At first, it was a rocket, Israel claimed, which prompted another round of bombing of the civilians in the Gaza Strip. After damaging 500 Palestinian homes, and with talk of the Zionist state increasing its military presence on the nominal Gaza borders, the first anniversary commemorating the Great March of Return protests on 30 March is being cited as the next stage for the colonial entity’s premeditated bloodshed.
Former Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Chief Benny Gantz is still pushing for more violence and has, once again, mentioned a return to targeted assassinations of Palestinians if he is elected next month. According to Gantz, current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy is failing to deter Hamas in Gaza.
However, since Israel’s 2014 military offensive codenamed Operation Protective Edge, Netanyahu has focused more on normalising the many forms of violence which Israel implements against Palestinians. During the years of “calm”, as described by Gantz, Israel was engaged constantly in human rights violations which attracted much less scrutiny than the massacres it committed during the summer of 2014. When Israeli media claims that “Israel and Hamas prepare to square off” and uses the Great March of Return protests as the premise for yet more IDF violence, it is clear that deterrence, which was Israel’s excuse for previous atrocities, no longer forms part of Netanyahu’s strategy.
The aim is to portray Palestinian resistance as violent while using an array of deadly violence which the international community, in its complicity, will have no qualms about passing off as legitimate “self-defence”, even if war crimes and crimes against humanity are committed.
Unlike what happened at the start of the Great March of Return protests on 30 March last year, when even mainstream media reported widely on the atrocities committed by Israel, the planned attacks on demonstrators will this time likely garner support for its “self-defence and security” narrative because, lest anyone forgets, one rocket fired from Gaza landed north of Tel Aviv.
Israel alone is manipulating the context of the demonstrations to promote a “square off”. It is erasing the history of a whole year of peaceful demonstrations in pursuit of legitimate demands and, as a result, is also preventing Palestinians from owning their own narrative by depicting the protests as irrational gatherings which require deadly force to disperse them.
It is worth remembering that throughout last year, the UN insisted on depicting the protests as the Palestinians’ reaction to the Israeli-led blockade, rather than the collective and very legitimate demand to return to their land. Now that the UN has dutifully condemned one single rocket and aligned itself unequivocally with Israel, it stands to reason that the institution will attempt to suggest that there is some equivalence between a vast, military presence on the Israeli side of the border and Palestinians gathering peacefully to demand their rights, unarmed and no match for tanks, missiles, and snipers.
Prolonging violence is Israel’s latest tactic. Having opponents to this strategy within Israeli society is strengthening the objective of normalising aggression. Continuing its assault on Gaza is not just an appendage to Netanyahu’s election campaign; if Palestinians are constantly deprived of political opportunities to articulate their demands, Israel can also continue to impose its own narrative and the international community will follow suit. Most likely, this time, the UN will distance itself further from the Palestinian right of return and fully endorse, albeit with the same hypocritical expressions of “concern”, the Israeli spin that any Palestinian civilians killed by IDF snipers and bombs were legitimate targets posing a threat to the soldiers hundreds of metres away. We must reject such vile propaganda.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.