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Where is the ‘morality’ in Israel’s erasure of Palestinians?

February 22, 2024 at 8:00 pm

Women mourn after the death of relatives in an Israeli air strike that hit the Baraka family home in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on February 18, 2024 [-/AFP via Getty Images]

Had the world retained its sensitivity, the myth of “the most moral army in the world” would have shattered already. But the Israeli military is utilising its tactic of isolating individual cases of human rights violations and pointing fingers at individuals, rather than blame the genocidal policy of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the military as a state institution that carries out genocidal actions.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) top lawyer, Maj.-Gen. Yifal Tomer-Yerushalmi warned of “incidents [that] go beyond the disciplinary domain, and cross the criminal threshold.” Such actions, she stated, damage Israel’s and the IDF’s reputation in the international arena. “We act like human beings and, unlike our enemy, maintain our humanity,” Tomer-Yerushalmi added. “We must be careful not to use force where it is not required, to distinguish between a terrorist and those who are not, not to take anything that is not ours — a souvenir or weapons — and not to film revenge videos.” The latter was emphasised after the New York Times published footage of Israeli soldiers ridiculing Palestinians’ homes and celebrating their destruction. “I stopped counting how many neighbourhoods I’ve erased,” one caption reads.

Yet the language used in the videos is also the language used by Israeli officials in terms of erasure and degradation. Towards the beginning of Israel’s genocide in Gaza, Palestinians were described as human animals and threatened with a total siege. Five months later, Israel’s genocidal actions are taking shape swiftly and there is no way that individual soldiers could have destroyed Gaza without the backing of the institutions they serve. So, once again, focusing on individual culpability is a veneer that has been used in the past to detract attention from the collective actions of the IDF under the Israeli colonial entity’s impunity.

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Only this time, the level of impunity completely matches how brazenly Israeli officials and the military have been exposing their war crimes. Tomer-Yerushalmi’s warning is not indicative of a few instances of violations, but of how genocide organised by the Israeli State and the IDF is being downplayed to safeguard the perpetrator’s image. The international outcry is not loud enough, however. Between humanitarian pauses and conditional ceasefires that give Israel enough time to request additional weapons supplies from the US, and the international community’s obsession with the defunct two-state paradigm, Israel faces no formidable opponent and has also made a mockery out of the International Court of Justice.

It is to be expected that Israel resorts to its usual normalising tactics – after all it is now normalising genocide to the international community. But the international community is intent on failing Palestinians by accepting the normalisation of Israel’s genocidal intent and action. Israel and its military are not acting like human beings – the majority of human beings do not have genocidal intent and do not commit acts of genocide.

Of course, the words reflect what is not said – the designation of Palestinians as “human animals” by Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, to purportedly claim the high and moral ground. But there is no morality in dehumanisation, so how would Yerushalmi and, indeed, the international community, describe a settler-colonial, genocidal enterprise that precisely targets to kill Palestinians, starves the entire population and plans for the mass expulsion of those who remain? Where is the “morality” in Israel’s erasure of Palestinians?

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