Larry Derfner
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
June 8, 2011 - 12:00am

Here’s a tip on how to deal with these unarmed Palestinians in Syria (or elsewhere) racing fearlessly in broad daylight at our well-defended borders: We should stop killing them. We should stop shooting them, even in the legs, because people can and do die from such wounds, and some almost certainly did near the Syrian border on “Naksa Day” at the start of the week.

I’m not saying we should let them come in freely. I don’t think Palestinians or their descendants have the “right of return,” so I think Israel has the right to stop them. We should use any non-lethal, noncrippling methods necessary – massive army presence, barbed wire, trenches, tear gas, shields, maybe even batons in extreme cases.

But you don’t deliberately shoot unarmed people, not even after giving them verbal warnings and firing in the air, which is what the IDF has been doing. You don’t do that when you’ve got whole battalions of soldiers facing them, and the worst that can happen is that a few resourceful ones may sneak through and start running around giddily before they’re caught and herded back across to their side.

What a national tragedy that would be! What an “attack on our sovereignty, our communities, our citizens,” as our prime minister – never one to scare the public – put it.

What nonsense. In the first of these “attacks” – on “Nakba Day,” May 15 – about 100 unarmed Palestinians and Syrians, mainly young men, streamed through the Syrian-Israeli border past a small, overmatched, under-prepared contingent of IDF soldiers and into the Druse village of Majdal Shams. Within an hour, most had returned to the Syrian side. Within a few hours, all of them had, except for one guy who made his way to Jaffa looking for his grandfather’s house before he was caught and sent back a couple of days later.

Big freaking deal. For this you have to shoot people out in the open in the middle of the day? People who couldn’t be less secretive about what they’re doing? People who are running at you with nothing in their hands but flags?

YOU DON’T have to shoot them. But we did. The IDF cannot issue a “body count” because it has no bodies to count; it has no presence on the Syrian and Lebanese sides of the border, where all the protesters in these two events were shot. But from the combined news coverage, it seems Israeli soldiers killed between a half-dozen and a dozen unarmed “infiltrators” along the Syrian and Lebanese borders last month on Nakba Day, which memorialized the Palestinian “catastrophe” of 1948.

On Sunday’s “Naksa Day,” which memorialized the “defeat” of 1967, the Syrians say that Israeli soldiers killed 24 protesters and wounded about 350. By contrast, IDF officials speak of a “dozen” or at most “dozens” wounded, but none say they know of any deaths from army shooting, with the IDF investigation finding that only “several dozen sniper bullets” were fired during the day-long confrontations. The only deaths the IDF is reporting are eight to 10 protesters killed when one threw a Molotov cocktail that set off land mines.

Myself, I don’t doubt that the Syrians inflated the body count, but on the other hand the IDF doesn’t know how many people were killed, and I – like everybody else who isn’t brainwashed by hasbara – assume that some of the funerals held this week were indeed for people shot by Israeli soldiers.

We can say we gave them fair warning; we can say we fired as a last resort and only at their legs; we can blame Syria for letting them through to the border; we can say Syria is doing incomparably worse things to protesters; we can say this group or that group is even paying people to make these mad dashes for the border.

It doesn’t matter; we don’t have to shoot unarmed people, not when the worst they can do is run around inside our territory for a little while. [Incidentally, the Golan Heights is not our territory in the eyes of any country but Israel. To every other country (and to me), the Golan Heights is Syrian territory under Israeli occupation.]

And since we don’t have to shoot these people, it’s deeply immoral to do so. The state of Israel is ordering 20-year-old soldiers to shoot, and possibly kill, unarmed protesters. Think about that.

We’re doing our Goliath number again – and it looks like we’re going to keep doing it, because it looks like the Palestinian refugees and their descendants are going to keep coming at our “sovereign” border with Syria, and maybe for our other borders, too, the sovereign and “sovereign” alike.

If the government, and the army and the public think that bullets are going to stop these people, they’re wrong. They’re so wrong that they must be living in a dream world, which, of course, they are. Shooting unarmed Palestinians running at our borders will only bring more funerals, more martyrs, more bravery of spirit, more runs for our borders, more Palestinian political momentum. For Israel, it will just bring more “tsunami.”

Which is why I think the army, soon enough, will stop shooting these Palestinian Davids and keep them from breaching the borders in other, safer, decent ways. “It’s better to be smart than right,” will become the operative cliché.

Until then, “wrong and stupid” is what we’re going with.


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