Nobody defends Israel better than the United States of America. When Israel massacres, the USA has its back before and after.
On Friday, Israeli forces massacred Palestinian protesters in Gaza. But Palestinian blood is very cheap in Israel.
“If there was any concern, it was because soldiers couldn’t celebrate the [Passover] Seder”, wrote Gideon Levy in Haaretz, in his piece titled “The Israel Massacre Forces”. He continues:
By nightfall the body count had reached at least 15, all of them by live fire, with more than 750 wounded. Tanks and sharpshooters against unarmed civilians. That’s called a massacre. There’s no other word for it.
But Israel has already said that it will not investigate. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman says those soldiers ”deserve a medal“.
Trump’s ”peace envoy”, Jason Greenblatt, already tried to secure the PR in advance. Ahead of the march, he tweeted:
Hamas is encouraging a hostile march on the Israel-Gaza border. Hamas should focus on desperately needed improvements to the lives of Palestinians in Gaza instead of inciting violence against Israel that only increases hardship & undermines chances for peace.
After the massacre, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was interviewed by the religious-nationalist settler outlet Israel National News. Asked “what happened in the border between Israel and Gaza”, Friedman said:
“Look, I think people have the right to protest peacefully, but unfortunately what I’ve seen is something very different than peaceful protests – very dangerous activity, rushing the border, throwing Molotov cocktails, burning tires, putting women and children on the front lines. That’s obviously much more serious than peaceful protests, and I think it’s not in the interest of the Palestinians for that to continue”.
Israel and its apologists are desperately trying to mask this war-crime as a ‘response’ (although Gideon Levy sarcastically says that “you can’t even call it a war crime because there was no war there”). A day before the protests, Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem warned:
“Ahead of the Palestinian demonstrations planned to start tomorrow (Friday) in Gaza, Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened to respond with lethal force. Completely ignoring the humanitarian disaster in Gaza and Israel’s responsibility for it, they are couching the planned protest in terms of a security risk, framing the demonstrators as terrorists and referring to Gaza as a “combat zone”. Fragments of information reported by the media indicate that: soldiers will be ordered to shoot anyone coming within 300 meters of the fence; snipers will fire at anyone touching it; live fire will be used also in circumstances which are non-life-threatening. In other words: shoot-to-kill unarmed Palestinians taking part in these demonstrations.”
We have seen this shoot-to-kill policy unfold: Palestinians shot while running, praying and walking. As Yousef Munayyer of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights observed, sometimes “the Israelis were so far away you can’t even see them hiding behind their sniper scopes”.
So was all this really just a response to “terrorism” and “violence”? No – it was a predictable outcome:
“These are the predictable outcomes of a manifestly illegal command: Israeli soldiers shooting live ammunition at unarmed Palestinian protesters”,
said Amit Gilutz, a spokesman for B’Tselem (quoted by The Washington Post).
“What is predictable, too, is that no one — from the snipers on the ground to top officials whose policies have turned Gaza into a giant prison — is likely to be ever held accountable”, he added.
US officials are now trying to not only secure Israel’s PR, but also its legal immunity. On Saturday, the US “sheriff”, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, again kicked her high heels, blocking a draft UN Security Council statement which called for an “independent and transparent investigation” of the violence.
The Palestinians were once again left with no agency, and could only use their voices to condemn not only the murders, but the international complicity:
“We condemn Israel’s brutal murder of 16 unarmed Palestinian protestors in Gaza yesterday, as well as the injury of around 1,700 Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territory in protests marking the 42nd anniversary of Land Day and affirming the right of return for Palestinian refugees”,
wrote PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi in an official statement.
“The Israeli army used unbridled violence, unleashing more than 100 snipers and firing live ammunition, tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets against the protestors before the very eyes of the entire international community. Yet, the UN Security Council failed to agree on a statement condemning the egregious violations that occurred at the hands of Israel. It is even more troubling that the United States and the United Kingdom blocked the statement. Such a counterproductive stance can render them complicit in Israel’s military occupation and in its persistent violations and violence. Neither one has displayed the moral or political courage to hold Israel to account and to curb its illegal behavior”.
And is there any hope from Israeli activism? About 250 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv to “stop the next war”. But is there a war, or is there a massacre? Is this about accountability, or about ‘preventing escalation’? It is hard to define the protest agenda here, as many of the organizations and parties represented were ‘liberal-Zionist’ – such as Peace Now, and Meretz, calling on Israel to “stop the shooting”.
At the same time, the Israeli mainstream left is not condemnatory at all – the left Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay had “no doubt” that “our soldiers did everything to reduce the number of casualties”. Looking a bit further right, Centrist leader Yair Lapid was even “proud” of the soldiers.
Thus, all this suggests that Israel will not be brought to account – not by internal forces, and not by external ones from the international community, and not at this time.
Once again, what is left for us to do, is to apply grassroots pressure to change this paradigm of impunity. Make no mistake about it – we are speaking of war crimes. Of course, Israel will consider such pressure to be a “moral outrage”, as it continues to suffocate Palestine. It will call even completely unarmed, civil society protests such as boycotts, a “strategic threat”, and its apologists will call such protests “terrorism”.
But this is just what Israel does. Israel has a long record of massacres, and it wants to get away with as much as it can, by toning it down and framing it as a “response to terror”. Those who protest against it are framed as “terrorist supporters”, and the state applies state-terrorism in order to counter them. It is easy to be daunted by this massive onslaught on human rights. Yet the fight against it must continue. And we must remember, that it is mostly the Palestinians who are paying the price of this with their lives. We, who are privileged enough to still be able to protest peacefully without being massacred, must assert our privilege in solidarity with the oppressed.