The abduction and killing of three teenage Israelis just outside Hebron recently has produced a response on the part of the Israeli government that conforms to a pattern of collective punishment that is illegal under international law.
What has been missing from mainstream news coverage in the West of this latest crisis – as it always is whenever an eruption of violence takes place in this part of the world – is any acknowledgement of the context involved.
And the context to the slaying of three Jewish teenagers, after they left a Jewish religious school located in an illegal Jewish settlement to hitchhike back to Israel proper, is a decades-long military occupation of Palestinian land which brings into disrepute the notion that human rights and international law are universal. In truth, they are not universal at all. In truth, they are gifts to be given by those states who assert exceptionalism based on military strength and their willingness to unleash huge violence whenever this exceptionalism is challenged or contested.
Imagine existing as a colonized people with no end to your suffering and oppression in sight. Imagine your land was crisscrossed by 500 military checkpoints, as is the case in the West Bank, or being forced to exist in a hermetically sealed strip of land whose land, air, and sea access is tightly controlled by an occupying state, as with the Gaza Strip. Just imagine what economic embargo, immiseration, land theft, illegal settlements, collective punishment, and the denial of your human rights would do to you after a just a few weeks, never mind decades.
The state of Israel speaks the language of democracy while engaged in the systematic and willful ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land, ensuring in the process that those who remain despite the huge pressure being exerted against them to leave are punished at every opportunity. The latest opportunity has presented itself on the back of the abduction and killing of these three Israeli teenagers. Their killing was a deplorable act to be sure, but with the aforementioned context taken into account, is anyone surprised? And is the international community now so blind to the plight of the Palestinians, to the monumental injustice they have endured for so long, that Israel is allowed a free hand to kill as many as they like, whenever they like?
Israel and its apologists and supporters continue to deny that the human rights of the Palestinians are being violated. However, this poses the question of whether this is because they deny that the Palestinians are human beings? History reveals that colonialism rests on a foundation of racism and Israel is beyond any shadow of doubt a racist, apartheid state masquerading as a democracy.
Of course, such claims invite the usual allegations of anti-Semitism. If true, it means that individuals such as former US President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the South African anti-apartheid struggle, are also anti-Semites, given their own pronouncements that Israel is an apartheid state.
No, Israel can no longer hide behind an exceptionalism born of a European Holocaust in which no Palestinian or Arab took part. Yes, Israel has the right to exist and, yes, it has the right to act to ensure its own security and the security of its people. But security can never be enjoyed while oppressing another people and colonizing their land.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, is intent on punishing Hamas, whom he alleges are responsible for the deaths of the three Israelis concerned - Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel. But isn’t it a coincidence that in recent weeks and months he has been vocal in his condemnation of the moves made both by Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian factions, to forge a unity government? Only a cynic would venture the possibility that Mr Netanyahu’s decision to make war on Hamas over this incident is also motivated by his and his government’s desire to smash any attempt at the unification of the Palestinian people, intent on keeping them divided and thereby weak and fragmented.
Well I am just such a cynic, as I would venture to suggest are the majority of those whose analyses of this issue run counter to the one offered by the BBC, Sky News or Fox News. In the eyes of a right-wing Israeli government and political class the crime of the Palestinian people is that they continue to exist on land that has long been coveted by them as theirs by biblical and moral right. That the Palestinians dare continue to assert their own national and moral rights is anathema to the state of Israel. It also acts as a j’accuse against an international community which up to now has borne witness to their oppression and is thereby complicit.
No state and no people, regardless of their history, can be given an opt-out when it comes to international law and human rights. Justice and security are two sides of the same coin and Israel’s security can never be an excuse for denying justice to the Palestinian people.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.