When five Palestinian children were killed during Israel's brutal three-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip recently, occupation officials claimed that their deaths were due to a rocket fired by the Islamic Jihad movement. Now, officials have admitted to Haaretz that the Israeli occupation forces killed cousins Jamil Najmudine Nijm, aged 4; Jamil Ihab Nijm, 13; Hamed Haidar Nijm, 16; Mohammad Salah Nijm, 16; and Nazmi Fayez Abu Karsh, also 16, on 7 August as they sat next to their grandfather's grave in Al-Falluja Cemetery near Jabalia Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip.
Yaniv Kubovich of Haaretz reported Israeli army officials as saying that an inquiry into the attack on the cemetery had found that Israel was responsible for it and it is to be blamed for killing the children. Islamic Jihad insisted that its missiles were fired at targets across the nominal border in response to Israeli air strikes that killed one of its senior figures in a high rise residential building in the centre of the heavily populated Gaza City. Several civilians were killed in the same air strikes.
Although it did not take long for Israel to accept responsibility for these crimes against the Palestinians, it will never make any change to Israeli policies on the ground. Officials in the apartheid state will continue to believe that killing Palestinian children will deter Palestinian resistance to the military occupation, and that no one will ever be punished for the crime.
This was confirmed by Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who claimed proudly at the end of the Israeli offensive on Gaza that, "The operation brought back the initiative and deterrence to Israel." He added that, "All the goals were achieved," and, "We made a special effort to prevent harm to those not involved… The death of innocent people, mostly children, is heart-breaking."
Where is Lapid now? Why has he not apologised for killing the Palestinian children, when he said that he was "sad" when he thought that it was an Islamic Jihad missile that did the damage? He won't apologise, we know that because he also said that, "The State of Israel will not apologise for defending its residents through the use of force," even if such force might have killed children. Lapid clearly does not believe that killing innocent Palestinians deserves any apology.
There is a serious problem with Israel's sense of morality here. Zionists regard all Palestinians, including women and children, as terrorists whose existence is an existential threat to the Zionist state. The question is, where does the international community stand in all of this? Where are the so-called democratic states which lecture the rest of us about human rights and the value of human life?
The truth is that they only speak out when an Israeli is killed by a Palestinian, even if that Israeli is a fully trained soldier, as most Israelis are. World leaders have called for the return of the bodies of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hamas fighters during the 51-day Israeli offensive in 2014. When did we hear any of these leaders call for Israel to release the 5,000 or so Palestinians rotting in Israeli jails, many with neither charge nor trial?
When the Israeli occupation forces murdered Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May, the Israelis denied any responsibility for her murder and claimed that she was killed by a bullet fired by a Palestinian. A US investigation overseen by Israelis found that it could not be proven who fired the bullet that killed her. What did the world do? Nothing.
If a proper investigation found that Abu Akleh was murdered by an Israeli sniper, what would the world do? Nothing. And what will the world do now that Israel has admitted that it killed the five children next to their grandfather's grave in Gaza? Nothing.
Israeli soldiers care nothing about Palestinian lives. In 2014 they were ordered to shoot to kill all Palestinians that they came across, men, women and children alike, and as many as possible.
Likewise, Israeli politicians do not care about the crimes committed by the "most moral" army of Israel. They encourage them to kill civilians, as Lapid's remarks confirm. They know that they will not face any legal action and will never be punished. So they don't care.
They may make smooth comments about human rights and the protection of civilians, but they make no difference to army policy on the ground. According to Haaretz, "The figures prove that the military's special effort to prevent harm to uninvolved civilians does not meet the test of reality, and it serves more as a story Israel likes to tell itself and the world, similar to the story that the IDF is 'the most moral army in the world'."
The only thing which will stop Israeli crimes against the Palestinians is if the occupation state has its impunity withdrawn by the international community. If the world imposes sanctions on Israel, it will think twice before committing crimes against the Palestinians.
"Israel's continued policies and practices had resulted in flagrant human rights violations and abuses, including brutalisation of children, torture, forcible transfers and colonisation of land," Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, told world leaders in May. "Israel had no interest in achieving a just peace, and committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of apartheid."
He stressed that there should be an "immediate lifting" of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. "The Human Rights Council had the ethical and legal obligation to act ethically and legally to protect the Palestinian people and address the situation as it strove to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. A fully independent Palestinian State, with the pre-1967 borders, and with East Jerusalem as its capital, must be installed."
What happened next? Nothing. Israel has continued to commit crimes against the Palestinians and will continue to do so as long as the world imposes no punishment or other serious action against it. The international community lets Israel evade punishment for killing Palestinians. It is complicit in Israel's war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.