“We have reached a level of insanity and delusion”, said Israeli Minister of Hasbara Gilad Erdan to Israeli radio. For once in my life, I agree with this propagandist 100%. But Erdan’s statement was of course meant cynically – he meant that there was no reason to criticize the snipers who were filming themselves shooting an unarmed and motionless Palestinian from long distance across the Gaza fence – and celebrating afterwards. By Erdan, this is a completely natural response, because the soldiers are “under stress” and thus should not be judged “from the armchairs in Tel Aviv”. To judge them would be “insane and delusional”.
This sentiment seemed to be shared by Minister of Defense Lieberman, who even appeared to be celebrating the shooting himself. He was once again offering medals to the snipers, while condemning whoever filmed it: “The Gaza sniper deserves a decoration, and the photographer a demerit.”
So by Lieberman, the act of shooting itself was not only appropriate, but even heroic, and yet filming it and allowing the world to see what is being done is the cardinal sin.
Indeed, this is the logic that the Israeli army is running with.
A preliminary army inquiry after the video went viral concluded that the soldiers acted “appropriately”, but that “the exuberant soldiers heard in the video acted improperly and will face disciplinary proceedings” (as reported by Haaretz).
According to the army, the video is from December 22nd, when there were widespread protests against Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That day, Israeli troops shot dead at least two Palestinians and wounded about 60 with live fire (Reuters).
The Israeli army admission that the video is authentic, and that the soldiers acted “appropriately”, shows beyond doubt that this policy of shooting unarmed protesters has existed long before the current wave of protests under the Great March of Return.
But how long?
The Israeli whistleblower organization Breaking the Silence seem to indicate that this is essentially not new, even if the explicit policy may be new:
“Whether this video was filmed a month or a week ago, as those who served in the occupied territories, we know – over 50 years of occupation have resulted in moral corruption to the degree to which unarmed innocent demonstrators are now being killed. What we are witnessing on the border with Gaza is no different than what we did within Gaza as Israeli soldiers. This complete disregard for the lives of the innocent is indicative of the fact that it is impossible to control millions of people against their will without morally degenerating. Responsibility for this lies first and foremost in the hands of our government, which continues to send the IDF to perpetuate the regime of occupation”.
So Breaking the Silence is telling us that essentially, what causes all this horror, what brings this policy as a ‘natural outcome’ is the occupation of 1967.
But actually, the saga of such policies is much older.
Israeli historian Benny Morris has written extensively about Israel’s policy of shooting unarmed Palestinian refugees (which were considered ‘infiltrators’, just like African refugees today), documented in his book Israel’s Border Wars 1949-56. Here is a partial summation by Avi Shlaim:
“The evidence gleaned by Morris from the various sources he consulted, suggests that infiltration into Israel was a direct consequence of the displacement and dispossession of over 700,000 Palestinians in the course of the Palestine War and that the motives behind it were largely economic and social rather than political. Many of the infiltrators were Palestinian refugees whose reasons for crossing the border included looking for relatives, returning to their homes, recovering possessions, tending to their fields, collecting their crops and, occasionally, exacting revenge. Some of the infiltrators were thieves and smugglers; some were involved in the hashish convoys; while others were nomadic Bedouins, more accustomed to grazing rights than to state borders. There were terroristic and politically-motivated raids, such as those organised by the ex-Mufti, Hajj Amin al Husayni, and financed by Saudi Arabia, but they did not amount to very much. In the period 1949-1956 as a whole, 90 per cent or more of all infiltrations, in Morris’s estimate, were motivated by economic and social concerns” [….] “Altogether between 2,700 and 5,000 infiltrators were killed in the period 1949-1956, the great majority of whom were unarmed.”
So this is way before the 1967 occupation. And it was a “direct consequence” of what is widely understood today as a massive ethnic cleansing – the Nakba events of 1948 and the years that followed.
The timing of the Great March of Return conveys very crucial messages. We are approaching the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, directly related to Israel’s establishment. The March will end on the Nakba Day as its culmination. President Trump has made moves to take the most central issues of Palestinian statehood off the table – by diplomatic force – through the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel and moving of embassy to there. That move is indirectly saying to the Palestinians ‘drop dead’, as Jerusalem is one of the central ‘final status’ issues relating to Palestinian statehood. And if Jerusalem is being taken ‘off the table’, you can bet that the refugee issue is being taken ‘off the table’ as well. The Trump administration is also using the refugee issue as leverage in its attempt to force Palestinians into acquiescence with this end-game which Trump calls the ‘ultimate deal’ – as we have seen recently with the US freezing of funds to the UN refugee agency UNRWA.
Seventy percent of Gazans are refugees. Through this protest they are desperately trying to put this issue back on the table, against this massive assault and denial of their rights.
But the march also points to an even larger story of Palestinian dispossession – Israeli Apartheid within Israel’s 1949 ceasefire lines, known generally as the ‘pre-1967 borders’, (although Israel has not delineated these borders), this is what is often referred to as ‘Israel proper’. Because the Great March of Return started on Friday, March 30th – which was the 42nd anniversary of Land Day. Land Day was a protest of Palestinians (citizens of the state, as well as occupied and refugees) against a massive Israeli expropriation of Palestinian land for state usage, under the notion of the “Judaisation of the Galillee”. In these protests, 6 Palestinians died, and about 100 were injured.
The March of Return is demonstrating that this is all connected. That the dispossession of Palestinians is an ongoing saga, that the Nakba is ongoing, that it affects all Palestinians, and that when Palestinians seek to make the world remember them, they are mowed down, and Israelis laugh and celebrate.
But for Israeli leaders like propaganda minister Erdan , it’s “insane and delusional” not only to protest this policy, but even to criticize soldiers for celebrating their hunting down of Palestinians like in a safari, but actually more like in a zoo, behind a fence, as if they were animals.
Palestinian lives are basically confirmed to be worth absolutely zero for Israel, and that apparently needs to be celebrated. And it will be celebrated on a grand scale this year, as Israel celebrates its 70th year, having brought Palestine to near total erasure, and exposed itself as the monster that it was destined to be.