The documented record still stands: Israel intentionally targets civilians and civilian infrastructure

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Judge Richard Goldstone’s mea culpa in the Washington Post today is indeed “confusing and potentially damaging,” as Adam Horowitz writes.

Key findings in the U.N. report–that “Israeli armed forces had carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians” in eleven incidents examined in detail and that Israel destroyed civilian infrastructure like the Sawafeary chicken farm in a systematic and deliberate fashion–is muddied up by Goldstone’s claim that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

Even granting the claim that the incidents his team investigated, now with the circumstances “explained” through Israeli military investigations, do not indicate that civilians were targeted, there is a documented history of Israel doing just that. And it wasn’t just during the Gaza assault.

The so-called “Dahiya doctrine” was used during the 2006 war on Lebanon. In a February 2009 report, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel explained:

In the beginning of October 2008, the Commanding Officer of the IDF’s Northern Command, Maj. General Gadi Eisenkott, gave an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, in which he unveiled what he called the “Dahiye Doctrine”: ‘What happened in the Dahiye Quarter of Beirut in 2006, will happen in every village from which shots are fired on Israel. We will use disproportionate force against it and we will cause immense damage and destruction. From our point of view these are not civilian villages but military bases.

This is not a recommendation, this is the plan, and it has already been authorized.’

According the Dahiye Doctrine, Israel will achieve deterrence not by attacking individual rocket launchers, but rather by using disproportionate force which will influence the behaviour of its opponents…

According to the doctrine, massive destruction is a necessary element for creating deterrence. The damage must be done not only to military installations, or explained by concrete military necessity, but must include civilian infrastructure so that reconstruction will be expensive and time consuming

This deliberate doctrine leads to the deaths of civilians and civilian infrastructure. The Lebanon war “resulted in at least 1,109 Lebanese deaths, the vast majority of whom were civilians, 4,399 injured, and an estimated 1 million displaced,” according to a Human Rights Watch report. Various other reports–this Human Rights Watch report, testimonies from Breaking the Silence and many others–document Israel’s policy of targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

In the Gaza Strip, civilians are routinely shot at and sometimes killed if they step into the so-called “buffer zone,” which constitutes some 35 percent of the Strip’s arable land. An October 2010 report by Defense of Children International states:

Between 26 March and 14 October 2010, DCI-Palestine documented 14 cases of children shot whilst collecting building gravel near the border fence between Gaza Strip and Israel. Due to a severe lack of job opportunities and a shortage of construction material entering Gaza from Israel, hundreds of men and boys scavenge for building gravel amongst the destroyed buildings close to the border fence. The gravel is collected into sacks, loaded onto donkey drawn carts and sold to builders for use in concrete. Children can earn up to 50 shekels (US $13) per day which is used to help support their families. Reports indicate that Israeli soldiers on duty in the observation towers which line the border between Gaza and Israel frequently fire warning shots to scare workers away from the border region. Reports also indicate that these soldiers sometimes shoot and kill the donkeys used by the workers, and also target the workers, usually, but not always, shooting at their legs. In the cases documented by DCI-Palestine, the children report being shot whilst working between 50 to 800 metres from the border fence.

A separate U.N. study on the “buffer zone” reports:

Since the end of the “Cast Lead” offensive in January 2009, the Israeli army has also killed a total of 22 civilians and injured another 146 in these circumstances.

The examples are endless, but what they make clear is that the Israeli persecution of Palestinians documented in the Goldstone report and numerous other sources was not confined to “Operation Cast Lead.” Goldstone’s “reconsideration” in the Post today doesn’t change the documented history.

Alex Kane, a freelance journalist and blogger, writes on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia in the U.S. at, where this post originally appeared.  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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