Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 2005, pages 14-15
Gaza on the Ground
Poisoned Honey: Israeli Tactics in Post-Disengagement Gaza
By Mohammed Omer
Gaza children display an Israeli leaflet urging Palestinians to inform on resistance fighters (Photo M. Omer).
DESPITE its so-called disengagement, Israel’s war against Palestine has entered a new phase. In addition to the targeted killings of Palestinian militant leaders in the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli army is tormenting the entire population in Gaza with sound concussion grenades. American-made F-16s circle, followed by explosions so loud that if one is detonated from a plane flying over Beit Hanoun in north Gaza, it can be heard all the way down in south Gaza. This is a new hardship for Gazans—one the Israelis would not use while Israeli families slept in the illegal settlements, lest they suffer nightmares and broken windows. Now that the settlements are empty, though, the Israeli army apparently is quite willing to send Palestinian children to the hospital with hysteria and other stress-induced illnesses.
The Ministry of Health reported on Oct. 28 that 59 citizens, including 37 children, suffered psychological disturbances or complications of chronic diseases as a result of the ongoing Israeli sound bombs and sonic booms in the airspace over Gaza. The ministry also revealed that such booms damage the sensitive electronic equipment used in hospital surgery rooms and intensive care units.
In addition to breaking the sound barrier, these same F-16s have dropped leaflets throughout north Gaza urging Palestinians to “ensure their safety” by collaborating with the Israeli Security Services and providing the names and whereabouts of resistance fighters planning to fire homemade mortars across the border into Israel.
This is not the first time the occupying forces have urged Palestinians to become informers, but it is especially bitter this year, as yet another Eid celebration will be marred by national as well as personal losses. Last year, during what is meant to be the most festive time of the year, Palestinians were mourning the death of Yasser Arafat. Now, they watch in horror as many leaders of the Islamic Jihad die in missile strikes and other “extrajudicial assassinations,” as the occupation forces call them. In a recent killing in north Gaza, Islamic Jihad leader Shadi Muhannah’s car was bombed as he returned from evening prayers. The street was crowded, since Friday prayers are especially well-attended during the holy month of Ramadan, and six bystanders, including four boys under 18, were killed.
To add an extra note of irony, the Israeli Security Services, so concerned for the innocent civilians of Gaza, list a mobile phone number in their leaflets, urging Gazans “not to hesitate” to inform on armed militants. “For your safety,” the leaflets advise, “keep away from areas where mortars are being fired....Everyone can help protect himself and his children from the harm caused by resistance fighters who intend to fire homemade rockets. Don’t be reluctant...,” the leaflet continues before giving the phone number. Almost as an afterthought, the unsigned text ends, “For your personal safety, call from a location where no one knows you.”
In the West Bank town of Tulkarm, invading Israeli soldiers handed out similar leaflets.
Gazans inspect the wreckage of the car carrying Hanan al-Madhoun, an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader, and Hamas member Fawzi Abu al-Qarea, who were assassinated in a Nov. 1 Israeli missile strike. At least six people on the street of Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp also were wounded (Photo M. Omer).
In Gaza, Islamic Jihad quickly issued its own broadsheet warning people against turning informer since, throughout the intifada, the Palestinian Authority has been quick to arrest, and frequently execute, any collaborators they discovered.
Continuing the psychological warfare, thousands of cell phone users in the northern West Bank and the Gaza Strip heard two recorded messages. One said: “The Israel Defense Force is working to protect you by getting the terrorists out of your midst.” The other: “The Israel Defense Force cautions you against harming its security. For your own safety, do not offer shelter to the terrorists among you.”
According to Palestinian Minister of Communications Sabri Saidam, the Palestinian Telecommunications Network played no part whatsoever in disseminating these messages. He accused the Israeli company Bazek of allowing the Israeli authorities to penetrate the Palestinian phone network.
In an interview, Tawfiq Abu Khussa, spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior and National Security, said of the leaflet drop, “Basically, this tactic indicates a failed policy. This is not the first time they’ve used it. It didn’t work in the past, it won’t work now—it will never help the Israeli army. What would help would be to stop the occupation, stop the arrests, the killings, the incursions. There are attacks because the fighters are resisting the occupation. End the occupation and the resistance will end. The attacks will stop when the citizens see real hope for peace and security through the political process, through restarting the peace talks. They will never see hope, and never know security while Israel is attacking us.”
Citizens in Gaza echoed Abu Khussa’s sentiments. Without exception, they were unimpressed by the Israeli army’s professed concern for their safety. A typical response was that of Umm-Ibrahim Hamad, 46, a housewife and mother from northern Gaza. “Why should we call the same army that is killing us?” she asked. “What do they think we are?”
A reasonable question. The paper Israeli leaflets expressing their “concern” count for little against the missiles launched against a car traveling down a crowded Gaza street, killing and injuring those simply walking by. With its leaflets and phone messages, the Israeli army is trying to offer honey, but the people of Palestine know the honey is poisoned, and prefer to go hungry rather than eat it!