Israel washed itself clean of Gaza’s dead beach children
The IDF should have been the first to press for a true investigation of the death of three boys shelled on Gaza’s coast — instead it blamed Hamas, as if it had sent the boys to play on the beach.
By Gideon Levy | Haaretz | Jun. 15, 2015 |
This is an eye-witness description by The Guardian’s correspondent in Israel, Peter Beaumont, who was sitting that terrible afternoon on the terrace of the Al-Deira Hotel, regularly used by journalists, when the explosion occurred. “As the smoke from the explosion thinned, four figures could be seen running, ragged silhouettes, legs pumping furiously along the wall. Even from a distance of 200 metres, it was obvious that three of them were children. Jumping off the harbour wall, they turned on to the beach, attempting to cross the short distance to the safety of the Al-Deira Hotel, base for many of the journalists covering the Gaza conflict.
“They waved and shouted at the watching journalists as they passed a little collection of brightly coloured beach tents, used by bathers in peacetime. It was there that the second shell hit the beach, those firing apparently adjusting their fire to target the fleeing survivors. As it exploded, journalists standing by the terrace wall shouted: “They are only children.” In the space of 40 seconds, four boys who had been playing hide and seek among fishermen’s shacks on the wall were dead.”
They were 9– to 11–years–old. Ismail and Ahed, Zakariyah and Mohammed, all members of the Bakr family. Three others were seriously injured, two of them children. They were younger than the three yeshiva boys killed in the West Bank, for whom Israel attacked Gaza. They were four skinny children of fishermen, the beach boys of Gaza, wearing shorts, looking even younger than their years. At the funeral Zakariyah’s mother could not kiss his face; it was torn apart.
The spokesman of the most moral army in the world expressed his regret, while blaming Hamas, of course, for the killing of the children, for “cynical use of them” — Hamas, after all, had sent them to play on the beach. The pilot or the soldier who pressed the button — the firing was apparently from the air — is absolved of responsibility.
Five months went by and the Israel Defense Forces military advocate general ordered a criminal investigation launched. “There is a reasonable foundation to suspect that the attack was conducted not in accordance with the rules that bind IDF forces.” What are the rules? It’s hard to know now. What is clear is that they do not include this killing of children. Another six months went by and it turned out that the killing of the children on the beach was precisely, but precisely, according to the rules binding the IDF. It was so much according to the rules that no one is to be tried, not even by disciplinary hearing, not even for negligence, it was so proper. It was so proper that it makes one weep. That’s how IDF soldiers should act in the future, as well. In other words: Good for the IDF, good for the killers of those children, they acted just as they were required to. The pride of the people.
The IDF should have been the first to press for a true investigation, especially of this case, which reverberated throughout the world and damaged Israel much more than all the articles of the leftists. Israel should have held up the investigation like a banner, one that would prove that there was no need for The Hague or for another Goldstone Commission.
But it turns out that the IDF acted as it always does: Even this “investigation” led where all investigations of war crimes lead — to the garbage can and to foregone acquittals without trials of the killers of the children. The IDF cannot and does not want to investigate itself; it has no interest in its soldiers following the law, except in cases where a non-kosher sandwich is eaten on base or a soldier appears in uniform on a TV show. Israel, which has the means of identifying the color of the underwear of assassinated individuals, claims that the IDF did not realize that the figures on the beach were children.
Last week Israel celebrated another PR coup: Under pressure by the power that protects it, once again U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave in on including Israel on its blacklist of countries that methodically and continually harm children. Israel — harm children? No way. Not including the 500 children that it killed in Operation Protective Edge; and of course, not including the blood of Zakariyah, Ismail, Mohammed and Ahed, who were killed according to the rules and whose blood now once again cries out from the Gaza sand.
Originally published at www.haaretz.com.