Article Op-Ed

Fact-Finding: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Fact-Finding: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Author Kareem Al-Mulki by

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“We can not fight for our rights and our history as well as future until we are armed with weapons of criticism and dedicated consciousness.” -Edward W. Said

Over the past two weeks, my Facebook newsfeed has become a war within a war. Jewish friends (whom I hold in the utmost regard) post attacks on Hamas, labeling them as terrorists, murders and accusing them of such atrocious actions as “human shielding.” In return, Muslims accuse Israel of targeting civilian innocents and collective punishment, both of which violate international law.

In a conflict like that of Israel-Palestine, I believe turning to third party investigations in order mediate the actual events of the conflict is imperative as both sides have a tendency to make false assertions. It’s easy to make an unsubstantiated claim; however, proving that claim with warranted facts is difficult. Deference to published third party investigations can illuminate many of the misconceptions surrounding Israel’s regular excursions into Gaza. Although Hamas’ actions are in no way entirely innocent, Israel’s reputation for blatant misrepresentation, deceit and violence is particularly deplorable as verified by independent third party investigations such as that of Amnesty International.

Take for example the repeated Israeli claim that Hamas utilizes civilians as “human shields,” which contributes to the high civilian death toll of Israeli air strikes. Following the 2008 Israeli excursion into Gaza, Amnesty International published an investigation entitled “22 Days of Death and Destruction” which refutes the human shielding claim as well a number of other false Israeli allegations. Chapter 4 of Amnesty’s report states that Amnesty “found no evidence that Hamas or other fighters directed the movement of civilians to shield military objectives from attack.” Moreover, none of the civilian homes or infrastructure struck by the Israeli military were being utilized by armed groups for military purposes. The over 1,100 Palestinian deaths that occurred in the 2008 excursion “could not be explained from the presence of fighters shielding among civilians, as the Israeli Army generally contends.” Amnesty has repeatedly requested Israeli authorities to substantiate their claims; however, Amnesty has yet to receive a response.

Quite the contrary, Chapter 2 details substantial evidence convicting Israeli military personnel (not Hamas) for utilizing Palestinian civilians as human shields. According to numerous testimonies, such as that of Akram Abed Rabbo, Israeli soldiers forced unarmed civilian Palestinian men to walk in front of Israeli soldiers for protection, search buildings for booby traps and gunmen and inspect potential explosive objects. Moreover, Israeli soldiers utilized civilian homes as vantage points and sniper positions while families were still in the home. If civilians are being utilized as human shields, it is clearly not Hamas operatives standing behind these shields.

Further evidence from Amnesty reveals the extremely harsh treatment of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers. As’ad Ali al-Sammouni of the Al-Zaytouni district of Gaza City narrates an account of Israeli soldiers storming into his home, blindfolding him and the 45 members of his family, imprisoning them in the basement of his home with little food and no water for one and a half days and lastly shooting his nephew in the leg after the family had been set free. The example of al-Sammouni is merely a glimpse of the inhumane actions executed by Israeli forces. The Amnesty report details numerous other first-hand accounts of Palestinian civilian abuse and fabricated Israeli claims.

Other than human shielding, a second example of false Israeli discourse is addressed in Chapter 3, which details how Israel seems to have indiscriminately targeted vital civilian infrastructure. Israel repeatedly makes the claim that it solely targets Hamas’ militant infrastructure. However, among the buildings destroyed in 2008 were the Khuzundar Electrical Factory, the chicken farm of Al-Zaytoun district, a cement plant and the only flour mill in Gaza. Furthermore, 600 to 700 factories and businesses were demolished by Israeli airstrikes, among which was the largest and oldest food factory in Gaza. Amnesty finds that these were entirely private businesses necessary for the economic salvation of the Gaza strip and not Hamas infrastructure as Israel claims.

Of course, Amnesty also explores the consequences of Hamas’ rocket fire into southern Israel. Chapter 4 reports that the Hamas’ Qassam rockets cannot be aimed and therefore target civilian and military targets indiscriminately, which is a violation of international law. Several families whose homes were struck by one of the 571 rockets or 205 mortar shells fired into Israel were interviewed. The Berdichev family claims to have suffered immense psychological damage from the attack, in addition to losing their home and possessions. In total, three Israeli civilians were killed by rockets during the 2008 Israeli excursion into Gaza. The rocket attacks by Hamas are surely condemnable. However, from the entirety of Amnesty’s report, it seems as though these rocket attacks are trivial when compared to the brutality of the Israeli military.

If you refuse to take Amnesty International’s 107-page investigation at its word, then Human Rights Watch and the UN’s Goldstone Report will both verify the aforementioned claims of Israeli violence described in “22 Days of Death and Destruction” I encourage everyone to review these independent reports personally in order to make an educated and unbiased judgment based on facts. Please stop posting videos and articles from the IDF, Israel Video Network or any other Israeli government sponsored website. Fictitious and unsubstantiated claims serve no purpose except to reinforce divides and divert us from a viable two-state or one-state solution. We can carry on believing the false rhetoric of the Israeli government, or we can inform ourselves of the facts via third party reports and confront the injustice of the Israeli military head-on.

Link To Amnesty International’s “22 Days of Death and Destruction:”

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