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'Cambridge Students Beaten by Israeli Army'
April 27, 2002 7:03 AM   Subscribe

'Cambridge Students Beaten by Israeli Army' Three of my fellow students spent their Easter vacation on the West Bank as unofficial international observers. In the course of accompanying Palestinian medics to a refugee camp, with medical supplies and food, they were allegedly stopped and beaten by Israeli troops.
While their actions are undoubtedly noble and brave ("we are doing the job the UN should be doing"), the Israeli embassy suggests that "whilst the intentions were geniune, (their) actions have been misguided."
I can't decide what to think. (more inside)
posted by chrismear (25 comments total)

 
Part of me thinks they're crazy for entering a war-zone without protection, and should have expected something like this. But then part of me also agrees with their motives -- after all, surely someone needs to be in there, protecting the safety and well-being of the civilians, and doing something about the "inhumane 24/7 curfews"? But why should a bunch of students have to get involved, when the UN or some international organisation ought to be doing this job? But is this really the job of international organisations...? Argh, as you can tell, I'm very confused at the moment, and don't really know what to make of this.
posted by chrismear at 7:05 AM on April 27, 2002


Play with fire, and you're probably going to get burned. If I travelled to Israel, I would certainly expect to encounter violence in some form.

And FWIW, I question (not deny, simply question) whether their actions were "undoubtedly noble and brave." Their actions could also be interpreted as foolhardy and risky.
posted by davidmsc at 7:06 AM on April 27, 2002


I can't decide what to think.

Don't worry, the Mefi Israel/Palestine brigades will be along shortly to help you out.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:17 AM on April 27, 2002


It certainly is foolhardy and risky, just like the aid worker Sally Becker who launched a couple of relief operations into Bosnia and Kosovo off her own bat, but if someone's aware of that risk and willing to take it, then their actions are probably justified - although from the point of view of their loved ones, maybe not altogether praiseworthy.

Seems to me that the UN and similar organisations have been a lot more dilatory in this conflict than they would have been if it had been another round of The Democratic Syldavian Republic vs The Slakan People's Liberation Front, but that's international politics and the same criticism's already been made vis-a-vis Chechnya. I notice no renegade nurses or idealistic students have made their way there either....
posted by CatherineB at 7:23 AM on April 27, 2002


As some of you know, I am generally supportive of Israel.Two things: thePalestinan authority has turned down all aid from America--food, tents etc because America,they say, has armed the Israelis. True. But then f your people need help you don't stop help from coming for some political purpose. And who arms the terrorists/
The Israeli army, after every incident in which they look bad is always "launching an investigation."
War zone. Stay out. How many protesters at this or that rally within our country get the crap kicked out of them by police? You go to a hot spot, expect this sort of thing.
posted by Postroad at 7:24 AM on April 27, 2002


if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
posted by billybob at 7:28 AM on April 27, 2002


The same could be said of the Israeli occupation, one supposes.
posted by donkeyschlong at 7:47 AM on April 27, 2002


if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.


Is that what you would have told Oskar Schindler?


posted by Sqwerty at 7:56 AM on April 27, 2002


"There were occasions when we thought we would die. I did it because I felt I had to."

Sounds like they did expect violence, so you can turn off the machismo. They can stand it, and they can make everyone aware of the situation over there.

This isn't some naturally occurring fire or heat in a kitchen either, think of it as a plague of inhumanity and the students as doctors stepping in at their own risk to alleviate the civilian victims, only to have a brush with it themselves.
posted by mblandi at 8:16 AM on April 27, 2002


The Israeli army, after every incident in which they look bad is always "launching an investigation."

I couldn't have said it better myself. They "launch an investigation," and that's the last we hear of it. It has become the mantra of Israel's PR machine, and amounts to nothing.
posted by mapalm at 8:28 AM on April 27, 2002


The Israeli soldiers were trying to arrest the Palestinians and the "observers" interfered by forming a "human shield" around the women. While I am very sympathetic to what these students were doing, it seems a little misleading to call them observers. they were active participants engaged in civil disobediance against the Isaeli army. A sure-fire formula for getting the crap beaten out of you (or worse) in a war zone.

the point of observing is to gather impartial eyewitness information that can be used later in a court proceeding (war crimes tribunal or whatever). If U.N. observers had been in the students' position I doubt they would have interfered.
posted by boltman at 9:09 AM on April 27, 2002


Gather"impartial" information? Were their cam corders, camereas and tape macines confiscated or istheir word good enough?
posted by Postroad at 9:21 AM on April 27, 2002


all I'm saying is that if you're interfering on behalf of one side of a conflict, it implicates your impartially as an observer and makes it much easier for the other side to discredit your testimony.
posted by boltman at 9:31 AM on April 27, 2002


I'm glad this happened. A group of smart ass college students have the entire conflict figured out, and they even know how to the do the job of the UN better than the UN does! I wish they'd have been shot. Not killed, just shot. Enough to teach them a lesson.
posted by Keen at 9:35 AM on April 27, 2002


Yeah, it's not as though teenage terrorists are hiding behind medical excuse cover or anything.
posted by HTuttle at 9:44 AM on April 27, 2002


And it's not as if the Israeli government doesn't keep stalling on Jenin.
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:51 AM on April 27, 2002


I really can't fathom what these college kids were thinking, didn't they see Mississippi Burning? They're lucky the Israeli troops just beat them, they could have been tortured, killed and had their bodies disposed of and never found again.

On the other hand the Palestinian extremists might do the same thing or try a kidnapping. Still, saying the students are smartasses or that the shouldn't be there is a diservice to the bravery they've shown.
posted by bobo123 at 10:02 AM on April 27, 2002


thePalestinan authority has turned down all aid from America--food, tents etc because America,they say, has armed the Israelis. True. But then f your people need help you don't stop help from coming for some political purpose.

That's a bit misleading. The Palestinian Authority may have turned down aid from the U.S. gov't, but they haven't turned away aid from U.S. NGOs.

If U.N. observers had been in the students' position I doubt they would have interfered.

Unfortunately you're probably right.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:45 AM on April 27, 2002


i just saw no man's land the other nite. it was kinda funny, but ended sadly.
posted by kliuless at 10:54 AM on April 27, 2002


Ty: the same can be said for the UN's failure in Rwanda.

and they even know how to the do the job of the UN better than the UN does

Doesn't everyone? When was the last time the UN competently kept peace? Give me a break. The students knew the risks associated with what they were doing and did it anyway, and with a little bit of leg work they have probably done more than a multi billion dollar a year organization has.

They're lucky the Israeli troops just beat them, they could have been tortured, killed and had their bodies disposed of and never found again.

Perhaps, except for the high level of media scrutiny that the Israelis are under. Who knows what would happen if these students had tried something like this in Chechnya.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:19 AM on April 27, 2002


"When was the last time the UN competently kept peace?"

-- Full details available: "Preventing Deadly Conflict"

"Who knows what would happen if these students had tried something like this in Chechnya."

1. If these students had demonstrated experience, they might well have been hired for a position like AFSC Program Assistant for the Israel-Palestine Peacebuilding Program
2. People have tried things like this in Chechnya. A quick pass, not necessarily the most significant efforts:
Canadian Society for Peace in Chechnya
Non-Violence International - Newly Independent States (includes Chechnya)
Tim led an exploration team to Chechnya and played a major role in establishing the Balkan Peace Team.
Pax World Links - Caucasus and elsewhere
Webpage Listings of Groups Dedicated to Overcoming Violence
posted by sheauga at 12:32 PM on April 27, 2002


The U.N. model for peacekeeping is only designed to work in cases where both sides have already agreed to peace. (thus the term peacekeeping). U.N. peacekeeping forces are supposed to work as a deterrent to small militant groups that would otherwise undermine a general consensus between two sides to stop fighting. They have very strict rules of engagement, very little flexibility, and are poorly armed. Since is no consensus between Israel and the Palestinians to stop fighting, sending in peacekeepers would be futile (and really dangerous to the peacekeepers).

If you want to stop the two sides from killing each other, the only way to do it is with an invasion force with robust rules of engagement. That's what ultimately stopped the killing in Bosnia--NATO basically bombed the crap out of the Serbians and then invaded with a huge army. The U.N. just doesn't have the power or authority to do things like that (nor should it, IMHO)
posted by boltman at 2:40 PM on April 27, 2002


Is that what you would have told Oskar Schindler?

But Oskar Schindler could take the heat, and which is why he did what he did.
posted by Rastafari at 2:44 PM on April 27, 2002


yeah, what rastafari said!
and what the hell is an unofficial observer? sounds like they were snooping around for kicks.....well, they got em.
posted by billybob at 8:29 AM on April 28, 2002


billybob - 'sounds like they were snooping around for kicks.....well, they got em.'
Keen- 'Enough to teach them a lesson'
am i missunderstanding this, or are you suggesting that the use of extreme violence is an acceptable method of informing someone that they should not show concern for the human rights of another?
posted by asok at 2:48 PM on April 28, 2002


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