israeli soldiers do not shoot at children
Israeli soldiers do not shoot children, said the manageress of a shop
where I worked.
But I have seen this, I told her. And once they murdered a child right
in front of my very eyes, shot him with a live bullet to the neck.
No, she said, don't say murder. And she did not agree and she could not
accept this, for she knows. For her sons have served in the army, and
her spouse. For Israelis do not shoot children.
But they did shoot. Omar Matar, fourteen-years old, from Qalandiya
I was standing right there and saw the soldiers chase the children as
these were running away, and they sniped away at them like hunters'
prey. And I saw how he fell, bleeding.
It has been said that the devil himself cannot think up a proper revenge
for the blood of a small child. A heart-rending saying, for it is true.
The face of a child, the age of a child, the essence of a child is the
one thing that crosses all conflicts and borders and races. One does not
kill children. Nothing is more normative than that. A child is
blameless. A child is a child is a child.
Not in Israel.
In Israel, roads are differentiated by race, penal law is differentiated
by race, the right to live differentiated by race, even the term child
is differentiated by race.
Most violations are not perpetrated by psychopaths deficient of a moral
code - quite the contrary. But then their violations are differently
named, "laundered". Thus fathers who abuse daughters call it love, and
violence against children is called education, home demolition is called
land-stripping, and extra-judicial execution is called targeted
If perpetrators were to call their crimes by their rightful names, they
would not be able to commit them. In order to commit them, they rename
After the Israeli army invaded Jenin in 2002, some called the carnage a
massacre. Most Jewish Israelis were aghast at the term 'massacre' and
whoever said so was vilified and ostracized. Society was shaken not by
the question whether "we" really did this, but how could one possibly
say this about "us"? That is the amazing part. That things in the real
world are not necessarily entities with permanent values, not the deed –
but the appellation is what turns it into what it is in the eyes of
their perpetrators and their society. Feeling justified is a deeper need
than being just, and therefore one need not necessarily be just, only
change what is considered good, and bad.
Merely change one's vocabulary.
Use a vocabulary by which a land full of Arabs is called empty. And
human beings resisting the occupiers of their land are 'terrorists'. A
vocabulary in which Jew and
victim are synonymous, always. By which abuse at checkpoints and
Israeli-only roads and bombing a city from the sky and demolishing
houses with their inhabitants still inside, and shooting these as they
try to escape – means war against terror. And that the Israeli army is
the most moral army in the world regardless of its practices. And that
terror is only something that others do. Thus the local vocabulary.
But in the case of children, the verbal manipulations stand out of the
usual language distortion. Palestinian children, apparently, are not
children. In the open-fire regulations, as well as in the regulations of
the judicial system.
All soldiers know one must not kill children. For Israel claims to be a
state upholding universal values. So how does one kill children without
killing children? How does one take life "when one must" without
bloodying oneself? Without crossing accepted borders? Very simple. For
example, in open-fire regulations (that soldiers are no longer handed
out in hardcopy, but only instructed orally), an individual over twelve
years of age is not a child.
A child is not a child.
In the military court system, too, the term 'child' is different when a
Palestinian is at hand. A Palestinian child – age-wise – is different
from a Jewish child, and consequently his inherent rights as a child are
Thus prisons are full of children, since these are not termed children,
and cemeteries are full of children who are not children. And thus, with
amazing, self-righteous ease Palestinian children are murdered and
killed like punctuation marks, without batting an eyelash, without any
moral deliberation, without any inhibitions.
The fact that soldiers shoot children so easily because a Palestinian
child is not a child according to the instructions they have received,
or because it is open season on Palestinians and the price of their life
is no more than a slight thud of a bomber-fighter wing,
does not change the fact that this is what happens. Taking the lives of 14-year
old Omar Matar and of 10-year old Yassar Kusbah and of 13-year old Ahmad
Abu Latifa and all the hundreds of others was easy, willing and lawful.
For soldiers – dear shop manageress – shoot children. They raise their
rifles and point them and shoot. Call it whatever you like. Call a
fourteen-year old an elderly militant, or terrorist, or say it was
'accidental', and that they have brought it upon themselves. But it is a
By instructions and norms, with ease, and youthful vigor, soldiers shoot
children with intentionally or 'unintentionally', for that is what they
were sent to do, for that is what is permitted. For the price of
Palestinian lives is not a price, for Palestinian children are "merely"
Aya Kaniuk. Translated by Tal Haran.