Terrorism by Any Other Name

The moment the IDF sends tanks into a densely crowded refugee camp it puts all the inhabitants at risk. The test of intention - the terrorists intend to kill civilians, whereas the IDF does not - is irrelevant.

Terrorism begets terrorism - there is no other way to describe the violent relations that have developed between us and the Palestinians. There is no need to elaborate on the cruelty of their terrorist attacks, certainly not for the Israeli reader, and even less so after last week's horrific suicide bombing in Haifa. Murderers of children are murderers of children, without any ifs or buts. The debate is over our attacks, which we are trying to conceal by definitions that soften them and with tortuous accounts and excuses offered by the Israel Defense Forces, which do not always meet the test of truth or reasonability.

Did an IDF tank fire a shell at a burning carpentry shop last Thursday morning in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, killing seven civilians? Lieutenant Colonel Dotan, commander of an armored battalion, says no: "This is something they have to answer ... We do not fire shells at stores ... I don't know if it is their store ...."

As the accounts offered by IDF officers proliferated, the picture became increasingly foggy. Dotan admitted that his troops fired two shells, but not at the carpentry shop, and added that they did not kill the civilians. The images that were screened on television created the impression that the civilians were killed by a shell.

One version in the face of another - but does it really matter?

The moment the IDF sends tanks into a densely crowded refugee camp it puts all the inhabitants at risk. The moment the tanks open fire, innocent people are bound to be hurt. Tanks in Jabalya cannot fire shells without killing women and children, just as it was impossible to drop a one-ton bomb on the house of Salah Shehadeh in Gaza without killing 15 civilians, mostly children. Thus, anyone who decides to send tanks into Jabalya is making a decision to kill civilians.

The test of intention - the terrorists intend to kill civilians, whereas the IDF does not - is irrelevant. The Armored Corps soldiers who fired shells in Jabalya may not have intended to kill civilians, but they and their commanders killed civilians. They therefore bear the responsibility for the killing. An operation to kidnap a wanted individual from Hamas in the heart of Jabalya - a "surgical operation" in the spit-and-polish language of the divisional commander, Brigadier General Gadi Shamni - that ends, as could be expected, in a dozen Palestinians killed, most of them civilians, and large-scale destruction, is an act of terrorism.

Did the IDF also kill Noha al Makadama, who was nine months pregnant? Brigadier General Shamni said that "no substantiation was found" for this, and the defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, said "the IDF has no knowledge" of the case. What "substantiation" did the IDF think it could get outside the testimony of the family members? And does it really matter? Makadama was killed in her home while she was there with her 11 children while the IDF demolished the adjacent building, causing the destruction of her house as well. Anyone who blows up a building next to a building in which there are a pregnant woman and 11 children without warning them, is responsible for their fate. Killing a pregnant woman under these circumstances (two boys, aged 13 and 16, were also killed in the same incident) is a terrorist attack against innocent people.

Instead of insensitively disassociating themselves from the brutal killing of a pregnant woman, the defense minister and the divisional commander should have condemned the act, as they demand the Palestinian Authority do after every terrorist attack against Israelis, or at least apologized. But expressing regret? Us? After the killing of more than 2,000 Palestinians, many of them innocent civilians, no Israeli condemnation has yet been heard. Everything we do in the territories, even if it involves killing and destruction on a horrific scale, obtains immediate automatic backing and justification. It is all done in self-defense and as part of the war against terrorism.

However, with such data of killing and destruction, this version of events is no longer acceptable.

Israel's efforts at obfuscation are intended above all to keep our conscience clean. This is false posturing that can no longer be countenanced. When the IDF demolished a mosque on the "Philadelphi" route on the outskirts of Rafah and immediately claimed that the building had been abandoned, no one asked why the mosque had been abandoned. Here is the real sequence of events: first the Gaza Strip is occupied, then settlements are established in it, then guarded roads are built to protect the settlers. In the next stage, after the Palestinians begin to rebel violently against the occupation, we begin killing them until they are forced to abandon the mosque and indeed the entire area. Finally the "abandoned" mosque is demolished. But to us it seems that only the Palestinians destroy holy places, such as Joseph's Tomb. Our conscience is pure and unblemished, always.