Gun slaughter of Americans and Palestinians

May 20, 2023
The revolver belongs to the category of multi-shot handguns and the cartridges are loaded in the rotatable drum.

Despite the horrors of conflicts around the globe, the United States and Israel compete for headlines about their latest killing sprees. These close allies have cultivated cultures of violence, have aided one another with weapons, with military mindsets, with a fascination with violence as the way to solve problems and eliminate opponents.

Figures show the extent of bloodbaths but obscure the fear, hatred and anger which ensure that across America and within Israel/Palestine, revenge, cruelty and violence continue. A sense of siege is not limited to Gaza. Despite differences in the scale of oppression, there are parallels between fear on US streets, in their churches, schools, night clubs and supermarkets, and in West Bank refugee camps, in the Gaza Strip, in settler surrounded Palestinian villages.

Causes of violence, political leaders’ explanations of killings and the extent of the latest bloodbaths warrant attention.

Extent of the slaughter

Gun slaughter in the US occurs daily. The first four months of this year have seen a record of over 200 mass shootings – four or more killed in one go. The latest macabre stories seem predictable yet beyond belief.

On May 7 in a Dallas shopping mall, a man in his thirties shoots dead eight people, including three children. At the end of April, also in Texas, a man responds to his neighbours’ request to cease the noise from repeatedly firing his gun, by killing five people. In mid-April in New York State, a 20 year old woman is shot dead because she had mistakenly driven up a man’s drive way, and weeks later, a shootout at a birthday party in Dadesville Alabama leaves four dead and thirty two people injured.

The depravity continues. On May 13 a young woman, after getting an abortion in another state, is shot in the head by her boyfriend.

On the West Bank, in Gaza, in East Jerusalem, killing Palestinians has been underway for decades, but in the name of self-defence aided by armed settlers, the latest Netanyahu government has made attack and assassination a priority.

In the first quarter of 2023, more than 90 Palestinians have been killed, four times as many as in the same period in 2022. A ‘Protection of Civilians Report’ by the NGO ‘Relief Web’, records four Israelis killed by Palestinians. On May 9, in Israeli attacks on Gaza, three alleged commanders of Islamic Jihad were killed. Israeli government spokespersons said they were ‘aware of some collateral.’ The thirteen people killed in this Gaza raid included the unfortunate collateral: five women and four children.

The principled Palestinian leader Dr. Hanan Ashrawi sends a tweeted message, ‘Constant air strikes, deafening explosions, targeted assassinations, collateral damage of women and children, Gaza plunged into darkness, under siege with two million people held hostage to Israel’s death machine.’

The common ground

Common ground in US and Israeli political cultures sees hypocrisy in claims about democracy but without the pathology being acknowledged. In the name of freedom, an outdated interpretation of the US Second Amendment allows almost anyone to own a gun and go on a rampage. Democracy and freedom in Israel, means that 21% of citizens, albeit Palestinians, have few rights and no power.

As monumental hypocrites, former President Trump and former Vice President Pence appeared at the National Rifle Association Convention, declared their support of freedom and in spite of loss of life from recent mass shootings, said they would never allow US citizens to be separated from their guns. To demonstrate their macho love of violence, they advocated accelerated executions of mass shooters.

Violence begets violence. US governments arm the Israeli military. In both countries, citizens are encouraged to seek revenge against people whom they hate or fear, or who might appear to have trespassed on their property. One act of armed revenge is not far removed from a pogrom against a whole people.

An inimitable US gun culture and Israeli governments’ shoot on sight policies towards young men labelled militants, are nurtured by politicians who are never held accountable. In response to rockets fired from Gaza, Netanyahu says, ‘Bombing will continue in full force’. Israeli opposition politicians declare that everyone stands behind the security forces. In similar vein, Islamic jihad in Gaza says that Israeli crimes will not pass unpunished.

In these cultures, everyone needs an enemy. Only violence impresses enemies. There must be no end to revenge.

In the US, a veneer of religiosity allows politicians to maintain the rights of gun owners yet simultaneously seek high moral ground. Prayers and vigils follow killings but do nothing to prevent the next shootings. After the massacres in Dallas, gun supporting Texan Senator Cruz declared, ‘Heidi and I are praying for the victims of the horrific mall shooting.’ A founder of the gun safety group, ‘Moms Demand Action’ said of Cruz, ‘The only accountability we can hope for is that gun extremists like you are thrown into the ash heap of history.’

Elsewhere in the US, politicians who oppose abortion and support a right to life, wear AR-15 (a lightweight semi-automatic rifle) broaches in their lapels.

In Israel, fundamentalist religious extremists are members of a Cabinet promoting violence as a means of security which can also divert attention from the government’s unpopularity on other issues.

US gun culture, Israeli indifference to humanitarian law and violence towards a people they deride, are aided by the cowardice of an international community which seldom dares to criticise the nihilism underway in both countries.

However inhuman and deadly the similarities in US and Israeli cultures, business as usual attitudes of onlookers guarantee that fear, hatred and slaughter will continue.

A militarised, mostly male mindset, partly lacquered by religious beliefs, contends that in and out of uniform, supposed brave men should never be separated from their guns.

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