Anne McLellan   Letter 11   28-Mar-1998   Don't kill my son!
March 28, 1998

The Honourable Anne McLellan, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Room 360, Justice Building
239 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H8

E-mail: [email protected]

Dear Ms. McLellan:

I bring to your attention the following Associated Press report:

Reporters Claim to Be Israel Target

By Nasser Shiyoukhi
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, March 14, 1998; 3:10 p.m. EST

HEBRON, West Bank (AP) � Palestinian and foreign journalists on Saturday protested what they said was the deliberate targeting of Palestinian journalists by Israeli troops during violent clashes in the West Bank.

Eight Palestinian journalists were shot with rubber bullets Friday night in the West Bank town of Hebron when Israeli troops clashed with stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators.

The army said it regarded the shooting of the journalists as "a very grave incident" and that it would study all the evidence.

The Foreign Press Association of Israel called the army's conduct "unacceptable" and cited the case of a Palestinian cameraman shot at least three times as he lay on the ground bleeding.

"All parties should respect the work of journalists and not use them as targets, as was the case in Hebron," the statement said.

Palestinian journalists marched through Hebron on Saturday to protest the army's actions.

The journalists carried cameras and tape recorders of the injured TV crews on stretchers, along with placards saying "Stop harassing and shooting journalists and reporters."

Esmat Jaabari, mother of injured ABC cameraman Amer Jaabari, carried a placard saying "Don't kill my son."  He was also among five Palestinian journalists injured four months ago while filming another clash between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces.

Nael Shiyoukhi, a sound technician for Reuters TV, was hit four times by rubber bullets.  Footage of Friday's incident showed him lying on the ground bleeding profusely from a rubber-bullet wound in the head.

As he lay there, he was hit three times in the body.  Two of the hits were clearly visible on the video.

The commander of Israeli forces in Hebron, Col. Yigal Sharon, said the soldiers were unaware they were shooting at journalists because of the darkness and because the TV crews were mingling with the Palestinian crowd.

"There is no deliberate shooting at anyone who is not involved in the confrontation," he told a news conference.

The Palestinian journalists dismissed the assertion that they were in the crowd.

"We were 20 meters (yards) from the soldiers and 200 meters (yards) from the demonstrators," said Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana.  "They were firing at demonstrators to the north.  We were to the south of them.  As soon as we switched on our lights and started filming, they turned round and opened fire on us."

Nael Shiyoukhi said the soldiers knew they were shooting at journalists.

"I shouted in English and Hebrew, �We are journalists, we are journalists.  Don't shoot.'"

The above Associated Press report calls to mind at least the following three reflections:

(1) The scene depicted is one of soldiers methodically shooting clearly-identified, unarmed civilians who are pursuing lawful activities in a peaceful manner, the soldiers apparently doing so with the aim of preventing these civilians from filming the same soldiers shooting demonstrators � many of whom are possibly children or teenagers � who are throwing stones.  The "rubber" bullets used by the soldiers penetrate the body and are fully capable of maiming and killing, and when aimed at the head or chest by Israeli snipers constitute instruments of execution.  The repeated shooting of a wounded individual lying on the ground, furthermore, suggests that the soldiers were not content to incapacitate the wounded journalists, but intended to maim or kill them.  The behavior of the Israeli armed forces, then, would seem to fall within the category of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The documentation concerning contemporary Israeli war crimes that I presented to you in my letter of February 20, 1998 suggests that similar war crimes have been endemic in Israeli society within the last five decades, and that they go almost entirely unpunished within Israel.  I wonder, therefore, if it would not be appropriate for your war crimes unit to investigate Israeli war crimes, and more particularly to investigate Israeli immigrants to Canada for having participated in such war crimes?

(2) I wonder if the World War II crimes committed by East Europeans more than five decades ago that Canada's Department of Justice under your direction is currently investigating and prosecuting compare in magnitude with those regularly taking place in Israel today.  In the matter of Wasil Bogutin, for example, the newspapers give the impression that his crime was to have been a member of a police auxiliary unit some of whose other members beat prisoners, with no specific crime being attributed to Wasil Bogutin himself.  In comparison to an identifiable Israeli firing bullets into a wounded cameraman lying on the ground, Bogutin's membership in a police auxiliary seems like it should not be able to muster much righteous indignation, or enthusiasm to prosecute, among your war crimes personnel � in my letter to you of 27 February 1998, I outlined reasons for supposing that membership in a police auxiliary unit, or a camp guard unit, was in itself non-culpable and unworthy of prosecution.  These more than half-century-old East European misdemeanors that seem to be the sole concern of your war crimes unit strike some observers as an undeserving target on which to focus war crimes proceedings when the alternative at hand is to address contemporary war crimes which are both egregious and well documented.

(3) The contrast between on the one hand contemporary and glaring Israeli war crimes together with no Canadian investigation or prosecution of Israel immigrants, and on the other hand more than half-century-old East European war misdemeanors absorbing the full energies of your war crimes unit � this contrast appears to offer further confirmation of a discriminatory policy being implemented by your Department of Justice.  I therefore must ask you yet again to explain how it is that you are not in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a possibility that I outlined for you in several letters, but most particularly in my letter of 25 February 1998.

I must add in conclusion that I am disturbed by your failing to answer any of the questions that I have put to you in my preceding ten letters, which begin as far back as 14 November 1997.  The interpretation of your silence that suggests itself is that Ukrainians in your eyes constitute second-class citizens whose concerns do not need to be addressed; and that in fact you have placed Canada's Department of Justice in the service of Jewish interests, a decision for which you find yourself unable to articulate any defense.

Yours truly,

Lubomyr Prytulak