation "committed to resisting the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian land using non-violent, direct-action methods and principles."
She was protesting against the forcible and illegal demolition of a local Palestinian doctor's family home and stood in the way to block the path of the American made Caterpillar bulldozer. Rachel was wearing a bright fluorescent jacket and had a loud speaker in her hands which she was using to shout out to the bulldozer driver to stop.
Instead of stopping, the Israeli soldier ran her over before reversing back over her fallen, crushed body. Rachel's parents have made it very clear that the Israeli investigation into her death was a complete whitewash and they are still fighting for someone to be held accountable for their daughter's murder.
Tom Hurndall (2004)
Twenty one year old British photography and journalism student Tom Hurndall was killed in 2004. Tom was also an ISM volunteer in Gaza, who was bravely and desperately trying to carry Palestinian children to safety after Israeli troops opened fire. He was shot in the head by an Israeli sniper.
After a two hour delay in getting him to hospital, Tom went into a coma from which he never woke up. Nine months later, he died. Although the sniper, Taysir Hayb (a Bedouin Arab in the Israeli army) was prosecuted, there was no accountability for the upper echelons of the Israeli hierarchy who had apparently allowed a shoot to kill policy of civilians to exist. Tom's father made the comment that "we're concerned that there is a policy… amongst the Israeli soldiers and army, that they feel able to shoot civilians really without any accountability whatsoever." In July 2010, news emerged that Hayb was to be released from prison 2 years early, and would be free by August 2010.
Tom's journals were released by his family after his death, and he had written: "I want to be proud of myself. I want more. I want to look up to myself and when I die, I want to smile because of the things I have done, not cry for the things I haven't done."
Tristan Anderson (2009)
Of those who survived Israeli attacks, many were left permanently disfigured or injured. California born Tristan Anderson was shot in the head by Israeli forces in 2009 with a tear gas canister and sustained permanent brain injury.
Emily Henochowicz (2010)
In one shocking case last month, twenty one year old American student, Emily Henochowicz, had her eye removed after she was shot in the face by an Israeli soldier as she protested against the flotilla attack.
The Freedom Flotilla Massacre (2010)
On May 31st 2010, the world watched in utter disbelief as live video transmissions showed the Mavi Marmara, the main passenger boat in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, being attacked by Israeli forces. According to reports, 4 Israeli warships, 3 helicopters, 2 submarines and 30 zodiac boats surrounded the flotilla in the early hours of the morning.
With the use of such large numbers of army personnel and equipment, there could be little doubt that there would be fatalities.
Nine international humanitarian workers were killed as a result of Israel's illegal attack on the ship. Of the nine killed, collectively they all suffered 31 gunshot wounds.
The Nine Victims from the Flotilla
- Vahri Yildiz, aged 43. He was a fireman and married with four children. He was shot five times.
- Farrakhan Dogan, aged 19. Farrakhan held dual Turkish-US citizenship. He was a student who wanted to become a doctor. He was shot five times at close range, in the right side of his nose, in the back of the head, in the back and twice in the left leg.
- Cengiz Okez, aged 41. He was a father of three. Cengiz was shot four times, in the back of the head, the right side of his face, his back, and in his left leg.
- Cengiz Sunqur, aged 47. He was married with seven children. He was shot in the neck.
- Necdet Yidirim, aged 32. He was married with a three year old daughter. He was shot in the right shoulder and the back.
- Cetin Topkoogelo, aged 54. He was married and his wife was on board the MV Marmara with him. He was shot three times, once in the back of his head, once in his hip and once in his belly.
- Kovdit Kililar, aged 38. He was married with two chidren. He was shot by a single bullet between the eyes when we tried to take photographs of the Israeli attack.
- Ali Heyder Bengi, aged 29. He was married with 4 children. Ali was shot six times.
- Ibrahim Bilgen, aged 61. Ibrahim was a distinguished Turkish politician and was married with six children. He was shot four times, in the right temple, in the right side of his chest, in the back and once in the hip.
While Israel continues to try to excuse itself for these deaths, and refuses to apologise to Turkey or pay compensation to the families of those killed, we see a recurring pattern of behaviour.
Israel is showing the world that it is above the law. Israel refuses to be challenged for anything it does, on pain of death. Israel considers itself to be beyond impunity and experience has taught it that it can attack, maim, kill, imprison and torture civilians and it will not be held to account.
Israel's impunity is the collective fault of the nations of the world who have allowed this state of affairs to prevail and who are now allowing it to happen yet again. Had any other country in the world dared to attack a boat with British and American civilians on board in this way, we would probably be at war with them right now.
ISRAELI VIOLENCE AGAINST MEDIA PERSONNEL
It is not just humanitarians and peace activists that are under attack. Even those who try to objectively report the facts on the ground become targets themselves. Journalists, for instance, have often found themselves at the end of Israeli guns. There appears to be a deliberate and systematic targeting of media personnel who are reporting on aspects of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. During the Second Intifada, Reporters Without Borders stated that approximately 40 journalists had been shot by Israeli forces using live or rubber bullets.
In some cases, despite being clearly identifiable as press, wearing flak jackets with the word PRESS emblazoned across their chests and even being in the process of live reporting, journalists have been attacked. Israeli soldiers have opened fire on journalists and targeted them with tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, live ammunition and a host of other weaponry.
In March 2010 alone, a minimum of eight journalists were shot by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Organisations such as Reporters Without Borders have called for an end of this type of Israeli criminality and disregard for international norms and standards of behaviour.
In a report published on 1st April 2010, Reporters without borders released a statement in which they said that their organisation "deplores the frequency of press freedom violations by the Israel Defence Forces, which routinely fire on Palestinian journalists."
"The incidents continue with complete impunity." Reporters Without Borders further said, "The IDF soldiers involved are rarely punished and, less still, disowned by the superiors, who endorse the use of violence against media personnel. It is time this stopped."
Journalists and cameramen have also reported being accosted, threatened, beaten, strip-searched, detained at checkpoints and arrested.
James Miller (2003)
Those killed include British cameraman and award winning producer and director James Miller, who was shot in the neck and killed while filming a documentary in Rafah. James was with a colleague waving a white flag when he was targeted. Only one shot was fired by Israeli soldier Captain Hib al-Heib, and it hit James in the neck. The documentary he was working on was about Palestinian children.
The Israeli investigation into the shooting absolved the soldier of responsibility, as expected.
Raffaele Ciriello (2003)
Italian journalist Raffaele Ciriello, a freelance photojournalist working for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, was shot in the chest six times by an Israeli tank-mounted machine gun in Ramallah.
Raffaele was a veteran journalist and had covered stories in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Following his death, the International Press Institute said the shooting seemed to be "part of a concerted strategy by the Israeli army to control reports on the recent surge in armed hostilities in the region."
For both of these journalists, and many more besides, Israeli 'investigations' have usually cleared the soldiers of any responsibility, by whitewashing their crime. This impunity will only continue if the international community allows it to.
Source: Aqsa News
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.