Tomorrow, once again, Gaza demonstrators and Israel Defense Forces soldiers will face each other at the border fence. What happened last Friday must not be allowed to repeat itself tomorrow. A week ago the IDF opened fire on hundreds of unarmed demonstrators, who weren’t endangering anyone’s life, killing 18 and wounded hundreds.
Video footage showed demonstrators being shot in the back, one being shot after raising his hands and another being shot as he rose from prayer. Almost the entire political system backed the army and even encouraged it. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said this week, once again, that anyone who approaches the border fence puts their life in danger. This attitude is inhuman, immoral and illegal.
The IDF is supposed to defend Israel’s sovereignty and keep its residents safe. It has neither authority nor permission to fire at unarmed demonstrators, who are not crossing the border fence. Even the affiliation of some of the demonstrators to Hamas or other organizations does not grant the IDF permission to kill them, as long as they’re not armed and are not a threat.
The army has sufficient non-lethal means to stop the demonstrators from crossing the fence, without killing or wounding them through gunfire. Last Friday, for some reason the army refrained from using those non-lethal means and instead resorted to sniper fire to wage war on the protesters.
The IDF is expected to learn the lessons from last Friday’s failure – 18 demonstrators killed and hundreds more wounded is definitely a failure – and take a different approach. Most of those standing across from the army on the other side of the fence are neither soldiers nor terrorists. They are civilians who decided to wage an essentially non-violent struggle for their freedom. It’s their right. The IDF must do its duty, but suppressing this protest is not part of it.
The army’s test tomorrow will be in the number of casualties, which must be kept to the very minimum. Even under a nationalist, rightist government, which doesn’t see the Palestinians as equal human beings, the IDF must act with humanity and adhere to international law. Another mass killing of demonstrators tomorrow would not only be immoral, it could also spark a violent, bloody confrontation in Gaza and the rest of the occupied territories. Such a conflict would contribute nothing to anyone. The army must do everything to prevent it.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.