Seven things you need to know about Israel's latest attack on Gaza
As Israel prepares to celebrate the anniversary of its birth as a modern nation on 14 May (which for Palestinians is observed as the 'Nakbah' or catastrophe as it marks the beginning of their odyssey), it has begun the slaughter of the Palestinians who are using the occasion to highlight their plight. Michael Lesher sifts through the fog of Israeli propaganda to explain what is really happening.
BEING of mild disposition, I am ill suited to describe in detail the thuggery by which the putative Jewish state executed 17 of its 2 million Gaza prisoners (wounding some 1,400 more) by way of inaugurating the Jewish Festival of Liberation on 30 March.
Fortunately, however, there is no need of such descriptive talent. The things everyone must know about the latest Gaza massacre - and its rapidly ensuing cover-up - are as simple and uncontroversial as they are abhorrent.
1. Israel's killings were premeditated
Before the first demonstrators set foot anywhere in the vicinity of Gaza's border with Israel, the 'most moral army in the world' had openly declared its violent intentions towards any Palestinian reckless enough to challenge Israel's crippling siege. A hundred snipers, we learnt, were to be deployed around Gaza's prison wall and 'prepared to use live fire', supplemented by 'heavy machinery' and even the novelty of 'drone-deployed tear gas'. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett - who likes to boast about killing Arabs - swore that the Gazans would be kept inside their cage (a place described in a recent UN study as verging on uninhabitable) 'at any cost'.
Just in case the sabre-rattling wasn't loud enough, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stressed that so much deadly force was being amassed in one place to 'minimise Palestinian casualties'. Minimise, mind you - not prevent; not avoid. If the meaning of that threat escapes you, I suggest you imagine how the world press would have reacted if a heavily armed contingent of Palestinian fighters had been dispatched towards a densely populated Israeli town, with public orders to 'minimise' the killing of Jewish civilians - while ensuring that the rascals learnt their place.
2. Israeli violence had nothing to do with 'security'
The indefatigable Israeli propaganda mill is churning as hysterically as ever. Yet the Israelis have not even tried to prove that the vast majority of slain protesters were 1) using a weapon, 2) threatening a soldier, or 3) attempting to penetrate the barbed-wire barrier when they were gunned down by rifle fire, while actual evidence shows the precise opposite. In fact, it is far from clear whether any of the 758 adults and children wounded by live Israeli gunfire was - even according to the Israelis - a physical threat to anyone at all.
This glaring if oblique admission proves that of the 17 homicides Israel committed on 30 March, at least a dozen or more were murders - murders pure and simple - and that they were indefensible even under Israel's far-fetched definition of 'security'. That's doubtless why the propagandists have been trying so feverishly to change the subject ever since. (Oh, how terrified an armed-to-the-teeth Israeli sharpshooter must feel when he spies, on the far side of a prison wall, a Palestinian teenager carrying a tyre!)
3. There were no 'clashes'
Again, I defer to Israeli propaganda. How many injuries to Israeli soldiers have even been claimed in the tsunami of apologetics pouring out of Tel Aviv? Zero. How much damage to Israeli property? Zero. How many Israeli civilians threatened? Zero. How many breaches in that precious 'security fence'? Zero.
So this bloody escapade was no 'clash'. Even the Israelis implicitly admit as much. How can two sides 'clash' when one group suffers 1,400 casualties in a fusillade of bullets while the other group - the one wielding automatic rifles and dispersing tear gas by remote control - endures not a scratch?
4. Israel targeted its victims for political reasons
Perhaps because its brutality was so blatant, Israel has not even tried to shelter behind the usual pretence of 'collateral damage'. On the contrary, its army blandly took credit for the murders, announcing (via Twitter) that 'nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.'
It follows that Israel and its apologists cannot claim these homicides were accidents, or even 'overreactions' - to borrow the tepid phrasing of Bernie Sanders (who is nonetheless to be commended as virtually the only US Senator to notice the massacre in the first place).
In fact, we not only know that the Israelis targeted unarmed victims - we even know why. Military spokesmen specifically admitted 'firing towards main instigators' of the protest - meaning that Israeli forces deliberately killed Palestinians whom they suspected of being competent organisers. Got that? Under Israeli rule, Palestinian protest is a crime; directing a Palestinian protest is a capital crime. And in this Kafkaesque penal setting, the IDF happily plays a triple role as judge, jury and executioner.
Israel's Major-General Yoav Mordechai even confessed that his troops tried to bully Gaza's bus companies into refusing to carry people to the site of the demonstrations. 'We warned that measures would be taken against the owners and their companies' for 'transferring' Palestinians to the protests, the general said, adding that 'demonstrations of anarchy' invite 'severe and harsh measures'.
You might want to keep this detail at the ready for the next propagandist (you're sure to encounter at least one) who insinuates that the snipers who gunned down helpless civilians acted out of fear of a few stones - I mean the ones thrown in defiant symbolism, by a small fraction of the protesters, in the direction of the huge berm atop which the Israeli gunmen trained their high-powered rifles at the bodies below them. As I have noted already, not one soldier suffered so much as a scratch during the protests. No, Israel's goal was to crush the demonstration in toto - a decision that was taken before a single protester showed up near the border. Stones or no stones.
And yes, Virginia, there is a name for that sort of lethal conduct: the name is terrorism. Israel directed deliberate, deadly violence at Gaza's civilians with the express goal of intimidating potential dissenters. It requires astonishing chutzpah for the orchestrators of terrorism on such a scale to accuse their victims of being terrorists. But chutzpah is one thing Israel seldom lacks.
5. Israel commits its crimes because the US lets it
Like other bullies, Israel fights only where it cannot lose. At the United Nations, it reverts to the role of toady and lets Uncle Sam do the slugging. US Ambassador to the UN (and former Confederate flag booster) Nikki Haley, who says she dislikes bullies, displayed her true passions at the UN Security Council over the weekend after the violence as she swooned over this latest proof of Israeli manhood. The normally voluble Ms Haley has so far been unable to catch her breath sufficiently to issue a public statement, but on Washington's orders she did manage to squelch a draft resolution that would have urged 'restraint' and an 'investigation' into the circumstances of the civilian deaths. As Karl Rove once reminded a reporter, neither facts nor law have any bearing on those favoured by the American titan: 'When we act, we create our own reality.'
I should mention, in fairness, that US politicians less patently revolting than Haley have enabled Israeli crimes with equal aplomb. Barack Obama bowed politely to the IDF as it massacred more than 1,400 Gaza civilians (including some 500 children) in 2014, frowning a bit only after Israel's seventh deadly attack on the women and children who had been cowering in UN 'shelters'. The result was instructive. The day before Obama finally put his foot down, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had publicly insisted his troops were staying put in Gaza; upon the president's warning growl, Netanyahu immediately announced their withdrawal. As Norman Finkelstein has pointed out, this instance alone demonstrates the extent of American complicity in Israel's crimes. The killing lasts only as long as the White House approves it. And the White House can be moved by political protest.
6. Mainstream media, and Jewish organisations, assist in the cover-up
The proliferation of apologetics in mainstream media for Israel's deadly violence has been so instantaneous, and so nauseating, that I will only sample the field briefly. Sticking to the liberal end of the spectrum, one finds Ha'aretz's Amos Harel lamenting that 'Hamas . has found a more effective way of creating friction with the Israel Defense Forces than firing rockets and carrying out attacks through its tunnels'. (How nasty of those Palestinians to get themselves killed just to ruin the mornings of some IDF brass!) In fact, Harel notes, the Gazans have proved so treacherous that 'despite the large number of Palestinian casualties not a single rocket has been fired into Israel from the Strip'. What's a besieger to do? The more lopsided its violence, the easier it is to hurt poor Israel's feelings.
Major Jewish organisations have been just as sycophantic, most of them looking the other way, while the influential Orthodox Union had the incredibly bad taste to continue advertising a 'VIP tour of the [West Bank] security fence' among the trips it sponsors for religious Jews during the Passover holiday. The host of this particular excursion - Col. Dani Tirza - is himself such a shameless propagandist that he lost his job as the barrier's lead planner after being caught lying to Israel's Supreme Court. But the Orthodox Union evidently doesn't mind that, any more than it minds the 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice that the 'security fence' violates basic norms of international law. As Golda Meir reportedly told another Israeli politician, 'After the Holocaust, Jews are allowed to do anything.'
7. Israel's crimes will continue until we make it stop
Far from feeling remorse over the 30 March mayhem, Israel's chief army spokesman, Ronen Manelis, proclaimed recently that Israeli troops 'will not be able to continue limiting [their] activity to the [separation barrier] fence area and will act against these terror organisations in other places too'.
You heard it. If Israel has its way, things are going to get even bloodier.
And that means it's up to us.
Israel is not going to stop killing and maiming Palestinians until it has no choice in the matter. And it will have no choice once the United States joins virtually the rest of the world in calling for a halt to atrocities that - if perpetrated against Israelis - would have long ago excited the horrified fury of the Western world.
Among my readers are bound to be many people who, because of their citizenship or their political affiliations, can have an impact on US policy towards Israel. This is the time to throw all our weight against an unholy alliance that has made possible decades of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and - as the violence on 30 March reminds us - periodic mass murder. We can resist; we can protest; or we can be complicit. There is no other option. For Israelis, for Jews, for Americans - for all human beings who care about justice in Palestine - there cannot possibly be any such thing as neutrality.
Michael Lesher has published poetry, fiction and numerous columns and non-fiction articles on subjects including the Israel-Palestine conflict, child abuse and the American family court system. His columns and articles have appeared in such publications as The Village Voice, Jewish Daily Forward, Jewish Week, ZNet, Mondoweiss and Electronic Intifada. An Orthodox Jew, he lives in Passaic, New Jersey. More information about his work can be found on his website, www.MichaelLesher.com. The above article is reproduced from ZNet (zcomm.org/znet).
*Third World Resurgence No. 328, December 2017, pp 35-37