Lies accompanied by bullets

By Amira Hass

GAZA CITY - For the past ten days, the Israeli public has been
preoccupied with its feelings that it is being attacked, besieged,
victimized and humiliated.The spokespersons of the Israel Defense
Forces and the Israel Police, as well as high-ranking military and
police commanders, have been busy gathering information from every
district and every local battlefront and have been quickly passing on
this information, reflecting their respective angles, to the media.
Because things are happening so fast, there is not time to compare
every official version with the version on the street on the day that it is
presented. The official version is always more readily available, is
always given considerable prominence and always promotes the
victim mentality. Here are a few examples:

l On October 6, the IDF spokesman reported that soldiers stationed
at the Netzarim outpost fired twice at Palestinians, in response to
Palestinian gunfire and the hurling of a natural gas cylinder at the
outpost. According to the spokesman, IDF personnel acted with
self-control and self-restraint. Yet that same day, four Palestinians
were killed and 24 wounded. Can this kind of behavior on the part of
the IDF be termed "self-control and self-restraint"? 

I was there. The IDF spokesman failed to report the dozens of
isolated shots and volleys of fire from the Jewish settlement of
Netzarim (located two kilometers due west of the outpost). Like all
Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, Netzarim is fortified by means of
extremely sophisticated watchtowers. From those watchtowers, or
from some other location, IDF troops fired high-speed,
high-powered live bullets at thousands of unarmed persons. The
troops wanted to deter these people from approaching the
well-fortified outpost and protesting the Israeli occupation. In this
particular case, the IDF was not defending lives. The very incomplete
reporting by the IDF spokesman was intended to create the
impression that the incident involved a confrontation between two
almost equally matched armies.

l Israel Radio correspondent Nissim Keinan has reported several
times, based on information supplied by the commander of the
engineering corps unit in the Gaza Strip, that Palestinian ambulances
have been transporting tires and ammunition to the various
confrontation sites. In the northern part of the strip, there are only 20
ambulances, two of which have been hit by IDF bullets. Furthermore,
IDF troops have killed one Palestinian ambulance driver, Bassam

To convey "tires and ammunition," the Palestinians have no need for
ambulances. They can quite easily use private vehicles.
Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross can
be found at all the confrontation sites, and it is their job to supervise
the operation of the ambulances arriving at and departing from these
sites. The false information given by the IDF was an attempt to cover
up the scandalous attack by Israeli security forces on Palestinian
ambulance crews and to buttress the image of a Palestinian military
campaign initiated by the higher echelons of the Palestinian Authority.

l On October 7, I received a call from the Al-Arub refugee camp in
the Gaza Strip. The caller described how a 14-year-old boy, Ala
Mahpouz, had reached the state of clinical death. On October 6,
immediately after the weekly Friday mosque services, the residents of
the camp set off to take part in the local Palestinian "Day of Rage"
demonstration. The refugee camp, part of which is fenced off, is
situated in Area B, which is under full Israeli military control.

Refugee camp residents approached the fence and began hurling
rocks at the soldiers who were at the camp's entrance. Soldiers
started beating one young resident in close proximity to his home: He
required 19 head stitches. Mahpouz, who heard shouting and the
sound of someone being beaten, ran out to see what was going on. A
soldier standing nearby shot the boy with a "rubber bullet" from close
- and deadly - range. Afterward, refugee camp residents saw the
soldiers dancing and jumping up and down on the highway.

The IDF spokesman responded as follows: "Hundreds of residents of
Al-Arub rioted and attempted to obstruct vehicular traffic on the
highway linking Bethlehem and Hebron. IDF troops from the Etzion
Brigade pushed back the crowd, exercising maximum self-restraint
and using only standard demonstration- dispersal methods. The IDF
is not familiar with the incident referred to. Nonetheless, the brigade
will carry out an in-depth examination of the alleged incident once the
riots have subsided." 

This is the kind of news item that does not make it into the stream of
breaking news reports, but which could make some people begin to
ask some questions about the orders being given to IDF troops. Even
if we can assume that Ala was hurling rocks, was the soldier who
shot him in the forehead in "mortal danger"?

l The Israeli media has repeatedly reported the release of "dozens of
Hamas detainees." This news item has no basis in fact. A total of 17
detainees have been released. They had been held in custody without
trial for prolonged periods. The Palestinian High Court of Justice had
already ordered the release of some of them, after the Palestinian
security services were unable to supply evidence that they posed any
danger to anyone.

This false, inaccurate report was compiled to reinforce the image of
the Israelis as humiliated victims - an image that dissipates the
terrifying significance of 85 persons killed by IDF gunfire and another
3,000 wounded, many of whom suffered head and chest injuries. An
Israeli military commander on the West Bank has told me that IDF
personnel fire only at those who fire at them. Does that mean that all
3,000 of these injured persons fired shots at the IDF? Does that
mean that Mohammed al Duri, the 12-year-old boy killed at the
Netzarim Junction, fired shots at the IDF?

The Oslo process has imprisoned the Palestinians in dozens of cages,
both large and small, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It has
reinforced the Jewish settlements in both military and numerical terms,
and has made the economic development of the Palestinians
dependent on the PA's agreement to the creation of a new breed of
Israeli control. The victims of Israel's seven-year policies of closure
and incarceration are now committing suicide opposite IDF outposts
and Israeli soldiers charged with the task of safeguarding prosperous
Jewish settlements. 

The IDF is continuing to seek those who have planned the
disturbances. Sometimes the planner is PA Chairman Yasser Arafat,
sometimes the title is assigned to Marwan Barghouti, a
Ramallah-based Fatah leader. Meanwhile, Oslo supporters are falling
for the bait, because they have, for years, collaborated with the
intolerable reality of a peace that exists only for Palestinian VIPs.