Israel bombing of civilians must stop
November 9, 2006
Israel must take responsibility for its recent bombing that killed civilians.
When an Israeli artillery barrage landed on the heads of Palestinian civilians in Gaza early Nov. 8, killing 19 civilians and wounding 40, Isreali Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed condolences and said that Israel "did not set out to harm innocent civilians."
While people debate whether this is true, the answer is irrelevant.
Any party firing missiles, bullets and artillery barrages in populated areas cannot claim the moral high ground.
"Shells fired from cannons several kilometers away are known and expected to occasionally miss their target by a few hundred meters," points out the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. "For this reason, it is especially likely that such weapons will harm civilians when they are fired toward or near densely populated residential areas. Several such cases have occurred over the past year, and it was to be expected that they could recur."
Saying "I was trying not to hit them" would not be an acceptable defense in any reasonable person's eyes. We wouldn't accept that defense from an individual, and we cannot accept it from an accountable government that has the opportunity to plan out its actions.
The Palestinians are also to blame for firing missiles at Israeli towns. Although these missiles are largely ineffectual, this, too, must stop.
But Israel's use of brute force in Gaza is killing a disproportionate number of innocent Palestinians. And Israel is carrying out collective punishment, which is illegal under the Geneva Conventions.
It imposed a siege on Gaza all of this year, long before the Palestinians held an Israeli soldier captive. Gazans have severely limited access to electricity, water and medical care and face severe food shortages, and massive unemployment. As much as 80 percent of its population lives below the poverty line.
All of that suffering has done nothing to stop rockets or retrieve Israel's soldier.
The United States not only stands by while this happens, but it also continues to finance Israel's military -- despite a U.S. law stipulating that actions such as Israel's should bar them from receiving military aid.
As President Bush is rethinking his Iraq policy, he should do the same with U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians.
Stopping this mad violence and bringing about an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza would be a great place to start.
Allowing Israel to continue to kill civilians, whether it targets them specifically or not, will only mean more death and terror for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Mitchell Plitnick is director of Policy for Jewish Voice for Peace and Middle East issues columnist for Tikkun magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.