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Blaming the victim in Palestine

May 3, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Israel’s most recent anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem had some fall-out in terms of negative global coverage, but only in alternative and independent media.

The fact that the Israeli intelligence minister made a blood-chilling threat against the founder of the boycott Israel movement (an entirely non-violent civil society campaign) was of very little interest to the establishment media.

Yisrael Katz used the same Hebrew euphemism the Israeli military uses for assassinations, and then added the word “civil” with a nudge and a wink. The Israeli establishment is upping its “war” against BDS with increasingly violent and militaristic rhetoric.

One of the interesting things to emerge from that, however, was the statement Amnesty International made condemning these latest Israeli threats.

My colleague at The Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah reported the recent context of other Israeli threats: “incidents mentioned by Amnesty include the death threats against Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, the Palestinian who filmed the point-blank execution of a Hebron youth by an Israeli soldier on 24 March; the series of death threats against the staff of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq; the arrests of Hebron anti-settlement activists Issa Amro and Farid al-Atrash; the imprisonment of Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar and ‘vicious’ invective and threats directed at Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group that collects and publishes anonymized confessions of abuses by Israeli soldiers.”

Although the “war” against BDS is happening in many countries, it’s important to remember that its primary victims are the Palestinians – both directly and indirectly.

Read: Israeli calls to annex West Bank are tests for the international community

The death threats against Imad Abu Shamsiyeh are so emblematic of the way Israel mistreats the Palestinian people.

B’Selem, the Israeli human right organisation that Abu Shamsiyeh volunteers for, says that  “since the footage [of the shooting] was released, Abu Shamsiyeh and his family have already been subjected to threats of murder, stones thrown at their home, and hateful posts on Facebook. Most of this violence was instigated by Hebron settlers.”

This violence is classic victim blaming.

It’s somewhat reminiscent to how Donald Rumsfeld reacted to the Abu Graib scandal. He complained about the prevalence of digital cameras, which supposedly allowed the photos of US soldiers sexually abusing and torturing Iraqi prisoners to come to light. In other words, the torture was not the problem, but exposing it was.

This is a violent Israeli iteration of the same idea.

The settlers occupying Palestinian land in Hebron are the some of most violent and fanatical Zionist hoodlums in the world. Hebron-area settlements are notorious hotbeds of Kahanism. American Rabbi Meir Kahane founded the JDL and Kach terror groups. In 1994, one of his disciples shot dead 29 Palestinians who were praying the Ibrahimi mosque. This hideous massacre led to Hamas retaliating with (for the first time ever) a campaign of suicide bombings within present-day Israel.

These settlers harassing Abu Shamsiyeh and his family are protected and coddled by the Israeli army, which permanently occupies Hebron (one of the more important Palestinian cities in the West Bank) in the most brutal and violent fashion.

The fact that the army has not acted to apprehend those making the death threats only shows they are in on it.

The crime of shooting an unarmed, wounded Palestinian youth very deliberately in the head at point blank range is no crime at all in their minds. According to Israel’s twisted logic, the only crime is to expose such horrendous acts, bringing the footage to world media attention.

In fact, as part of the toxic and ever-increasingly-fascist atmosphere being generated in Israel currently, even Jewish Israeli organizations and journalists that dare express any sort of sympathy for Palestinian victims are considered “traitors” — insulted and attacked in the crudest and most violent terms.

My colleague David Sheen was assaulted by the mob at a recent “Death to the Arabs” rally in Tel Aviv, for the crime of trying to film it.

Israel also of course habitually blames Palestinians for their own deaths – in wars started by Israel. In a transparent case of psychological projection, Israel blames Palestinian civilian deaths on the (imaginary) use of “human shields” by Palestinian resistance fighters.

In reality, civilians are killed because of Israel’s habit of bombing, shelling and destroying entire civilian neighbourhoods. And, in fact, as is well documented by human rights groups, it is Israel that uses Palestinian victims as human shields.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London and an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.