Last month, Israel’s National Security Minister, the far-right extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir, sought to facilitate the process for Israeli civilians to obtain firearms, citing a rise in applications since 2022 and the recent rise in Palestinian anti-colonial resistance against state and settler terror. “We have the duty to speed up the process and dramatically shorten the bureaucracy, for our children, for the lives of all of us,” he said.
No mention was made by Ben-Gvir of Israel’s deadly incursions into Palestinian neighbourhoods and refugee camps, or the relatively recent rampage of Israeli settlers in Huwara which Major General Yehuda Fuchs of the Israel Defence Forces called a pogrom. The encouragement of more civilian gun ownership emulates the US stance. However, in Israel’s settler-colonial context, the dependence on violence cannot be eliminated. Ben-Gvir is well placed to see that what the state might not be in a position to achieve without risking diplomatic consequences, its illegal Jewish settlers will carry out with absolute impunity.
True to form, the UN maintains its stance of taking many steps back when it comes to dealing with Israel’s colonial violence against Palestinians. “We know from experience that the proliferation of firearms will lead to increased risks of killings and injuries of both Israelis and Palestinians,” stated UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk. “The Israeli authorities must work to reduce the availability of firearms in society.”
While the proliferation of firearms in the hands of Israeli settlers does bode ill for more terror attacks against Palestinians, Turk’s comment is far from adequate. Ben-Gvir’s decision is not sporadic, or merely a response to the rise in Palestinian anti-colonial resistance, but the next step in Israel’s colonial violence, complementing what the government does at an official level.
While firearms might pose a risk to the settlers themselves, casualties will be far fewer than the number of Palestinian victims, since the reason for fast-tracking applications is for the firearms to be used against Palestinians. Turk’s statement, therefore, speaks of false equivalence between the coloniser and the colonised, while neglecting the fact that Palestinians do not even have an army to protect them, and that the Palestinian Authority’s security services are an extension of Israel’s, and thus are complicit in colonial violence. In a colonial context where Israeli settlers who murder Palestinians are celebrated as heroes, Turk should have stated unequivocally that Israel is extending the parameters of what forms of violence its settler population will be allowed to engage in without ramifications.
If the UN Human Rights Commissioner is so concerned about a rise in violence as a result of Ben-Gvir’s proposal to expedite the process of gun ownership among Israel’s settler population, then why not spare some concern for how the UN promotes Israel’s security narrative by upholding its purported right to “self-defence” against the people whose land it is occupying? No such right exists in international law. If Israel has blurred the lines between its armed forces and its civilians in terms of impunity for violence, why is the UN distinguishing between firearms in the hands of civilians and the military-industrial complex from which Israel and world leaders make a lot of money? Maybe the UN and its institutions can issue a clearer statement which confirms that it has no aversion to “collateral damage” arising from Israel’s state or settler violence against Palestinians.
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