Ehud Olmert must pay, literally

By Mohammed Omar

The recent siege of Gaza by the Israeli Military left the world in a state of shock. With a death toll between 1,250 and 1,400, not to mention 4,000 injured, more than one third of who were children, it is a tragedy that has gone by with little reparations to those affected.

But according to Al Jazeera English, perhaps the only English news channel that reported directly from Gaza during the siege, a Palestinian family that lost 29 family members in the recent siege is suing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for $200 million in damages for “criminal negligence.”

In December 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against Hamas, the political party that controls the Gaza strip, in defence of itself against Hamas-launched rockets that terrorized its citizens. The Israeli Defence Forces used fighter jets, tanks, infantry and controversial white phosphorus all in an area half the size of Calgary that has one of the highest population densities in the world. The IDF said the targets of this operation were Hamas militants who continued to fire rockets into southern Israel. Unfortunately, the main victims of the conflict were the women and children of Gaza.

The severity of the conflict and its massive human and material costs could have led to the al-Samouni family’s decision to sue the Israeli PM. They feel powerless. They are powerless. The al-Samounis say Israeli soldiers raided their homes in the middle of the conflict and moved the extended family together into one house. According to the survivors’ accounts, the Israeli military then fired shells and missiles towards the house the following day, leaving 29 dead.

The al-Samounis must have thought that if the American lady who sued McDonald’s in 1994 could get $2.86 million for burning herself with hot coffee, then surely they too could get compensation for their loss.

While it is understandable that a family that lost 29 members would want compensation, asking for $200 million, or any amount of money, in return is a very dangerous request. Assuming this lawsuit is actually taken seriously, it would mean the family is willing to value the loss of 29 loved ones at a mere $200 million. What would this mean to the rest of Palestinians? Should everyone start their own lawsuit? Do they stop complaining about the economic blockade on Gaza and the constant showers of attacks because they get compensated? If the IDF decides to wipe out a whole city in the West Bank some day, do they just stick $5 bills on to each missile and bullet?

Mohammad Fukra, a Palestinian Israeli attorney, filed the lawsuit and said that the family had the right to sue Israel and its officials. In response to that, Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, claimed that Hamas was responsible for the family’s loss by using civilians as human shields. Perhaps Regev forgot that humans aren’t the best shields against F-16 missiles and heavy artillery. Regardless, innocent lives were lost and things are not getting any better.

Will the al-Samouni’s lawsuit be taken seriously? And if it is, do they have a chance of winning? Both of those questions are irrelevant. The main question lies in if there will be similar hopeless, desperate acts for compensation in the future.

This family’s story, the remainder of whom live in a tent amid the rubble of their former home, is a sign of how awful the situation is for the population of the Gaza Strip. This lawsuit can be symbolic at most and indicates that something must be done to alter this status quo we live in.


Leave a comment