Regarding Gideon Levy’s column–Killing Children is No Longer a Big Deal, Haaretz’s , 10/17/ 04.

I disagree with Mr. Levy–killing Children is No Longer a Big Deal–indeed it is. But like Mr. Levy, I am appalled daily by the number of Palestinian children killed by the Israeli Army. I have read many reports in which eyewitnesses have described the Israeli army’s use of fire as ‘reckless’ and ‘random’ in densely populated areas. Indeed, many of us have complained about the Israeli Army launching rockets from helicopter gunships into moving cars; onto crowded streets; and into large buildings–killing many innocent people—especially children. (Of course, this is the same army that complains about a handful of homemade rockets being fired into Sderot.)

While this army attempts to justify its actions on ‘self defense’ the vital statistics released by the Palestinian Board of Health for the Second Intifada reveals who really should be defended. Of the 3,334 Palestinian deaths— 82% were civilians. 621 were Palestinian children under the age of 17 years. Of these –411 children were killed by live ammunition while 200 children were shot in the head, or face or neck. Many medical personal have question why the army is shooting to kill and is targeting the upper body instead of the lower body to reduce casualties.

No doubt the army’s ‘reckless’ use of fire has contributed to 10,000 Palestinian children being injured over the last four years. As the Palestinian Minister for Education pointed out 3,409 were school age children. Many children have been left with crippling injuries while others children have less obvious injuries–emotional trauma from living under a harsh military occupation.

But as the Director of Human Rights Watch, Mr. Kenneth Roth pointed out the problem may lie with the army itself, ‘The military mind-set is based on the assumption that every Palestinian is a potential suicide bomber…’ We all have complained about this ‘mind set’ too. It creates a terrible injustice against innocent people and thus produces an over reactive army who become like you said, ‘appalling light on the trigger’. Soldiers fail to see people as people but as targets. They dehumanize innocent people and themselves in the process. Little wonder Mr. Roth can note, ‘ Israel has violated international law by failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants and it did not live up to its responsibilities as an occupying power to protect civilians under its control’.

In a recent opening of the UN Assembly Council –Kofi Annan remarked that Israel’s casualties were ‘excessive.’ (The world agrees with this.) He said no grievance could justify them either. He urged nations to follow the rule of law to reduce civilian casualties. But Israel has failed to institute the full terms of the 4th Geneva Convention which governs the army’s conduct in the territories. Although the Attorney General has urged the government to enact it and Israel ratified it in 1951 for use in the territories.

Lastly, I feel the army’s latest offensive into the Jabaliya Refugee Camp was a criminal use of disproportionate force. Imagine, dispatching over 2,000 troops and 200 tanks with state the state of the art weaponry into the most densely populated refugee camp in Gaza (90,000 people in an area of 3km2.) The army’s heavy weaponry is often imprecise and can be deadly in a densely populated area. Indeed, it violated the Fourth Geneva Convention. I read in one report that an army tank shell tragically killed 7 teenagers outside their school. In other reports that soldiers were ‘knowingly and deliberately’ targeting children and that the Air force was given orders ‘to liquiduidate’ activists homes even though they knew their families would be home. These are atrocious. The army’s murderous offensive left 150 people dead (35 were children), and injured 500 civilians.

How can I go on supporting this indifferent government and reckless army ? More and more Israel is characterized as a State governed by revenge rather than by justice. Like Mr. Levy said the government, the army and the Israeli people are ‘accomplices’ in these horrific crimes. You cannot kill innocent civilians –especially children and consider yourself a moral army or indeed a moral country. The real world won’t accept that.

Doris Cadigan, Massachusetts