The brutal killing of an unarmed Palestinian as he lay asleep in his own bed has been "regretted" by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). I am sure that the IDF's statement gives the victim's widow and family some consolation in their period of mourning. At least it would if such occurrences were not depressingly frequent and Israel didn't have a long record of crimes against the rest of humanity which suggest either a history of enlisting extremely incompetent soldiers or a crass disregard for the value of non-Jewish life. Perhaps it's even a mixture of both. Omer Al-Qawasmi may not have been the intended victim of the IDF soldiers who killed him, but the claim that they used silenced weapons and shot to kill without any provocation suggests that the man they were looking for could well have been killed in any case. If so, then Wael Al-Bitar has the killing of Mr. Al-Qawasmi to thank for his subsequent arrest and not summary execution by soldiers possibly still confused over what they had done upstairs "by mistake".
Recent pronouncements by rabbis in Israel condemning Jews who do as much as rent properties to Arabs in the Zionist state, suggest a rise in anti-Arab racism among Israelis. Certainly, the discrimination faced by Israel's Palestinian citizens is ingrained and often backed by law. This should not surprise anyone, for as Israeli society drifts to the political right, statements once regarded as belonging to the minority extreme right-wing appear now to be part of the mainstream. When the illegal American-Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians as they prayed in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in February 1994, his action was described as "anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli" by Israel's President Ezer Weizman. As reported in the New York Times, "Earlier, Mr. Weizman called the massacre 'the worst thing that has happened to us in the history of Zionism.'" Zionism and its history is, in fact, replete with such massacres and evil acts to the extent that platitudes by Israeli officialdom expressing "regret" at these "mistakes" now carry very little weight at all.
At Baruch Goldstein's funeral, Rabbi Yaacov Perrin said, "One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail"; this callous and frankly racist statement was reported widely in the media, including the New York Times. In 2006, in a public debate over a school in Jerusalem, Rabbi David Batzri is reported to have said, "The nation of Israel is pure and the Arabs are a nation of donkeys. They are an evil disaster, an evil devil, and a nasty affliction. The Arabs are donkeys and beasts. They want to take our girls. They are endowed with true filthiness. There is pure and there is impure and they are impure." This was reported in Haaretz newspaper in Israel.
It could be argued that such statements are, indeed, minority views in Israel but when the deeds of Zionist Israelis over many years are shown to reflect such feelings then where do Israeli apologetics actually stand? Arab lives have always been regarded as very cheap by mainstream Zionists and Israelis, from Deir Yassin whose Palestinian inhabitants were "murdered in cold blood" by the terrorists of Irgun and the Stern Gang in April 1948 to the "systematic execution of able-bodied young [Palestinian] men by Jewish soldiers" in Tantura a month later; from the "butchered" Palestinian villagers of Kafr Qassim in 1956 to the slaughter of Sabra and Shatila during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 ("Goyim kill goyim and the Jews are blamed," said Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin – responsible for the Deir Yassin massacre – before an Israeli government inquiry found Ariel Sharon to be "indirectly responsible for the killings"); from the first Qana massacre in 1996 when Israel bombed a UN compound in southern Lebanon, killing 106 people sheltering there, to the second Qana massacre in 2006 when the Israeli air force bombed a building in the town and killed 28 people; from Jenin 2002, when over two hundred Palestinians were killed and their homes demolished by Israel's military machine, to Gaza 2008/9 when Israel's invasion forces killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, one-third of them children; all of these examples and more demonstrate that the Israel "Defence" Forces have attacked civilians almost at will and with a disregard for human life which belies the claim to uphold "purity of arms". A survivor of the Nazi holocaust wrote to the Washington Post in 2002: "Photos of the devastation in Jenin… remind me of my childhood years in the Warsaw Ghetto. There, too, innocent civilians were shot on sight, houses were blown up indiscriminately, and humanitarian aid was blocked. At the end of that horrendous Holocaust, we said, 'Never again.' But now, it is we who are doing it again. Shame!"
Nor is it just Palestinians and Arabs who have faced Israeli brutality: ask the survivors of the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 if they think it was really a "mistake" that 34 American sailors were killed and 170 were wounded by Israeli bombs and torpedoes; ask the parents of American citizen Rachel Corrie if their daughter was a threat to the security of Israel and deserved to be crushed to death by an armoured bulldozer in Gaza; ask young British student Tom Hurndall's family if his attempt to protect Palestinian children, also in Gaza, was worthy of a bullet in the head which led to his death a year later having never regained consciousness. And what about British cameraman James Miller, shot by an Israeli soldier while working in Gaza? All three of these killings – Miller's was described by the UK inquest as "murder" – took place in 2003.
The fact is that the people who founded the state of Israel maintained that in order to establish their state they needed to expel the Palestinian population. To do this they instigated a number of plans, says Dr. Ilan Pappe, "to prepare the military forces of the Jewish community in Palestine for the offensive campaigns they would be engaged in… the moment the British were gone". Plan C, adds Dr. Pappe, "spelled out clearly what punitive actions… would entail: Killing the Palestinian political leadership; killing Palestinian inciters and their financial supporters; killing Palestinians who acted against the Jews; killing senior Palestinian officers and officials [in the Mandatory system]; damaging Palestinian transportation; damaging the sources of Palestinian livelihoods: water wells, mills, etc.; attacking nearby Palestinian villages likely to assist in future attacks; attacking Palestinian clubs, coffee houses, meeting places, etc."
Has anything changed in the mindset of Israeli governments since the late 1940s when Plan C was drafted? Or when Plan D (Dalet) was actually implemented, beginning what Pappe has called "the ethnic cleansing of Palestine"? Political Zionism underpins everything the Israeli government does, and this pernicious ideology demands the expansion of the state of Israel over and beyond the land allocated for the "Jewish state" by the UN partition plan in 1947. Israel's first Prime Minister, Polish-born David Ben Gurion, pushed for a state on "80-90%" of historic Palestine; his successors have, with their illegal settlements and contentious wall, made sure that even that figure is likely to be exceeded.
If the Palestinians are to be persuaded that their future lies elsewhere so that Israel can complete the ethnic cleansing started in 1948, their status in their homeland must be made as untenable as possible. Ergo, Israel will demolish homes, refuse building permits, expel elected politicians, build walls and checkpoints, let Palestinians know that they could be killed at any time, day or night, for no reason; make life as difficult and uncertain as possible so that Palestinians will begin the Zionists' dream of "silent transfer" across the River Jordan into the "alternative homeland".
As I write, a hotel wing in occupied East Jerusalem is being demolished by the Israeli occupation authorities to make way for what Haaretz calls a "contentious" new Jewish neighbourhood. The "mistake" killings form part of the same process as the house demolitions and expulsion of Jerusalem's Palestinian residents; Israel wants to clear the land of Palestinians and settle Jews in their place, and so the ethnic cleansing continues apace.
Accusations of Palestinian Authority collaboration with the Israeli occupation are accurate but meaningless in this context; the PA is a tool used by the Zionists to achieve their aims and objectives, notably a state built on as much as Palestine as possible, with as few Palestinians around to tarnish the Jewish nature of the state as possible. That is Zionism; that is Israel. Anyone who thinks that a just peace can be made with a state built upon such an ideology possibly also believes in fairies. History gives us a clear indication of what Zionism demands and what Israeli governments hope to achieve. To paraphrase holocaust survivor Alex Hershaft quoted above, never again is happening again, but our political leaders are too blind to see it or too scared to admit it. Either way, "it" is unacceptable.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.