Justice for journalists
But Israel must also be held to account for the deaths of innocent Palestinians.
By Ewa Jasiewicz
From The Guardian
The verdicts of intentional killing and murder over the deaths of journalists Tom Hurndall and James Miller are small victories; but what about the unaddressed and unresolved killings of hundreds of Palestinian civilians?
Activists within the International Solidarity Movement have in the past relied upon the racism of the Israeli state to keep themselves untargeted. White faces were waved through checkpoints and white western activists were able to halt tanks temporarily, monitor house searches and arrests, and check on prisoners during refugee camp round-ups, visit families who had had their homes turned into military bases, and accompany and facilitate the movement of Palestinian ambulances. We could move amidst stone- and Molotov-throwing youths, as observers and hopefully as deterrents to the by turns indiscriminate and targeted shooting by Israeli soldiers.
Uncomfortable and possibly selfperpetuating as it was, white supremacy was our weapon, shielded with the myth of Israeli democracy on the one hand, and the professionalism and humanitarianism of the Israeli Defence Forces on the other. They wouldn’t kill a westerner, not a peace activist, not a journalist; the bad PR would be devastating.
Enter the Iraq war. With global media attention fixated on the heavily propagandised but never materialised shock and awe attack on Iraq and the unfolding nightmare of America’s first direct occupation of a Muslim country, Israel was once again pushing the limits of international law on two fronts. The first was the construction of the Separation Barrier, AKA the Apartheid Wall, accompanied by hundreds of home demolitions, land confiscations and the ghettoisation of entire villages; and the second was the alleged targeting of western activists, long regarded as an increasingly emboldened interference in the military operations of the Israeli army.
Within six weeks, three International Solidarity Movement activists were attacked. The death of Rachel Corrie, who was wearing a fluorescent orange jacket when she was bulldozed to death, was followed by the shooting in the head of Tom Hurndall, also easily identifiable in fluorescent orange.
And then there was Brian Avery, 24, who narrowly escaped death when Israeli soldiers fired a 50 calibre bullet into his face. He too was wearing a high-visibility vest, and was standing in the middle of a crossroads in Jenin town centre along with four other Western activists with their hands raised in the air. I was one of them, and I witnessed the armoured personnel carrier stop before us, slow down, undoubtedly see us, and open fire.
So far Brian’s case has not been granted a criminal investigation despite a Supreme Court challenge to the initial military investigation last February. So far he has had no compensation for his injuries.
Another case left in legal limbo is that of 13-year-old Baha al Bahesh, gunned down by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank city of Nablus in September 2002. If western citizenship can afford the victim media attention, then a white witness, or three in the case of Baha, can carry the same weight.
I was one of those witnesses. I wrote about it, and spoke about it on Israeli television, independent radio, BBC radio and to the international press; but his killer has yet to be brought to justice. There has been no public inquiry, no trial and no independent investigation.
The IDF military investigation found, six months after Baha’s death and burial, that the boy was in fact still alive. Why? Because allegedly no death certificate had been presented to the IDF. This was the final insult to a family devastated by their son’s death.
The judicial process afforded Tom Hurndall and James Miller’s families needs to be applied to the thousands of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces. The fact that the rule of international law does not appear to cover Palestinian lives means the Israeli army can act with impunity and unaccountability.
Racism has long been a driving force within the conflict in historical Palestine, both in terms of creating the conditions for the Nakba in the first place; to underpinning the way human lives are valued, represented, remembered and lost.
The rule of international law will be rendered meaningless if it is not applied equally. We should never lose sight of the fact that it is not just internationals who get killed in this ongoing, tragic struggle.