At the time of writing, since March 30th, 34 Palestinians had been murdered by Israeli forces. Thousands were wounded. During the ‘March of Return’ demonstrations, Israel attacked protesters with minimal provocation. Tear gas was used on crowds, many were shot, some shot in the back running away, completely unarmed.
The ‘March of Return’ demonstrations are occurring every Friday since March 30th, for six weeks. The first demonstration resulted in 16 or 17 deaths, depending on the source. This represented the biggest day of violence since 2014. According to Israeli sources, around 17,000 Palestinians marched to sites hundreds of metres from the Israeli border.
“Although most protesters stayed in the encampments, some groups of youths ignored organisers’ calls to stay away from the fence and headed closer to Israeli positions.
“The IDF said troops were ‘firing towards the main instigators’ to break up rioting, in which petrol bombs and stones were thrown at the fence (BBC News, 31 March 2018).
Rather than fire at any so-called ‘instigators’, the first to be killed was actually a farmer working his land. 27-year old Omar Samour died when Israeli shells struck his farm near Khan Younis. 18-year old protester Abed el-Fatah was shot in the back, in east Jabaliya. Hamas claimed only 5 of the dead as members.
In response, the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting. The Israelis did not even bother to send an envoy, on the basis that this was the weekend of Passover. For these fanatics, attending a meeting on or around a religious holiday cannot be done. Yet slaughtering people for Passover is evidently fine. Instead, the Israeli PM Netanyahu lavished praise upon the IDF for "allowing Israelis to celebrate the holiday [of Passover] in peace". This is the level of contempt and disregard shown by the Israelis. They are so accustomed to their apparently inalienable unaccountability that they need not even attend an emergency UNSC meeting. So long as they are backed by the head of imperialism, i.e., the US, the Israelis clearly feel no need to justify themselves to the ‘international community’. This is a state with more UN resolutions against it than almost the rest of the planet combined. What ought to be seen as a pariah state is instead championed as the only democracy in the region! Black is white and white is black.
Rather than this actual pariah state being held accountable for actual hellacious brutality, other states are attacked on the flimsiest of pretexts. Russia has had its diplomats expelled from some 20 countries over the totally unproven allegations regarding the Skripal case; Syria is struck with 103 missiles for further unfounded claims of state crimes. Yet here is a state, Israel, existing in another dimension to the one in which ‘international law’ resides. When will Israeli diplomats be sent packing? When will it receive a ‘humanitarian intervention’? The current state of international affairs completely exposes the fraud of concepts like ‘international law’ and ‘humanitarian intervention’. We see there is de facto no international law and might is clearly right. Whoever can project the most force currently sets the rules of the game, or the laws, and for now this the remains the US. To whatever extent there is international law, not all are equal before it. Discrepancies between Israel and Syria’s treatment display this. Relation to the lawmaker is what matters, and Israel remains useful to the US, doing its dirty work in the region. Syria, like Russia, remains a thorn in the side.
The following Friday’s demonstrations on April 6 saw ‘instigators’ such as the journalist Yasser Murtaga killed by a gunshot wound at the hands of the IDF. He had been covering the demonstrations in Khuzza, wearing a jacket marked "press" when killed.’ He was also over 100 metres from the border.
Clearly there is a trigger-happy culture in the IDF. It comes from the top of Israeli society and works its way to the bottom. Nothing displays this more than a recent online video release and the responses to it from Israeli society and politicians.
“Israeli ministers have defended a group of soldiers filmed laughing and cheering as a sniper appears to shoot an unarmed Palestinian man on the Gaza border.
“The brief video appears to have been filmed by an Israeli soldier through a pair of binoculars and captures the moment a sniper shot an unidentified Palestinian near the border fence which separates Israel from Gaza.
“The man is standing still in the video and does not appear to be armed. ‘Wow, what a video!’ one of the soldiers cheers after the gunshot rings out. ‘That son of a b****’.
“The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said the video was from December 22, 2017 and not from the recent wave of protests in Gaza, in which Israeli forces have killed 31 Palestinians since the end of March…
“Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defence minister, praised the sniper but criticised the soldier who filmed the shooting.
“T’he sniper deserves a commendation, the photographer a court martial,’ he said. ‘The IDF is the most moral army in the world, but when you’re at the front and facing tense situations, sometimes you let out those tensions.
"’Judging soldiers because they are not expressing themselves elegantly while they are defending our borders is not serious,’ said Naftali Bennett, the education minister and leader of the Right-wing Jewish Home party.
“Other ministers also said the video was being blown out of proportion” (Raf Sanchez, ‘Israeli ministers defend soldiers filmed cheering as sniper shoots Palestinian in Gaza’ Telegraph: 10 April 2018).
The attitude of the Israeli defence minister represents the prevailing ideological orthodoxy of Israeli society. Imperialism has always bred an ideology of excellence or exceptionalism, whether the German master race or US exceptionalism, or indeed the chosen people. It is such ideas which underpin nonsensical notions like "the IDF is the most moral army in the world". When the people of a nation or religious grouping are infected by these ideas, they become very useful to imperialism. They become the type of people who cheer along and film innocents being shot, or the type of people who shell farmers. To convince a people of their unique greatness is to ripen them for the work of imperialism. The loss of Palestinian life is easily written off when the Israeli is convinced ‘it’s them or us’, and that the Palestinians have not been ‘chosen’.
Whilst conspiracy theorists would like to believe it is the tail which wags the dog, the fundamental enemy remains in Washington. It is the United States which controls the Israelis and not vice versa. The US has the power to rein in a dependent Israel. Instead the US is fanning the flames with the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The US is actively provoking the Palestinians, a stateless people living in miserably overcrowded conditions and suffering from extreme shortages.
“Gaza has in effect become the world’s largest open prison, its walls heavily secured by both Israel and Egypt. For the past decade both countries have tightly controlled what goes in or out in an attempt to isolate and neutralise Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the strip. Compounding that stranglehold is the rivalry between Palestinian factions, intensified by recent moves from the Palestinian authority to dock the pay of civil servants working for the Hamas administration.
“In short, nowhere near enough is getting into Gaza and even less is able to get out. Eventually, as in any prison where the supply of basic commodities is squeezed inhumanely, the inmates rise up. So it is with Gaza. Its inhabitants appear ready to risk life and limb to have their voices heard.
“On Friday, the Israeli government responded to protests with deadly force, killing at least 16 Palestinians and injuring many hundreds more. Israel insists that it had no option but to use force to prevent a breach of its borders by Hamas protesters. But the Israeli army has not provided compelling evidence that its soldiers were fired upon first and human rights organisations have cast doubt on Israeli claims of a threat to a heavily fortified border fence.
“Israel says 10 of the dead were members of Hamas. The organisation says only five were. These competing narratives, and the potential violations of international human rights laws, demand independent investigation. Israel, however, has rejected UN Secretary General António Guterres’ call for an inquiry.
“The containment strategy of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and a disproportionate use of force to police it, is myopic. There are 2m people squeezed into the 40km long and 11km wide strip that makes up Gaza. The conditions in which they live are steadily worsening, amid water and electricity shortages, and impending humanitarian disaster.
“Friday’s killings should draw attention to the explosive cocktail that has been brewing as a result. The deaths occurred on the first day of a six-week series of protests culminating at the 70th anniversary commemoration of ‘Nakba’, when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes.
“Far from de-escalating tensions, Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has warned that the army will ‘respond more harshly next time’ if it perceives that Gazans are attempting to breach the border security area (Editorial, ‘Gaza killings pour fuel on Middle East fires’, Financial Times, 3 April 2018).
In the eyes of the people of the world Israel is fast exposing itself as a rabid, reactionary racist state. For our part in Britain we must continue to support the BDS movement. The lagging labour and anti-war movement must be compelled to a system of non co-operation with Zionism. The Israeli war machine can be broken by breaking the Israeli economy. If workers refuse to put Israeli produce on shelves and refuse to build arms destined for Israel, the international working class may support the Palestinian people in making Israel history.