Israeli soldiers hiding behind bunkers and using long-range sniper rifles have intentionally murdered 35 children, paramedics, journalists and disabled people during its ongoing assault against Palestinian civilian protestors along the Gaza border, a report released by the United Nations concluded this week. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) said that Israeli soldiers violated international human rights and humanitarian laws in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding more than 6,100 in weekly Friday protests since they began on 30 March, 2018. According to Palestinian sources in Gaza, those figures are very conservative.
In the 25-page report, UN officials said that the killings “may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity” and urged that the evidence should be submitted formally to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.
Rather than addressing the contents of the report, Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responded in their usual way when confronted with overwhelming evidence of the mass murder of women, children and innocent civilians: they accused the UN of “anti-Semitism”, bias and hypocrisy. This is nothing new. The Israelis have been obfuscating and denying mass murder allegations since the ethnic cleansing and destruction of at least 400 Palestinian towns and villages during the “war of independence” between 1946 and 1949.
Israel’s history is built on terrorism and killing not just on the basis of race or ethnicity, but also on religion; what we might call “religicide”. Its murderous violence has continued throughout its seven decades of existence. The murder of Christians and Muslims by Israeli soldiers has always been justified by asserting that the Jewish soldiers were merely “retaliating” for attacks by Arabs. What’s more, news reports are censored and Israeli journalists are prohibited from reporting on the incidents.
Ironically, rather than being punished for their crimes, the perpetrators have been lionised by Israeli Jews. Men and women branded as “terrorists” in the 1940s have gone on to serve as Israeli Prime Ministers and senior officials.
On 9 April, 1948, Zionist terrorists massacred Arab civilians in the village of Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Initial reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross put the total of those killed at 250 but Israel prevented an official investigation once the area came under its control a month later. The massacre site was later wiped off the map and, without a touch of irony, became a part of the Holocaust Memorial built there in 1953 which houses millions of documents on the Nazi genocide of European Jews. Hypocritically, Israel suppresses investigations into the killing of non-Jews, as it is seeking to do in its response to the UNHRC’s Gaza report. The Deir Yassin massacre was ordered by the head of the Irgun terrorist group, Menachem Begin, who was elected as Israel’s Prime Minister in 1977.
On 12 July 1948, Israeli forces attacked the Arab city of Lydda, near Tel Aviv, killing hundreds of residents. The massacres were used as a threat and Israeli soldiers forced more than 35,000 of the city’s Christian and Muslim Arab residents to flee. The city was later renamed Lod, a Hebrew name for a Biblical city. The massacre and ethnic cleansing of Lydda was orchestrated by Yitzhak Rabin, who was first elected as Prime Minister in 1974.
In October 1953, Israeli forces, angered by skirmishes along the Jordanian border, launched a “reprisal raid” targeting a small West Bank village called Qibya. Sixty-nine unarmed civilians were massacred, two-thirds of whom were women and children. Israeli forces destroyed 45 homes, a school and a mosque. They were commanded by Ariel Sharon, who became Israeli Prime Minister in 2001 and asserted in his memoirs that most of the victims were killed when the homes in which they were hiding were destroyed. Sharon went on to sanction the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut in September 1982 by right-wing Lebanese militias. Infamously, former US President George W Bush described Sharon as a “man of peace”.
On 29 October, 1956, Israeli forces massacred 48 Arab civilians, including 23 children, in the Arab village of Kafr Qasim, which was located in Israel along the border with Jordan. Non-Jews in Israel were designated as “hostile populations” between 1948 and 1966 and subjected to military law. The Israeli military issued a shoot-to-kill order for any Arab found on the street after the curfew. Palestinian workers from the village were unaware of the curfew and were gunned down as they returned home. The army commander testified that this was part of Israel’s plan for the ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Israel, a confession that quite possibly prevented his election as Prime Minister.
These major massacres have helped to create a violent mindset in many Israelis, especially when serving in the military and the police; they are convinced that Arabs, whether within or beyond Israel, do not value human life. There have been dozens of incidents in which Israeli police have not only attacked and murdered Palestinians living in the occupied territories, but also Arab citizens of Israel itself.
On 30 March, 1976 for example, Israeli police shot and killed six unarmed Israeli Arab citizens and wounded 100 others who were protesting against government efforts to confiscate Palestinian–owned land. The massacre has since been commemorated annually by the Palestinians as “Land Day”. Last year, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip started weekly protests on 30 March, calling them the “Great March of Return”, along their side of the nominal border. They continue to demand an end to the oppressive blockade of Gaza and the fulfilment of their legitimate right to return to their land inside Israel.
On 28 September, 2000, Ariel Sharon entered the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa accompanied by hundreds of Israeli police, and declared the site to be Israeli and thus provoked protests. During the week that followed, police officers killed 13 Palestinians; all but one were Israeli citizens.
In little over ten years, Israel has launched three major offensives against civilians in Gaza: 1,400 Palestinians were killed in 2008-09; 177 were killed in 2012; and in 2014 more than 2,200 Palestinian men, women and children were killed by the Israelis.
While such killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers is not a new phenomenon, a strong stand by the UN against Israeli atrocities certainly is. Platitudes are the norm, but now the international organisation appears to be calling for justice.
Palestinians need to remind the world of Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, and counter the intense anti-Palestinian bias in the Israeli media and their Western counterparts. Such media bias allows Israel to brush aside its responsibilities, citing “self-defence” and “retaliation” against Palestinian infringements. Israel’s narrative that all legitimate Palestinian resistance to its occupation is “terrorism” has been swallowed wholesale by the Western media.
There is no “statute of limitation” on the murder of innocent civilians by any government, so there should be no barrier to the prosecution of the individuals responsible. The UNHRC report details the most outrageous conduct by a government engaged in entirely punitive acts and killing civilians in the process. Israeli officials have never killed Palestinians for the sake of justice or international law; they almost always do so purely for the sake of revenge or to quell their anger. This is not the behaviour of a law-abiding democratic state. Violence, it seems, is fundamental to Israel’s “democracy”, and always has been.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.