It started as a rather melancholy Friday afternoon in the West Bank. Nothing unusual. Just another funeral for a promising young man who died much too young. Under the implacable shadow of the Wall and in the rifle sights of Israeli soldiers, more than 200 mourners walked down the cobbled street toward the old cemetery in the village of Beit Ummar. Some shouted angrily at the soldiers, condemning Israel for yet another senseless death.
The funeral was for a college student, Jafaar Awad, who slipped into a coma and died only two months after being released from an Israeli prison, where his serious illness had festered untreated for months. Awad was only 22 when he died, as have so many other Palestinian prisoners, from medical neglect at the hands of Israeli jailers.
As his family huddled around his grave, the IDF launched a dozen tear gas canisters toward the mourners, scattering the stunned grouping. Then automatic weapons fire strafed the crowd, bullets hitting more than a dozen people, including Jafaar’s cousin Ziad Awad. Ziad was struck in the back, the bullet piercing his spine. He was rushed to the Al Ahli Hospital in Hebron, where he died of his wounds. Ziad was only 28
A few hours after Ziad’s murder at the hands of Israeli snipers, the IDF issued a terse statement saying that Israeli soldiers fired on the crowd of mourners after people where seen throwing stones.
I’m surprised the IDF even felt compelled to issue a justification for a kind of killing that has become routine: kids were throwing stones, skipping rocks, jumping rope, blowing bubbles, tossing dirt on an open grave. They had no option but to shoot.
The Palestinians have no redress for these daily acts of butchery: no court to go to judge the legitimacy of shootings, no venue to seek compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering or lost work days, no avenue to find a measure of justice for the slain. How much loss, misery and humiliation are one people expected to endure?
The Israeli state has never been more violent, the blood toll of Palestinian civilians never so high. In 2014, the Israeli military and security forces killed more than 2,300 Palestinians and wounded another 17,000. That’s the worst carnage since 1967, when the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza intensified in the wake of the Six Day War. During the height of the last Israeli rampage in Gaza last summer, more than 500,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes. And, according to a recent UN Report titled Fractured Lives, more than 100,000 of them remain homeless. Detentions of Palestinians inside Israeli prisons are also on the rise. As of the end of February of this year, more than 6,600 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons and IDF detention centers, the most in five years. So the gears of the killing machine grind on with impunity, each slaughter only serving to embolden more killing.
Who will stop them? Certainly not the Israeli state’s principle financial investor. For the most vigorous Israeli Defense Force, unblinking in its vigilance, unfaltering in its loyalty, is the U.S. Congress. There is a savage synchronicity to an alliance between one nation that drone strikes weddings and another that shoots ups funerals.
Each year Congress drops a cool $3 billion on Israel. Even in chambers ruled by fiscal tightwads the only real debate is whether this lavish dispensation, which accounts for more than half of all U.S. military aid worldwide, is enough to satiate Israel’s thirst for new weaponry. Even as Israel repeatedly sabotages U.S. policy across the region, Obama has described the U.S. aid package as “sacrosanct.”
In this light, the annual subornment of Israel, which totals about a third of the nation’s arms budget, by the U.S. begins to look less like a subsidy to a client state than protection money paid to a gangster organization.
It should come as no surprise that two of Benjamin Netanyahu’s most fervid American disciples, Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, both graduated from Harvard Law, where they incubated in the Zionist hothouse of Alan Dershowitz. Yet, Cruz and Cotton aren’t outliers. Indeed, there is scarcely a micron of daylight between the positions of Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren, the Athena (to HRC’s Medea, I suppose) of the progressives, when it comes to defending the scandalous behavior of Israel. Indeed Warren, like many other liberals, seems to work overtime to demonstrate her unrivaled fealty to the Jewish state.
The vaunted Israel Lobby scarcely even needs a lobbyist anymore. These days the new members of congress arrived pre-conditioned to demonstrate their devotion to the Israeli cause. They don’t need to be bribed with PAC money, courted with hookers or blackmailed with indiscrete cell-phone photos. When Israel assassinates an Iranian scientist, uses chemical weapons in Gaza, tortures prisoners, murders a young American peace activist, enfilades a burial party or is caught spying on the American president, the congress will leap in unison to its defense–no questions asked, no questions answered–and dispatch another check to Tel Aviv.
In the face of the world’s longest running war crime, the American capital stands inert, an ethical void, its halls packed with the political equivalent of GMOs. Pass the Round-Up.
Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.