Story

War Crimes

The hardest thing about working here is the realization that Israel's violence against Gaza was exactly that: violence against Gaza, not violence against Hamas.  I've talked to scores of Fatah supporters and non-political farmers who had no connection to Hamas, and whose neighbors had no connection to Hamas, and yet their villages and apartment buildings were targeted nonetheless.  I talked to an eighty year-old tomato farmer whose farm was torn to shreds by Israeli tanks, whose irrigation tubes were pulled out of the ground and severed by ground troops, for no reason whatsoever.  His farm was in the middle of a flat stretch of land between Beit Lahia and Gaza City — there we no trees that could've hidden Hamas fighters, nothing to block the sight-line of tank gunners.  Nothing threatening on his land at all, except the presence of a Palestinian life that in itself must have been so offensive to the men who came here under arms, from only a mile away, that they could not stand to let it live.

Another difficult thing is that I am a former soldier and an American, and as a soldier I heard constant references to the Israel Defense Forces, about how well-trained they were and how they share our values, how they are our best friend and best representative in the Middle East.  I never believed that Israel shared our values, democratically or otherwise, because the record of the past sixty years speaks for itself, but I never suspected that these disciplined troops would be allowed to inflict such horrendous damage on the civilian population, especially not in the 21st century.  I can imagine without difficulty that a young soldier, high on adrenaline and filled with generations worth of anti-Arab hostility, might take it upon himself to scrawl graffiti on a Palestinian home, or to curse at or even beat an innocent civilian, but what I am struggling to understand is how that soldier's officers could let him get away with it.  And, of course, it disturbs me even more to consider the fact that it was the officers themselves who condoned and probably ordered such acts.  The foreign media was kept leagues away from the Israeli military's operations in Gaza for a reason — Israel did not want foreign eyes to see their medieval destruction of this place.  Foreign reporters are respected as objective and unbiased, no matter how biased and disrespectful that conclusion is to the journalists who live here and risked their lives to cover the story from the inside.And how to come to grips with the fact that American arms and American dollars were used to accomplish this nightmare?How to come to grips with the fact that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — who are supposed to promise a departure from the Bush administration — have embraced Olmert, Barak, and Livni, and repeatedly renewed their deep partnership with Israel?  Repeatedly emphasized that Israel "shares our values?"  If Israel shares our values, and this war on Gaza is evidence of those values, then American values are in need of serious reform.  I fear that — like the P.A. under Mahmoud Abbas — American values, as they are exported to this part of the world, are worthless, and even dangerous.Where now America?