Israeli Army Stupidity – Al-Durra Case
Posted November 25, 2000 4:07:44 PM
Ha’aretz Editorial Board
Stupidity Marches On
The death of Mohammed al Dura, the 12-year-old boy who was caught with his father in cross fire between Palestinians and Israel Defense Forces soldiers at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip, was the event which epitomized the character of the conflict in the territories for many people: A confrontation between stone-throwing boys and armed soldiers who did not hesitate to use their weapons. In the course of these events, dozens of other boys have also been killed by IDF fire, and many have suffered head and chest wounds.
One can accuse the Palestinians of failing to stop children from taking part in violent incidents. One can also be indignant over the use of child fighters and of the exploitation of their injuries and deaths for propaganda purposes. However, the IDF must take action to stop killing a high number of young people. Israel should not accept the use of lethal fire when it is not for self-defense purposes.
The IDF, too, understands the impact on Israel’s image of the list of those killed in the conflict. This is apparently the basis for the inquiry which Southern Commander Major General Yom Tov Samia ordered into the death of Mohammed al Dura.
Anat Cygielman’s investigative report (Ha’aretz, November 7) reveals that the IDF has asked two civilians, physicist Nahum Shahaf and engineer Yosef Duriel, to try and reconstruct the incident. These people, who have volunteered their services, had their own preconceived ideas about the reason why al Dura was killed. In interviews to the media, Duriel contended that it was a premeditated incident staged by the Palestinians with the participation of the father, the television cameraman and Palestinian shooters. Shahaf admits that he shares Duriel’s view, but is convinced Duriel made “a tactical error” in talking to the media. Duriel has been duly removed from the investigative committee, but Shahaf, who continues to serve on the committee, has not bothered to consult ballistics experts. Nor has he depended on the testimony of the soldiers or of the television crew.
It is hard to describe in mild terms the stupidity of this bizarre investigation. The circumstances of al Dura’s death raise questions that definitely require a response. The IDF was quick to apologize at the time, without conducting an investigation as to whether the youth was killed by IDF fire. No Israeli institution bothered to set up an independent, expert investigation when this was possible. Now it is clear that the chances of getting to the truth of who shot the youth have been lost. With it, the belief in an independent IDF investigation has also been lost.
The fact that an organized body like the IDF, with its vast resources, undertook such an amateurish investigation – almost a pirate endeavor – on such a sensitive issue, is shocking and worrying. Is this the level of management of the head of the southern command? Where was the chief of staff? Why didn’t the political echelons – the defense minister, for example – demand that a proper investigation be conducted?
Even if the investigation of the death of al Dura has gone badly wrong, top brass in the IDF as well as the political echelon which oversees the army must take into account the mounting significance of the growing list of youthful victims on the Palestinian side. It is their duty to find a solution that will decrease or even prevent this phenomenon.