Chinadaily / Relatives mourn during the funeral of a Palestinian, who was killed during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border, in the central Gaza Strip, May 16, 2018. [Photo/Agencies] Fifty-eight.
As of this writing, that’s the body count from a Monday protest at the Gaza Strip in the Middle East. Peaceful Palestinian activists were shredded by a hailstorm of Israel Defense Forces bullets, which killed dozens and wounded thousands. Among the dead and injured were women and children; none of the well-armored, heavily armed Israeli forces suffered so much as a sprained ankle.
Catalyst for the massacre was last December’s decision by US President Donald Trump to move the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, whose status as capital is claimed by both Israel and Palestine. At the time, this policy was condemned by nearly every country on the planet as an inflammation of an already tense region of the world. Now that the smoke has cleared and the bodies are beginning to be buried, it’s obvious there was far more than ignorance at work — we must regard this as a calculated, premeditated act of aggression against the Palestinian people.
The embassy’s opening was deliberately timed; Monday was the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Israel state, Yom Ha’atzmaut, and the move was fast-tracked to coincide with that date. At every step, we can observe measures taken to exacerbate the situation and guarantee carnage. Gazans had been protesting since March 30 as part of a six-week “Great March of Return” endorsed by Palestinian political organization Hamas, so protests were expected to take place on the anniversary, a day with a history of demonstrations. Despite this, the IDF made no effort to exercise caution either in preparation for the inevitable or during the event itself. As such, this cannot be seen as anything less than a willful provocation by the US and Israel. Trump didn’t pull the trigger himself, but that little detail won’t help wash the blood from his hands.
Monday’s butchery marked the most deadly day in Gaza since 2014, but it’s not as though Israel has been a paragon of constraint otherwise. The use of live ammunition has been a constant since the “Great March” began, and thousands more Palestinians have been injured besides those hospitalized on the anniversary. Among the 52 dead in recent weeks were teenagers, women, children and journalists. For an indicator of how much remorse Israel felt after this bloodbath, you can look to the IDF. In a now-deleted tweet, the military’s official account said “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.” In any other context, this would be seen as the confession of a war crime. Why should Israel be the exception?
Oddly enough, the shooting of unarmed protesters was the exact rationale used by the US and NATO to justify intervention in Libya, Syria and who knows how many other countries. Yet this incident will spark no outrage from US politicians, no furious speeches about Israel on the Senate floor. The war hawks in Congress won’t call for sanctions on Netanyahu’s government, nor will they demand the kind of response that turned Libya from the country with Africa’s highest standard of living to one of the continent’s poorest. Israel is an ally to the West, and like all allies their sins are mysteriously, coincidentally forgivable. The reasons why few prominent US politicians are denouncing Israel are the same reasons why most aren’t speaking out against Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war in Yemen — doing so would mean risking their careers.
Western media did its part to shield Israel and the US from responsibility, as per usual. The New York Times’ initial headline for the story read “Palestinians Die in Protests as US Opens Jerusalem Embassy,” using passive voice to create ambiguity about how exactly the protesters died. Skimming this, a person might think rather than being shot by Israeli soldiers, the Palestinians spontaneously collapsed. This headline and others were changed after a massive online outcry, but the damage was done — if media objectivity on this issue wasn’t a total joke before, it is now.
Israel and the United States designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, despite its status as the elected government in Gaza. What, then, should we call the IDF, who have used explosive rounds and tear gas on protesters “armed” with crutches and rocks? It’s a cruel accident of geopolitics that allows one country to wage open war on innocents with impunity, while others are annihilated for straying from Western designs, even briefly.
The international community is slowly awakening to reality and becoming bolder in its opposition to Israeli violence, but the brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has been a fact of life for decades. The Palestinian people can’t afford for the governments of the world to wait any longer; a resolution must be reached swiftly and decisively to end the cycle of bloodshed and establish a lasting peace.
Although the Palestinians are the ones who truly suffer for it, Israel maintains its inhumane policy at its own peril. If the country continues this wanton slaughter, its claims to moral rectitude will only grow weaker, as will its position on the world stage. But with US military and economic support, there’s little reason for Israel to change course — and that may be the saddest truth of all.
The author is a copy editor with chinadaily.com.cn.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.