The death toll among Palestinians in the latest Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip rose to 17 over the weekend. This included a man shot pointedly in chest by an Israeli sniper, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The number of the wounded was put at 800 as of Friday.
The Israeli military action was sparked by Palestinian demonstrations near the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. Defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said the action was in self defence in the face of provocation by Hamas, a militant breakaway faction of the Palestinian Authority controlling Gaza. “This was a well-organized provocation by Hamas’s military wing and an attempt to attack our sovereignty, to disturb daily life, and to prevent civilians from celebrating the Passover seder. We are not committing any provocations targeting the residents of Gaza, but only defending our citizens,” said Lieberman.
The Palestinian deaths have evoked criticism from within Israel itself, the Palestinian Authority and others worldwide. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Saturday for a “transparent investigation” into the deaths, including that of a Palestinian journalist. Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah asked the international community to “investigate Israel over the crimes it committed against the Palestinian people.”
In Israel, chairwoman of the left-wing party Meretz,Tamar Zandberg, also called for an investigation to be opened about the multiple deaths of Palestinians at Israel’s border with Gaza. “It is an Israeli obligation to know what happened there, and beyond that, it is in Israel’s interest to know in order to prevent deterioration into another dangerous round of violence.” Over the weekend, the government agreed to inquire into the death of the journalist killed by Israeli live fire. As for the other deaths, Lieberman was adamant. “Most of those killed were terrorists who were known to us very well as being active in the military branches of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They are not innocent civilians who came as part of a civil protest”, he said.
We are not surprised by Israel’s arrogance. Its intransigence and brutality against Palestinians have been encouraged by the West, Israel’s main military backer, through a conspiracy of silence and rare half-hearted criticism of Israel’s usual high-handedness against unarmed Palestinians whose only complaint or demand is that Isaelis leave their land.
The Israeli military’s response to the present Gaza protests is predictable. It follows a pattern. In 2008, a total of 1,391 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops in a so-called Operation Cast Iron. Between July 8 and Aufust 2014, over 2,000 lives were lost in Operation Protective Edge. As in the present situation, the western world saw nothing wrong in the way Israel handled those previous Palestinian protests, legitimate as they were. Here is a military power in the Mideast, supported by the World’s sole super-power, America, gunning down defencelss demonstrators on their own turf. The rest of the world has a moral duty to rise in condemnation of Isaeli sadism.
We admit, two rights are at stake here: the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state and the right of the Palestinians to a homeland of their own. Palestinians have long accepted a two-state proposal, but Israel has refused to stop building homes for Israelis in occupied Palestinian territory. This is at the heart of the Palestinian protests today.The free world must denounce Israel’s bloodletting and stand with the hapless Palestinians.