Thursday, July 16, 2009

Manal Tellawi on testimonies from Israeli soldiers

US Campaign supporter Manal Tellawi sent us the following update about testimonies from Israeli soldiers on the conduct of the Israeli military during the December-January attack on Gaza: Breaking the Silence, an organization which collects testimony on human rights abuses conducted by the IDF, has released testimony of soldiers admiting that the Israeli military used Palestinians as human shields during its latest offensive in the Gaza Strip. This news is significant in that it is further proof of the validity of the claims made by human rights groups such as Amnesty International that Israel engaged in the horrific practice. Haaretz published one soldier’s testimony: “At every home, the soldier said, if there were armed occupants, the house was besieged, with the goal of getting the militants out of the building alive. The soldier said he was present at several such operations. In an incident his commanders told him about, three armed militants were in a house. Attack helicopters were brought in. "They ... again sent the [Palestinian] neighbor in. At first he said that nothing had happened [to the armed men]," the soldier said. "Again they brought in attack helicopters and fired. They again sent in the neighbor. He said there were two dead and one still alive. They then brought in a bulldozer and began to knock the house down on him until [the neighbor] entered." The soldier said he had been told that the only militant remaining alive was captured and turned over to the Shin Bet security service.” Although the practice of using Palestinians as human shields was banned by Israel’s Supreme Court in 2005, it is apparent from the testimonies that it continues to be practiced by even the leading authorities of the army. However, despite the sobering testimonies, the Israeli government continues to refuse to investigate the conduct of Israeli soldiers in Operation Cast Lead. The use of human shields is illegal under international law and considered a war crime. While Amnesty International has accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, it has found no evidence that supports the claim that Hamas used Palestinian civilians as human shields. Amnesty International has called on the international community to impose an arms embargo on both Israel and Hamas. The UK most recently cut certain weapons contracts with the Israeli Defense Forces. It is now up to the US to do the same. Click here to sign up to organize a meeting with your Member of Congress in August to tell them to put pressure on the U.S. government to cut and condition military aid to Israel as long as it continues to be used to violate U.S. law, international law, and Palestinian human rights. You can also read Breaking the Silence co-founder Mikhael Manekin's explanation for why these testimonies are important at the Huffington Post, and watch some of the testimonies below (from The Guardian, courtesty of Palestine Video):