JERUSALEM (Jul. 22)
Government and opposition figures alike have assailed a report by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem that criticizes the Israeli army for the large number of Palestinian children shot dead in the administered territories.
Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Gur went so far as to describe the charges by B’Tselem as a “blood libel,” a term heretofore reserved for a virulent anti-Semitic calumny that Jews kill gentiles to use their blood in Jewish ritual.
B’Tselem’s report, published last week, claims that some 232 Palestinian children were killed by army soldiers and thousands wounded since the beginning of the intifada.
The report became a subject of debate in the Knesset when the issue of the killings was raised Wednesday by Knesset member Naomi Chazan of the left-wing Meretz bloc.
Chazan stressed that she was not criticizing the army, but rather the “governments of Israel in the present and in the past” whose policies led Israel Defense Force soldiers to kill children.
“Some 232 were killed, and that’s a fact that cannot be erased,” she said.
Chazan’s comments predictably upset both Labor and opposition leaders. Likud Knesset member David Levy was furious.
When Chazan spoke, he got up from his seat and shouted: “How can you use such language? Is it the policy of the government of Israel to kill children?
“I belong to the opposition, but with all due respect, I cannot hear such things,” Levy said.
Gur said that part of the problem was the fact that the Palestinians were sending children to the front of their violent demonstrations, purposely creating a situation in which children and soldiers confront each other.
According to B’Tselem figures — which were not disputed by the army — some 38 children younger than age 16 have been killed in the past six months, more than double the number of children killed all last year and more than during any other parallel period in the past.
The organization announced it was staging a 38-day protest strike in Jerusalem, one day for every child killed.