As most of the world watched the World Cup, Israel warplanes have been bringing terror and death to the people of Gaza.
Last week, the international community was shocked and saddened to learn that three Israeli teenagers (one a U.S. citizen) had been found shot to death in a field near the school they attended. Israel accused Hamas, and after a quick investigation claimed they had evidence against several Palestinian men of committing the murders as an act of terror. The crime was certainly barbaric and both Israelis and Palestinians rightfully condemned the act. Unfortunately, the senseless killing wouldn’t end there. Israel – as it often does – used the murders as a pretext for a kind of rolling, total war against the Palestinian people – indiscriminately killing and injuring innocent civilians living in Gaza based solely on their ethnic background and their tenuous connection to the murderers.
Unchecked aggression is a behavior nearly unique in the civilized war. We’ve seen it again and again, Israel apologizes to no one and is given cover from retaliation by its close ties with the United States. With an ally like that, they act with impunity, secure in the belief that they don’t have to play by the rules of international law.
If a country attacks a people for the crimes of a few individuals, we might rightfully call that a crime against humanity. In Israel, that’s the status quo. If that seems like an overly cynical interpretation, it doesn’t change its reality. Israel’s behavior in the days following the teens’ murders seem to support the idea. It should be noted that even Israelis are aware of this policy and government officials make almost no attempts to hide it.
While Israel might argue that it can’t sit on its hands while it is being attacked, suggesting that their response is measured or symmetrical is laughable.
Here is a snapshot of the daily realities between the two “aggressors” taken in 2008:
The number of Israelis killed by Palestinians never goes into the double digits, the number of Palestinians killed by Israelis hardly ever dips below the double digits. In several months, Israel is the only side doing killing.
While many in Israel and the West point to attacks committed against the country by the Hamas-run Palestinian government, we must always keep in mind the relative scale of the two sides. The occupied territories on the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been destroyed so many times by Israeli munitions that crumbled buildings are a common sight. At the same time Israel has undergone a strict embargo on supplies getting in – including medical equipment and food – and exports getting out. The people living in Gaza are some of the poorest on the planet. Right next door to them, their enemies have one of the most well-financed armies on the planet. There simply is no comparison and yet Israel insists that they are fighting a “war” – it’s nothing more than a slaughter.
Has Israel changed since 2008? Apparently not. In this latest crisis, Israel has reportedly already killed at least 24 Palestinians including six kids (and one more if we include the brutal mob murder of a Palestinian teen who was lynched as a scapegoat and burned alive- more on this later). All in retaliation for the deaths of three Israelis. So far, nothing has shown that any of the men, women and children killed in the ceaseless Israeli airstrikes were in anyway related to the original murders. As a Palestinian, you must simply accept as a fact of life that Israel may kill you for any transgression another Palestinian commits against them. For Israel, the policy is that all Palestinians are the same and killing one (or 19) is the same as killing any other.
But even now the bloodlust hasn’t abated. Despite the lynching of an innocent Palestinian teen, despite the airstrikes, despite the casualties, Gaza lies underneath a barrage of explosion. Israel seems poised, even eager, to drag this into a full-scale war.
In the last few days, Israel’s war machine has creaked to life and Gaza is now feeling the full force of U.S.-supplied firepower. Dozens were killed and injured while several homes were destroyed as Israel announced after midnight Monday that it has launched a major operation against Gaza Strip.
The major operation appears to be in the form of indiscriminate bombings (Warning: Graphic):
At least five civilian homes were completely destroyed during Israeli airstrikes. Eight Palestinians were killed hours before the declaration of the military operation. Many more have died or been wounded since.
Israel, perhaps not understanding what an oxymoron is, named their assault on Gaza “Operation Protective Edge.” They seek to protect themselves by obliterating their enemy, even the ones who have no part in the fighting.
The Palestinian Health Ministry was forced to declare a state of emergency since the early morning hours. Palestinian hospitals in Gaza Strip already suffer acute shortage of medicines and medical supplies due to the continued Israeli siege for 8 years. Hundreds of those injured or displaced now flock to the overwhelmed hospitals. Others gather outside awaiting word of the fate of their loved ones.
The attacks have become so egregious, so indefensible, that the international community has finally seemed to take notice. The United Nations’ Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, spoke to journalists in Vienna and strongly condemned Israel’s actions.
“From a human rights point of view, I utterly condemn these rocket attacks and more especially I condemn Israel’s excessive acts of retaliation,” U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told journalists in Vienna on Thursday.
“I am extremely concerned by what’s happening,” she added on the sidelines of a conference.
She also condemned killing of a Palestinian teen, whose body was found in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
“It’s despicable but now in turn there’s been a kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian youth. This cannot happen. This level of retaliation is excessive and this is what is spawned when governments do not respect the rule of law, when governments themselves resort to excessive forms of retaliation,” she said.
And even celebrities have started to speak out:
The lynched Palestinian boy is of particular interest because Israel has vowed to treat the murder as it would “any terrorist.” If that were the case, we might expect to see Israel flying warplanes towards its own cities and leveling a few blocks near where they believe the murderers lived. As William Saletan over at Slate astutely points out:
The killers “will face the full weight of the law,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Sunday. “We do not differentiate between the terrorists.”
Demolition played a central role in the drama leading up to Khdeir’s death. According to Israeli officials, two West Bank Arabs, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, kidnapped and murdered three Jewish boys on June 12. Israeli authorities haven’t found Qawasmen or Aisha, much less tried them. Nevertheless, on June 30, Israeli soldiers destroyed the suspects’ homes in Hebron. They broke windows, wrecked furniture, smashed sinks and toilets, and trashed kids’ bedrooms. Then they used explosives to blow out the ceilings and walls.
Of course, the Israelis won’t do that. They could argue that destroying the homes of the suspects and those of their neighbors don’t serve justice but simply satisfy a thirst for directionless vengeance. They could argue that by killing those who weren’t involved, the surviving families will be set down a path of despair and rage that may breed further violence. They could argue that killing innocents for the sake of punishing the guilty is ethically indefensible.
And they’d be exactly right.