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The bones of contention between Right and Left in Israel revolve around two questions: whether Israel's presence in the West Bank is effective in preventing terrorism, and whether it is just. The Right argues that it is effective, although there is disagreement over where civilians should be allowed to live - disagreements that have sharpened as a result of the Gaza withdrawal.
On the other hand, the Left argues that both military and civilian presences are counterproductive. There is almost complete concurrence among right-wingers that both military and civilian presences in the West Bank are justified due to Jewish ancestral rights and security reasons. The Left generally disagree.
But the inventive minds of military strategists broaden the limits of the debate. A new question has now arisen - what about presence not on the ground, but in the sky?
Two organizations, Physicians For Human Rights and the Gaza Center for Mental Health, petitioned the High Court of Justice in early November against what appears to be a new IDF tactic. The army's jets fly at supersonic speeds above Gaza, creating sonic booms as a means of retaliation and deterrence against the terrorist rocket-shooters plaguing the western Negev. According to Israelis who live near the Gaza Strip, these flights and booms occur day and night, but of course the Israelis do not experience the same effect as the Gazans, living directly under the fighter jets' flight path.
The petitioners claimed that the supersonic booms cause the Palestinian population, predominantly the children, to suffer from anxiety and other mental disorders. The children have to endure nightmares, decreased ability to study, and sleeping and eating disorders. Eyad Sarraj, who is the head of the Mental Health Center and Gaza's chief psychiatrist, reportedly says that the booms give the children headaches and create weariness.
The children live in a constant sense of fear, for they do not distinguish between sonic booms and real bombs. The fear and side effects are exacerbated by the fact that the booms are heard especially while the youngsters are on their way to school, says the petition.
On November 13, the state replied. The jet fighters' flights "create apprehension among the terrorists who plan to fire rockets," said an attorney representing the state. The booms sow "disinformation and confusion among the terrorists, concerning the scope of the IDF's activity." He added that the tactic is "non-lethal."
THE FIRST question that arises is: Why was this tactic not used when the Jewish settlers were present in the Gaza Strip? If it indeed yields such fruitful results, why were the sonic booms not used when Gush Katif and Netzarim and all the other settlements were extant?
The answer lies in the government's perception of human rights. To the government the essence of democracy is letting every citizen have his or her freedom to vote, freedom of speech and protest, without impinging on their basic rights. But the key word here is citizen. They did not want to perturb the settlers.
The government chooses to forget that human rights are not principles to be abided by only in internal affairs, but external ones as well. By the government's lights, the value of Palestinian lives and well-being is far less than those of Israelis. The most basic principle of democracy, equality, should be all-encompassing, not disregarded when it is convenient.
DOES THIS mean that countries at war should treat the enemy populace like gentlemen treating ladies at a Victorian ball? Of course not, but this is no regular war. The terror organizations, abominable and popular as they are, do not fit the description of an army, for they do not represent the government of the Palestinian people. It follows that those organizations do not represent the Palestinians. Saying they do represent them is somewhat similar to saying that Kach represents Israelis. Moreover, Israel is an occupying force as well, meaning that it is its responsibility, to different extents, to deal not only with matters of the battlefield, but with those of human, everyday life. Israel no longer occupies Gaza on the ground, but it does impose limitations on it, and as this story shows, it still uses collective punishment against its population.
If the government does not strive toward peace it should at least attack only when the danger is imminent and visible, only when the rocket launchers have been spotted.
The occupation has been going on for 38 years, and by now Israel should be thinking carefully about the damage that ruling another nation has inflicted on itself.
The Gazans are inseparable from the West Bank Palestinians, and the fact that the latter are still under occupation is still an incentive for the Gaza terrorists to strike at Israel.
As long as Israel occupies the Palestinian territories, be it on the ground or by intimidation from miles above, the attempt to balance between military force on one side of the scale and human rights on the other will always be futile. The scale will incline toward the militaristic way of action, disregarding human rights.
Disregarding human rights is cold-hearted, doubtless, but is it wise? Palestinian children in their thousands can only grow bitter and desperate amid their daily hardship. Who will they seek to blame - the terrorists, who wildly and speciously declare every second minute that they are the liberators of the Palestinians, or Israel, which is de-facto responsible for their headaches and nightmares?
And after they blame us, they will become more and more resentful and angry, making their irrationality overpower their common sense. And what will they do? They will join Hamas and fire rockets at us. And what will we do? We will use sonic booms against them, in the best case, and add yet another spin to the vicious cycle of hatred and death.
The writer, who has just graduated high school, lives in Jerusalem.