Confronting Israel's and the West's narratives on the 'Human shield' argument

Alain Gresh writes for Le Monde Diplomatique. I am translating here from one of his latest posts about the killing of Palestinian children by the Israeli army, confronting brilliantly different narratives on the subject.

‘’History is repeating itself in Gaza. While the Israeli army is continuing its killing offensive amid the indifference of European countries and the open consent of Washington, a debate, opened in the first months after the second Intifada about the use of children and women as ‘Human shields’ by Palestinian combatants, is reemerging There is however a difference between 2000 and 2006; Western media are more inclined today to accept the term of ‘Human shield’ used by Israeli authorities. Little by little, the Israeli version of the conflict is gaining momentum in western media.’’

Alain Gresh reminds the reader here of something he wrote back in 2001 in his book 'Israël-Palestine, vérités sur un conflit (Hachette, 2001) about the subject of ‘Human shields’.

Alain Gresh starts by citing a passage from a text written by notorious French Zionist Bernard-Henri Lévy (BHL) in October 2000 in Le Point. By this passage Lévy tries to justify the use of force by the Israeli army on Palestinian children by adopting the ‘Human shield’ narrative. Gresh replaces the reference to Palestinian children in BHL’s text by the reference to a similar event that took place in Soweto in 1976 and judiciously asks the question whether the author of the text would not have been discredited if he would have written his text in the wake of the Soweto uprising in the following form ?

‘’Is it quibbling to ask from where these children come ? Who posted them in the line of fire ? Which sinister strategy of the martyr is at work here ? Is it mistaken to suggest that the senseless brutality of the South-African army, the debauchery and the disproportionate force, were a response to what can be considered as a declaration of war made by the Black people ? ‘’

Gresh asks then: At the start of the second Intifada and only during the first weeks, tens of children less than 18 years old died. BHL asks what they were doing in the line of fire ? Would he have asked the same question if the victims were Bosnians or Tchetchens ?

However, writes Gresh, few weeks later, BHL seemed to correct his ‘Human shield’ perception of Palestinian children death, after a trip to Palestine. BHL writes emotively: ‘’This is an argument (the human shield argument) I will not use anymore, after having heard Palestinian mothers tell me the angst they felt at the end of the day when they expected a little bit longer their children at home, as would every other mother in the world.

Note here that BHL had to make the travel to Palestine to realise that Palestinian mothers were like other mothers he knows and were not actually your kind of monster jihadi mother who sacrify their children to defend the cause, gather sympathy or whatever other dark intention that may lie behind the 'mysterious' death of children at the hands of israeli soldiers.

At that time, there was another controversy in France about Muhammad el-Durra, the first Palestinian child to die in the second Intifada and whose death was filmed by France 2 TV Cameraman and commented by France 2 Charles Enderlin as resulting from intentional Israeli army fire. Media-ratings and its president disputed the video as staged and Enderlin’s report as false. Enderlin sued in a Parisian court for diffamation and won. What BHL had to say about the incident in Nov. 2000 (Le Point) was however partial since he claimed that Al-Durra was killed incidently and not on intent and mocked Enderlin’s version in the most pernicious way stating that Al-Durra was not killed by a ‘child killer Jewish soldier’ (BHL’s words). BHL was ready to recognise that Palestinian mothers were like other mothers but not ready to accept that Israeli soldiers were killing children. Gresh will however prove at the end that indeed Israeli soldiers have orders to kill from 12 year old and up.

Gresh goes back in history around the ‘Human shield’ argument. It is November 1945 in Tel Aviv. There is a protest going on, riots and violent confrontations. At the end of the day, nine people are dead and 44 are seriously wounded. Among the wounded, there are 18 children with an age range between 8 and 16, 14 others are between 16 and 20 years old. The press accuse the parents in the protest of using their children as ‘Human shield’. The protesters were Jews asking for an ease in British immigration policy. The news journal of the central Jewish union Histadrout publishes the day after a cartoon that will prompt English authorities to close it for one week. The cartoon shows a doctor attending to wounded children, The caption says: ‘’Good shooters these English, they can even spot small targets like these ones.’’

Gresh writes that this episode was mentioned by Charles Enderlin in his reporting on Al-Durra. What would have BHL said about the children wounded in the 1945 Jewish protest ? What BHL means by stating that Al-Durra was killed by a stray bullet ? And what BHL means by using the expression ‘child killer Jewish soldier’ to mock those who accuse the Israeli Defense Forces of killing children ? Does he mean to attribute to anyone who disagrees on this, charges of anti-semitisme and old anti-semitic beliefs like the one that had currency in Europe at a time when anti-semitism was rampant that ‘Jews drink children’s blood’ ? If ‘our philosopher’ have simply read the Israeli news, he could have realised that indeed Israeli soldiers kill deliberately and intentionally Palestinians including children writes Gresh.

Gresh reminds us that Israeli journalist Amira Hass has published a senseless dialogue with an Israeli army elite shooter in which the soldier states: ‘’ We are ordered not to kill children under 12, above 12 it is O.K. to kill’’. Israeli Human rights organisation Betselem showed, by studying documents provided by the Israeli army, that three times out of four, Palestinian civilian deaths and serious injuries during incidents with the Israeli army between September and November 15, 2000, took place in the absence of Palestinian combatants (International Herald Tribune, 14 décembre 2000).

The press also mentioned numerous cases where Palestinian children were intentionally killed while the Israeli soldiers' lives were not in danger. The refusal of the army to open inquiries into these deaths did actually encourage the practice of gratuitous killings during the second Intifada.

According to Amira Hass, in June 2002, 116 Palestinian children have already been killed in Gaza and 253 in the West Bank. Another Israeli journalist, Joseph Algazy, working for Haaretz, revealed the nightmares of many Palestinian children beaten and tortured in Israeli prisons.

Read here my article on the Israeli allegations of Palestinian use of children in the conflict with Israel.

Read here an ironic post by Behemoth on how Israel is blurring the line netween civil life and soldiering in its own way.

Also, 9 children among the 19 casualties of yet another israeli 'incursion' in Beit Hanoun made after israel announced its withdrawal from there. 13 members of these 19 belonged to a same family..


Behemoth101 said...

This one is too easy

Sophia said...


The link is now at the end of the post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You poor fool. I pity you.

Since March 29th 2006