The persistence of the Jerusalem Intifada, despite the lack of strategic organisation and involvement of Palestinian resistance factions, has incurred Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s misplaced wrath. Notoriously known for his pride of having murdered many Arabs, among other brutal statements, Bennett is now advocating for the murder and disappearance of Palestinians involved in resistance against Israel’s colonial violence.
According to a news brief by the Palestinian Information Centre, Bennett declared: “We have to bury Palestinian anti-occupation fighters in secret cemeteries and knock down all the homes in their native villages.” He went on to provide a succinct reminder of the ethnic cleansing upon which Israel was established: “Let’s roll into every single home and rake through every single corner. The anti-occupation fighters must bear in mind that all of those around them are under threat.”
Such rhetoric goes beyond Bennett’s usual ugly belligerence. One might recall the discovery of the mass graves in Jaffa in 2013, indicating that the practice of disappearing Palestinians indeed forms part of the Zionist ideology which seeks to obliterate Palestinian historical memory in order to establish its own fictitious narrative. Israel has no qualms about glorifying the well-known massacres of Palestinians, such as Deir Yassin. However, given its fictitious foundations which the international community legitimised through its acceptance of colonising Palestinian territory, Israel has been careful to withhold information that would shatter its already fragile narrative.
Chile has provided some of the most heart rending narrations of disappearances occurring during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. The Calama massacres, for example, are a testimony of both dictatorship impunity and civilian resistance. Women whose relatives were disappeared embarked on a personal 17-year quest in the Atacama Desert, searching for the remains of their loved ones. The location was eventually revealed, with evidence pointing to the fact that the victims were exhumed and reburied several times as part of the dictatorship’s quest to prevent the construction of historical memory. According to testimony: “The ground was soft in places and when you walked in it, little bones popped up from the sand.” However, despite the eventual collapse of the dictatorship, subsequent Chilean governments have remained shackled by the constitutional legacy and many cases of the disappeared remain archived.
Bennett’s statement should provide serious questions and outrage. As education minister, any interference in Palestinian memory and narratives will ultimately remain etched in the school system, further reinforcing in Israeli settler children the notion that Palestinians are dispensable according to whatever policy the colonial state is pursuing.
In the aftermath of “Operation Protective Edge”, reports detailing the atrocities committed by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian civilians in Gaza have also referred to the practice of disappearing the bodies of murdered Palestinians. While the snippet of information has elicited less attention than the grotesque images of dismembered bodies, the occurrence is evidence of Israel’s continuation of the practice.
Perhaps the most poignant question of all would be the concept of disappearance in relation to the reality of Israel’s colonial violence in relation to Palestinian memory. With such deceased autonomy over land and free movement, should Bennett’s recommendation be adopted as state policy, Palestinians will face an immense barrier in relation to both justice and collective memory.
Chileans, like other South American countries ravaged by dictatorships, had access to legal recourse as well as collective endeavours to search for the disappeared. Bennett’s proposal, if followed through, would further lacerate construction of the current Palestinian memory narrative.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.