Tuesday, January 11, 2011

To err is human

On the first day of the new year, January 1, Bil'in resident Jawaher Abu Rahmah died after having inhaled large quantities of tear gas during a demonstration against the Separation Fence on the day before. The army initially expressed regret and said the soldiers did not mean to kill her, and then the army discovered that the Palestinians and the Israeli leftists had been lying and she had not been there, and then the army discovered that they might have made a mistake about that, too, and that after all she might indeed have died from the gas she breathed. And then the issue dropped from the headlines to the great relief of the IDF spokesman who is soon due to be replaced anyway.

On the second day of the year, Mahmoud Muhammed Dharaghma from the town of Tubas made a fatal error and walked near an army checkpoint in the Jordan Valley while holding a bottle of mineral water in his hand and the soldiers thought it was a petrol bomb and they had been given orders not to take chances and to shoot first and ask questions later and just in case they shot him eight times and then there was nobody anymore of whom to ask questions. What can we do? Mistakes happen in life, only those who do not act make no mistakes.

And also on the same day died the Gazan student Anas Salah who was critically ill and who wanted to get to the Mukassad Hospital in East Jerusalem for a treatment not available in Gaza and who waited many hours at a checkpoint on the Gaza border and eventually reached the Next World instead of the hospital. And this too was an unfortunate mistake, but after all he was already very ill and might have died also in the hospital and then there would have been no accusation leveled at the state of Israel and its armed forces.

A few days passed and on the morning of Friday, January 7, a military force arrived in the Hebron region to detain members of Hamas whom the state of Israel very much wanted to host in its prisons, and the force was fairly accurately briefed and only a small mistake was made when soldiers were told that the wanted man was on the second floor when in fact the he was on the ground floor. And the soldiers went to the second floor and broke open the bedroom door and saw a figure straightening up from the bed and as we know the policy is not to take chances and to shoot first and ask questions afterwards and the soldiers fired several shots on Amr Qawasme, before he could completely wake up and there remained nobody of whom to ask questions, there only remained a bloodstained bed in the bedroom of the Qawasme Family. And this certainly was a regrettable mistake and General Avi Mizrahi of the IDF Central Command even ordered an investigation into the circumstances of the case and perhaps by mistake some results would even be published once upon a time.

And later in the evening of that day the army received a warning that dangerous terrorists were gathering at the border of the Gaza Strip and immediately a detachment of soldiers was sent there and the sophisticated new computerized targeting system was activated, where you just need to feed in the coordinates of the target and the computer would direct deadly mortar fire to precisely the right spot. And it just happened that the sophisticated computer system made a slight error and the mortar shell flew just off the intended target and Sergeant Nadav Rotenberg was killed by the friendly fire of the army which he had joined with a very high motivation. A mistake, certainly a tragic mistake. Even a sophisticated computerized system may occasionally make mistakes.

A little over seventeen years ago the State of Israel signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization an agreement under U.S. government auspices called the Oslo Agreement. According to that agreement's timetable, the occupation should have ended in May 1999 and by now the State of Palestine should have been nearing its eleventh Independence Day and Israeli soldiers would not have been firing tear gas in Bil'in or standing at checkpoints in the Jordan Valley or controlling the access of patients to the Mukassad Hospital in East Jerusalem or detaining wanted people near Hebron or conducting shooting incidents on the Gaza Strip border. Had this agreement been implemented at the specified time, it is likely that Jawaher Abu Rahmah and Mahmoud Muhammed Dharaghma and Anas Chalach and Amr Qawasme and Nadav Rotenberg would all still be among the living today, as would several thousand others, Palestinians and Israelis.

But the State of Israel has made a big mistake - did not implement the agreement and did not end the occupation and instead did build settlements and roads and fences and walls and hatred. A very great deal of hatred was sown and stored up.

Can we still correct that mistake?