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What Fuels the Violence Against Palestinian and Israeli Youths?

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Three teenagers who belonged to an illegal settler community in the occupied Palestinian lands, and went missing in mid-June, were discovered to have been murdered. As soon as the bodies of 16-year old Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach were found, on June 30, 2014, the Israeli State and its media apparatus expressed their outrage and condemnation. Politicians and journalists alike were quick to blame Hamas for the act, without proof, and they vowed to engage in quick and heavy retribution against the besieged Gaza strip, which Hamas controls.

Although this event has attracted enormous attention from the Israeli and international media, the information surrounding it has been largely erroneous, manipulative, and rife with lies of omission. There has been almost no mention of Israel’s 60-year campaign of occupation against the Palestinians, the killing of over 1,400 Palestinian children in the past 14 years by Israel’s military forces and illegal settlers, or the 500-700 Palestinian children who are placed under military detention by Israel every year. In the face of such double standards, the greatest concern should be for the voiceless and faceless Palestinians.

As most of the media have focused on the three Israeli youths, there has been almost no mention of the collective punishment that has been unleashed on the overwhelmingly civilian Palestinian population. The Israeli occupation forces have gone on a rampage that has included: arbitrarily destroying Palestinian homes; burning down two farms and destroying a Mosque; abducting over 600 Palestinians including over 50 children, and bombing the people of Gaza with 34 air strikes in one night.

The attacks by the state appear to have given license to mobs of Israeli settlers to hunt down Palestinian youths. For example, on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 16-year-old Yousef Abu Zagh was shot dead near his home in Jenin refugee camp. A nine-year-old Palestinian girl, Sanabel Mohammed Tus, was hunted down in a car and run over by settlers in the village of Jaba. On July 2, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was abducted from outside his home in a car, tortured and then murdered; after being burned alive, his body was dumped in a forest.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has jumped at the chance offered by the deaths of the three settler youths to demonize Hamas and declare it to be culpable of the murders, although there is no proof that Hamas is responsible for the action. Indeed another group, the ISIS-linked Dawlat al-Islam Sunni militant organization, has claimed responsibility for it. Some even claim — albeit with as little evidence as for Netanyahu’s assertions — that this could be a provocation. It is unlikely that we will ever learn whether or not this is true. It does appear, however, that rapprochements between the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, tend to invite massive military operations against the besieged Gaza. Most likely, the Israeli authorities have found it more convenient to manipulate the information to justify attacks on Gaza rather than find the individuals who might actually be responsible for the murders. Such military attacks on a densely populated area usually result in massive civilian casualties.

The colonial expansion of Israel beyond the internationally recognized 1967 borders has been condemned by the United Nations and even recently by United States Secretary of State John Kerry. Anti-Zionist Jewish intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Shlomo Sand believe that an aggressive colonial and expansionist policy by Israel is essential to the reinforcement of the ethno-nationalist sentiment that the Israeli State requires to ensure its continued survival and domestic support. In other words, without the pretext of continuous expansion based on divine entitlement, the entire narrative to support the Zionist agenda would collapse.

While many Palestinians would be willing to forfeit much of their occupied land to Israel as agreed in 1967, Israel seems never to be content with its continuous expansion that antagonizes the Palestinian people and intentionally feeds a cycle of conflict. Palestinians are engaged in a war of resistance against encroachment on their lands and for self-determination, dignity, and livelihood. While attacks on civilians are never acceptable, Hamas’ misdeeds against the Israeli civilian population have been minor compared to the relentless destruction of Palestinian homes, bombing of Palestinian civilians, and widespread arbitrary detention of Palestinian children as young as seven years old for offenses like “throwing stones.”

Psychologists such as Lundy Bancroft have analyzed in depth the social dynamics between the abused and their abusers. Bancroft’s work explains that, while there is an assumption that abusers explode in outbursts of rage and lose control, the real explanation is not so simple. Abusers are very cognizant of the hierarchical position of whom they can assault, and they rarely abuse those who rank above them in that hierarchy.

Abuse is not about loss of control, but rather a calculated action based on perceived entitlement, and the expectation of being able to get away with the abuse and enjoy its benefits. Israel’s aggressive culture is an example of this often unarticulated hierarchy of violence. When violence flows down the hierarchy, it often goes unnoticed; and when it is noticed, it is usually rationalized. By contrast, when violence flows up the hierarchy, it is met with shock and condemned with the fetishization of the victims. The recently killed Palestinian and Israeli teenagers are among the countless unfortunate victims of this cycle of abuse.

Ruben Rosenberg Colorni writes for News Junkie Post.

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