Terrorist-preoccupied Israel issues latest license for thuggery

Sep 1, 2022
Gaza City, aerial photography by abdallah ElHajj
Image: iStock

While the world was distracted by brutalities in Ukraine, Yemen, Myanmar, Somalia and by a threatening US, China conflict, Israeli forces raided the offices of six Palestinian human rights organisations, and after stealing equipment and documents, soldiers welded doors shut.

To justify their actions, the Israeli government had labeled these organisations terrorist, which apparently gives armies a license to act like thugs, never be held to account.

Terrorism is violent action for political purposes, but there’s no evidence of violence by organisations such as Addameer which reports to the UN on rights to self-determination, the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Workers, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Bisan Center for Research and Development or by the highly respected human rights agency Al-Haq. In their response to Israeli claims, diverse international sources, from the CIA to the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, from leading Israeli journalists to the European Union, found no suspicion of activities deemed terrorist.

Who cares if a particular country can say and do what it likes?

Defenders of Israeli forces may reject descriptions of a history of Israeli actions as thuggery, brutality, racism and slaughter, hence the following warning. The raids on the offices of Palestinian civil society organisations, and the stifling of voices for justice, would usually be decried as human rights abuses. But in the hallowed halls of western capitals, that anodyne description disturbs no-one. As an alternative, language which actually depicts thuggery and brutality might encourage western interest and discourage collusion.

Defence for Children International-Palestine was one of the organisations raided and closed in August. It existed to protect the interests of approximately 500-700 Palestinian children arrested annually, and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system, the only children in the world treated in this manner. Now, without outside scrutiny, nothing can hinder Israeli forces pointing their guns, arresting, shackling and imprisoning children.

A 2020 Save The Children Report concluded that imprisoned Palestinian children faced inhumane treatment such as beatings, strip searches, psychological abuse, weeks in solitary confinement and being denied access to a lawyer. The majority of children were removed from homes at night, blindfolded, their hands tied behind their backs. More than half of 470 children interviewed said they were not allowed to see their families.

The cruel treatment of children raises the question, who are the terrorists?

Answering that question reveals the August 2022 raids on human rights agencies as the culmination of decades of brutality and killing. Figures recording repeated slaughter of Gazans show brutalities towards Palestinians as though they are not human, or, if defined as terrorists, they can be eliminated, men, women and children. Who cares?

Israeli military operations against Gaza reached a climax in the August raids on Palestinian human rights agencies. In those operations, the massive contrast between Palestinian and Israeli casualties shows why brutality cannot be justified by references to an alleged two sides at war or by implications of a balance of forces.

The ghoulish, macabre names of Israeli operations display the triumphalism of armed force. From ‘Breaking Dawn’ to ‘Autumn Clouds’, a war memorial gallery of slaughter starts with the achievements – the raids on civil society agencies – of August 2022.

Figures of Palestinian/ Gazan and Israel dead follow the titles of military operations. This potted picture of a decades old tragedy might arouse mainstream media and political interest comparable to support for Ukraine. Worth a try?

August 2022 Operation Breaking Dawn: 44 Palestinians, (16 children) No Israeli casualties.

May 2021 Operation Guardian of the Walls, 260 Palestinians (67 children); 12 Israelis

July 2014 Operation Protective Edge 2,251 Palestinians (551 children); 67 Israeli soldiers, 5 civilians

December 2008/9 Operation Cast Lead 1,400 Palestinians (300 children); 6 Israeli soldiers, 3 civilians

June 2006 Operation Summer Rains 240 Palestinians (48 children) 2 Israeli soldiers

November 2006 Operation Autumn Clouds 53 Palestinians; 2 Israeli soldiers, 2 children.

These figures ignore the bombing of Gazan homes, schools, hospitals, sewage and water plants, yet that destruction is justified as self-defence. Even acknowledging dangers from Palestinian/Hamas rocket fire, the estimated ratio of fifty Gazans killed for every Israeli casualty mocks the idea that these were wars. More like organised slaughter, deployed to deter, to eventually ensure that a besieged people must not be allowed to run human rights organisation which might evaluate and protest.

Skewed or indifferent international response to these events shows that even repeated carnage is taken for granted. A massive mismatch between moral outrage about Russian violence in Ukraine and the international community’s tendency to condemn armed Palestinian resistance, reveals a blind eye to Israeli brutalities.

In common with survival of planet earth, struggles to protect democracies, to respect international law and human rights, to oppose states’ easy resort to violence, are said to be at a tipping point. If the fate of Ukraine is a test of those values and of democracy, justice for the Palestinian people can be perceived in the same way.

In the tradition of speaking truth to power, the international media agency Aljazeera concludes that Israel is normalising terror, one dawn at a time. Thuggery has a license. Brutality can be taken for granted. Palestinians are of little consequence. Human rights organisations must cease to exist.

Ukrainians are said to be fighting for world-wide freedoms, for civilisation based on a humanitarian world order. Support for Palestinians’ right to life and to liberty looks like the same cause, and could be considered a means of Israeli security. A new world order perhaps? Too much to ask?

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