Despite repeated Israeli assurances that there were no violations of the law by soldiers during last year’s invasion of Gaza, each one of the few incidents actually investigated by the Israeli military has resulted in convictions of the soldiers involved. In the latest such investigation, two soldiers were convicted Sunday of using an 11-year old child to open suspicious bags that they were afraid to open themselves.Friends of the two Israeli soldiers gathered outside the courthouse on Sunday wearing t-shirts that read “We are all victims of Goldstone”. The sentence refers to a United Nations report made by renowned South African Judge Richard Goldstone which documented war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants during the Israeli invasion of Gaza from Dec. 2008 – January 2009, a report with which Israeli authorities refused to cooperate, and refused to acknowledge the report’s findings.
Instead, Israeli authorities claimed that they would do their own internal investigation of the invasion, but the extremely small number of incidents investigated, and the very slow pace of the ‘investigation’, has led Israeli and international human rights groups to question the sincerity of the Israeli effort. These groups also point to past incidents which went uninvestigated by the Israeli army, or so-called ‘investigations’ which were insufficient and incomplete – on many occasions, never interviewing witnesses to the alleged war crimes, or reviewing video of incidents, but merely taking the soldiers’ account of the incident as their sole source of evidence – as in the case of American Rachel Corrie, who was killed by Israeli forces in 2003.
In the current case, the soldiers in question took a small child from his home in Gaza, and took him with them to search bags in various locations. They were found to have used the boy to open bags that they suspected of being booby-trapped, so that if they were in fact booby-trapped, the boy would be blown up instead of them.
This use of civilians, particularly children, is a direct violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.
During the invasion of Gaza, Israeli forces killed over 1400 Palestinians, nearly 400 of whom were small children, and 80% of whom were estimated to be civilians. Palestinian fighters killed 5 Israeli civilians during that same time period, and 4 Israeli soldiers.