An Israeli army dog is seen here at the Oketz military base in central Israel. Palestinians desperate for work in Israel will go to extremes to sneak past the West Bank barrier, but now they face a new hurdle — army attack dogs sent to attack them. AFP/Yoav Lemmer
There’s an iconic photo from the 2003 US invasion of Iraq of a man at Abu Ghraib cowering in fear as a dog with bared fangs menaces him. US servicemen had decided that getting confessions — whether real or imagined — would be easier if they used dogs to coerce the prisoners.
Israel Using Attack Dogs Against Palestinian Workers
Whether this kind of brutality works or not, Israel has followed in the footsteps of the United States, using dogs to terrify Palestinian workers trying to get into Israel to find jobs. According to one Palestinian laborer, dogs are let loose to hunt down anyone trying to enter Israel looking for work, a new phenomenon which has been occurring for about two months.
Although the army’s justification is that using dogs is a way of protecting the sprawling separation barrier from Palestinian vandals looking to create openings, the Israeli Human Rights organization, B’tselem, is appealing to the army senior command. Victims of the dog attacks are not security suspects, but rather day laborers seeking to enter Israel to find work and who do not have the proper permits to do so.
Are occupation soldiers using Palestinian workers as guinea pigs, trying out the dogs in preparation for use on the upcoming flotilla to Gaza? There is evidence this is exactly what they are doing. In the past few months, the Israeli military has boasted it will use trained attack dogs on our passengers.
According to one military source, “As soon as you put an attack dog in an area where soldiers are supposed to get to, it keeps the place sterile and prevents anyone from approaching. Dogs can be placed by crane or other means. They’ll be the first, and after them, the soldiers.”
These attack dogs, from the Oketz Unit, are trained to immobilize enemies by biting. “The dogs are weapons in every sense — like snipers or tank shells — but they are biological weapons,” Yehida, an online military magazine, said in an article about the unit.
Is Israel really going to follow in the footsteps of the Nazis in Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps and use dogs against the Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others on board flotilla ships?
During the trial of an alleged concentration camp guard in Georgia in 2007 Director Eli M. Rosenbaum of the Office of the Special Investigations (OSI), “The brutal concentration camp system could not have functioned without the determined efforts of SS men, who, with a vicious attack dog,stood between the victims and the possibility of freedom.”
Attack Dogs used against protesters in the US Civil Rights Movement
Those who remember the Civil Rights movement in the US, remember when Sheriff Bull Connor on May 3, 1963 changed police tactics to keep black protesters out of the downtown business area in Birmingham, Alabama. Connor allowed white spectators to push forward, shouting, “Let those people come forward, sergeant. I want ’em to see the dogs work.”
When the hoses were turned on, bystanders began to throw rocks and bottles at the police. To disperse them, Connor ordered police to use German shepherd dogs to keep them in line.
Attack Dogs Used in Apartheid South Africa
Dogs were used in South Africa during and after Apartheid as a means to terrify the local population. As late as 2000, a graphic video showed six white policemen laughing and joking as they set their patrol dogs on a group of defenseless black men suspected of illegally entering the country. One man, squirming on the ground, grimaces in agony. He is kicked by a dog-handler who eggs on his snarling dog as it bites into the man’s leg and arm while he pleads to be left alone. The sound of laughter is audible during the hour-long video and one of the police officers jokes that it is a “training video.”
US Military Used Attack Dogs in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib
The US military used attack dogs in Abu Ghraib, a technique they had learned from Guantanamo. In a 2005 article in the WashingtonPost, military interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq learned about the use of military working dogs to intimidate detainees from a team of interrogators dispatched from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Dogs Used against Civilians and Unarmed Detainees
In every case, these dogs were used against civilians and unarmed detainees, people who were protesting human and civil rights abuses, concentration camp detainees trying to flee, Iraqi civilians caught up in the wide net of suspicion after 9-11.
None of these victims was armed.
And neither are we.
Israel Threatens to use Attack Dogs on Unarmed Civilians of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla
We go to break Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza, a blockade that international bodies have determined is collective punishment. We are standing up for the rights of people living in an open-air prison, just as the protestors in Birmingham and South Africa stood up for the rights of the oppressed.
If Israel is considering bringing attack dogs onto our ships while we sail to Gaza, Israeli officials should be brought up on war crimes charges for taking such action against civilians who are expressing support for an imprisoned people.
We need to ask: Does Israel have the right to attack us with vicious dogs while we sail? Does Israel understand that we are civilians, or do Israeli officials believe, as did their racist predecessors, that we are fair game?
The international community should insist that Israel let us through to Gaza without dogs, snipers, and armed commandos attacking us.
* Greta Berlin is one of the founders of the Free Gaza Movement and was on board the Free Gaza when it sailed to Gaza in August 2008 bearing the first internationals in 41 years to reach the besieged strip of Mediterranean territory. She is a passenger on the US Boat, the “Audacity of Hope,” that will sail in the international Gaza Freedom flotilla to break the naval blockade of Gaza at the end of June, 2011.