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http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?mador=4&datee=4/15/01&id=117045

A demolished house for every bullet

By Gideon Levy

By dawn, the mission was accomplished. About 30 homes in Khan Yunis refugee camp were "shaved" off the face of the earth. The entire first row of houses that threatened the Neveh Dekalim industrial zone was entirely destroyed - as an inevitable side effect two Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded.

In the Israeli lexicon this is an "initiated defensive" operation, strictly kosher. The fact that it is the most flagrant violation so far of the Oslo agreements - even if the prime minister of Israel has bragged that Israel enters Area A "almost every day" - did not halt the operation. The question of what is the difference between an operation like this and acts of terrorism was not even asked. The cute duo of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has begun to strike.

A few days earlier a round of missiles landed on the Beit Lahiye police station in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. However precise and "surgical" they may be, the missiles missed a bit, or the damages expanded a bit, and the flimsy houses near the police station were entirely destroyed.

So what happened? Two families of the Abu Sultan clan, with their 19 children, were left homeless. Six residents were wounded. I saw the boy Ahmed and the baby Izzat last week distraught among the ruins of their home. Their mother asked for the world's protection - she has no other. This is also fine in Israel's eyes and is not considered an "act of terror."

Why, then, is the demolishing of dozens of civilian homes not an act of terror? Why is the causing of distress to hundreds of children whose homes are destroyed as they sleep not terror?

Is the question of who shot first the only relevant moral and political question, or should it also be asked how much force each side uses and what means it employs? Within three days Israel demolished the homes of 42 families in the Gaza Strip, most of them on purpose and maybe a few of them just possibly by mistake. About 500 people have been left without anything, a Palestinian civilian and an officer were killed and several dozen civilians were injured, among them at least one child who was wounded in the head.

The red line of the Oslo agreement has been brutally crossed - and everything is legitimate, moral and inevitable in Israel's view. Terror belongs only to the Palestinians, and self-defense only to Israel.

And perhaps, it must be asked honestly, the firing of mortars by the Palestinians is an act of self-defense against the occupation that has no end, and against the Jewish settlements beyond the 1967 borders that are just growing larger and larger before their exhausted eyes?

The fact is that this whole drama of destruction and killing far more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed, despite the threat of the mortars has not changed the perception whereby when you say "security needs" you always mean only and exclusively the security needs of Israel and of the Jewish settlements. Allaying the anxieties of the children whose homes have been destroyed and who do not know what will happen to them tomorrow night is not considered a Palestinian security need and protecting them is not legitimate self-defense.

What do we expect the world will think of Israel when it is behaving this way? What kind of state is it whose army enters the heart of a residential neighborhood in the middle of the night, demolishes dozens of homes belonging to innocent civilians, and then leaves?

And this when it is signatory to an explicit agreement whereby it is not allowed to enter there. The fact that from the narrow alleys of the Khan Yunis refugee camp, one of the poorest camps in the Gaza Strip, shells and bullets were fired on the nearby Jewish settlement does not give Israel the right to use the force at its disposal however it pleases.

A demolished home for every bullet? Who determines this chilling index? Now, when the first row of houses in Khan Yunis has become rubble, the Palestinians will fire from the second row. And then what? Will Israel also shave that? And maybe we will destroy this entire noxious refugee camp from which they fire on Neveh Dekalim?

Does anyone remember that its inhabitants, who have been living for more than 50 years in terrible poverty, had already once been refugees who had nothing? Israel, take note, is once again slowly and surely, whether intentionally or not, to the days of the occupation before Oslo. It is going back to the territories it had occupied, which it has left only partially.

First it allowed itself to fire with rifles into the territories of the Palestinian Authority, then came the helicopters, followed by ground-to-ground missiles; now ground forces are entering, destroying and departing. It will not stop there.

The Jewish settlers of Hebron are already demanding the reoccupation of the Abu Sneineh neighborhood, and the settlers of the Katif Bloc are not satisfied with the demolishing of the first row of houses in Khan Yunis. The next "implementers" are already on the way, and from them it is but a short way to leaving a permanent military presence in the areas of friction, just like then, in Lebanon.

As in Lebanon Israel will once again sink into the bloody cesspit, whether out of strategic planning or out of having been sucked in. Creeping annexation is here again; an occupation that was never properly ended is back and in a big way. And then what.


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