Saturday, August 23, 2008

Heathlander: Israel Gets License to Kill With Impunity

In spite of much-touted free speech in the blogosphere, it is still rare to find an eloquent advocate for human rights in that most unstable of border/nation disputes, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Heathlander is right at the top of those, in my view, and has brought up a critical issue: Israel's "free hand to kill" journalists, Palestinians, protesters, and other civilians who dislike its policies.

As you may recall, the brains heading up the British Israel Communications and Research Centre claimed in a recent(ish) letter to the Guardian that the death of Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana (pictured) was “accidental” (see my response here). Shana was killed by Israeli forces in Gaza earlier this year when a tank crew fired two shells at him as he was filming from a mile away. Eight other civilians aged between 12 and 20, including six children under 16, were also killed in the attack.

An Israeli military inquiry this week reached the same conclusion, exonerating the soldiers responsible on the grounds that they had “reasonably” mistaken Shana’s camera for a mortar or anti-tank weapon. As excuses go this is nearly as risible as Israel’s claim that Mohammed Omer, a Palestinian journalist who suffered a complete nervous breakdown and several broken ribs after being beaten and tortured by Israeli agents, merely “lost his balance and fell“.

So we're talking about a pattern of behavior, and a pattern of covering up that behavior. There is definitely an almost unwritten code with the mainstream media that Israel is off-limits: nole mi tangere. This unwritten code, translated into something of a phobia, almost a knee-jerk refusal to question Israel's actions, has led to Israel's upping the ante, continuing a policy of Security Sanctions All.

Reuters condemned the decision as “effectively giving soldiers a free hand to kill”, thereby “severely curtail[ing] the freedom of the media to cover the conflict.”

Also noted,

The effect of the ruling, Amnesty concluded, will be to “reinforce the culture of impunity that has led to so many reckless and disproportionate killings of children and other unarmed civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza.”


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