One man dead in Israel and the whole world knows. He actually was not Israeli, but an unfortunate immigrant worker from Thailand. We have been told who killed him too: not by name, but by some shadowy nom de guerre, used by jihadist groups some claim to be loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq and elsewhere. The unknown group in Gaza, Ansar al-Sunna, claimed responsibility for the rocket fired into Israel that caused the man’s death by shrapnel.
The Hamas government has had its own problems with such groups, which have challenged its rule in Gaza. But, that is neither here nor there for Israel.
Israel has already said that its response will be strong. And sure enough, Israeli bombers have pounded the southern-most part of Gaza, so far killing and wounding some fourteen Palestinian civilians including children, three of them critically.
The proportionality of the response is totally unbalanced, but more outrageous is that Israel should resort to such measures at all. Israel’s recent provocations have been like a red rag to a bleeding bull and these cannot be discounted in understanding the cycle of violence.
The targeted assassination of a Palestinian Hamas leader in a foreign country by agents using stolen identities and forged passports turned the spotlight on Israel, which neither denied nor admitted to the crime, while all the evidence clearly incriminated it. Briefly, the world was shocked, not so much that a state would sanction a killing in the first place, but that the killers would violate the sovereignty and security of other countries to carry out such a plan.
That modus operandi is common practice for Israel whether it perpetrated this particular killing or not. Of course, its victims are always “terrorists” as the Palestinians know only too well. Even their children are fair game.
In Nablus two sixteen-year-old cousins were shot in the heart and the head for throwing stones. One is dead, the other critically injured. Similar incidents occur without any international outcries throughout the West Bank where protests by Palestinians against Israeli oppression, discrimination and expansionism continue with a courageous steadfastness. No people would willingly give up their birthright and land.
As the bulldozers move in to tear down houses and rip up olive groves, stones against these military machines are the only weapons these angry youths have to defend their family homes and livelihoods. However, the consequences for stone-throwers and their families alike are devastating with death, injury, imprisonment, torture and expulsion just some of the punishments meted out.
In Hebron, repeated settler violence has led to the shooting and beating of Palestinian civilians in the Old City and nearby neighbourhoods. Protests against these continual violations to their lives have only invited more attacks on the Palestinians from Israeli soldiers claiming to quell the protests. Tear gas and rubber-coated bullets have recently injured some 47 residents, in response, says Israel’s military, to stones thrown, although there is no way of knowing who fired the first shot or threw the first stone.
In East Jerusalem, the Israeli government announces almost every other day new plans to construct Jewish-only housing units on land illegally seized from the Palestinians. Families have been evicted from homes they have lived in for decades while Jewish settlers are indecently moved in before their very eyes. Palestinian houses are demolished in Palestinian neighbourhoods to make way for encroaching Jewish ones or to replace them with Jewish neighbourhoods. The latest are the 1,600 illegal units announced while the US vice-president Joe Biden was in Israel seeking to re-start peace negotiations on the understanding that settlement building would cease.
Not only is Palestinian land being stolen and lives destroyed, but Palestinian religious sites of centuries are being desecrated. Christians and Muslims alike are struggling to stop Israel’s Judaisation of their cities, and Jerusalem particularly, has always been part of this creeping takeover, but never as intensely as now.
Israeli excavations in and around Islam’s third most holy site in Jerusalem, the Haram al Sharif compound which houses two famous mosques, are seriously threatening its integrity and are in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the destruction of a World Heritage site. Just 50 metres away, a Jewish synagogue is being built in the Muslim quarter while one of the city’s oldest Muslim cemeteries is the site selected for Israel’s Museum of Tolerance. Not only that, Israel has periodically set up military checkpoints to prevent Palestinian men from attending the Al Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers, a prelude no doubt to barring Palestinians from entering the city at all.
The whole Arab and Muslim world knows that Israel wants to turn Jerusalem into an exclusively Jewish city and expand its territory from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, if not further. Up till now, that did not seem to bother the US government, but after Israel insulted Vice-President Biden, this administration might just be realising that its indulged acolyte can no longer be controlled and threatens its own interests in the region.
Netanyahu’s conciliatory message to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered the removal of some of the 500 plus military checkpoints that have caught Palestinian civilians in an impossible grid of shuffle-through turnstiles and lockdowns inside the West Bank. It is not the first time that checkpoints have been dismantled only to have new ones erected elsewhere. He also suggested the possibility of transferring more land to the control of the Palestinian Authority. That is a sham we have seen repeated all too often – talking peace and making a few paltry concessions while creating facts on the ground, which make any viable state impossible. But it is the Palestinians we should be worried about.
Aside from the walls and laws that imprison the Palestinians already, Israeli leaders, academics and military experts, and backed by Zionist supporters, have spoken of transfer, curbing Palestinian births and putting them on a “diet”. The most chilling proposal was put by a former chief rabbi in May 2007 when he advocated carpet bombing Gaza. His son who is also a chief rabbi elaborated: “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand, and if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a 1,000,000. Whatever it takes to make them stop.”
Such remarks and actions by a state drunk on its own ill-gotten power are plainly genocidal and no peace talks are going to stop Israel in its tracks. There is, however, one sure remedy – the enforcement of international law by whatever legal means necessary, even if that requires UN-backed sanctions or the cutting of billions of US aid to Israel to force Israel to comply. Anything less will soon answer the question of who is killing whom for those too blind to see the truth already being played out in full view of the whole world.
SONJA KARKAR is the founder of Women for Palestine and co-founder of Australians for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. She has written numerous articles on Palestine, which have been published in various e-journals and newspapers and accessed on the website she edits http://www.australiansforpalestine.com. She can be contacted at email@example.com