With numbing regularity, Israel bombs the Gaza Strip, home to 1.8 million Palestinians, from the air, land, and sea, and the excuse is always the same: Hamas "terrorists" don’t accept Israel’s “right to exist.” The specific trigger this time: the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers.
Hamas has publicly stated that it was not responsible for the deaths, and the claim is credible. Increasingly isolated, it had just concluded reconciliation talks with Fatah, a popular move with the Palestinian public, which it was not likely to jeopardize.
Bombing Gaza is convenient for Israel for many reasons: It ends further progress on Palestinian unity talks. It ends focus on the failure of the Kerry peace talks during which Israel continued to announce illegal settlement construction. It reminds all Palestinians that they will suffer a similar fate if they have the temerity to defy Israel. And it unites Israelis like nothing else.
Following the abduction of three Israeli teenagers, Israeli politicians called for vengeance. Netanyahu called the perpetrators "human animals."
In the Knesset, deputy speaker Moshe Feiglin called for cutting off power to Gaza hospitals. This was not the first time an Israeli politician in the Knesset has advocated war crimes against Palestinians.
Tel Aviv is commonly held up by Israelis as a secular city in which Jews and Arabs coexist. It produced Ayelet Shaked, a lawmaker who advocates "the slaughter of Palestinian mothers" because they "give birth to little snakes." This was expressed on Facebook, which gave thousands of Israelis the opportunity to click Like and to add their own homicidal fantasies.
A widely circulating image on Facebook is of two Israeli girls holding up a banner that says "Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values!" This image too got thousands of Likes. In a few years, these girls will be armed soldiers, able to act out their "values" on a captive population they have been primed to hate and control.
Rabbi Noam Perel, the secretary-general of World Bnei Akiva, was only one of many rabbis who demanded that the government turn the Israel Defense Forces into "an army of revenge." Israeli media personalities called for blood. Revenge, not arresting the perpetrators.
So no one can claim to be too surprised when waves of Israeli Jews formed vigilante gangs and fanned out in Palestinian neighborhoods, terrorizing residents and destroying property. At least one Palestinian child was deliberately run over, and attempted kidnappings of Palestinian children were reported. Several hundred Palestinians were arrested without provocation.
Sixteen-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir was walking alone when a group of Israeli Jews stunned him, doused him with kerosene, and burned him alive.
At least 192 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed as of Tuesday. Palestinian homes, schools, hospitals, and mosques are taking direct hits. Israel claims that they are used as military installations.
But here’s what the Israelis say in more candid moments.
On the eve of the Gaza bombing, Colonel Ofer Winter, the commander of the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade, has told his soldiers that they are engaged in a war "against a foe which curses [God’s] name."In fact, this is not the first time that Israelis have framed their attacks against Palestinians in terms of a holy war.
How does Israel identify its "targets"? Journalist Gideon Levy cites two Israeli military types: According to Maj. Gen. (res.) Oren Shachor: "If we kill their families, that will frighten them." Another says: "We must create a situation such that when they come out of their burrows, they won’t recognize Gaza." State terrorism.
The Israeli military argues that it has made efforts to minimize civilian casualties, but it also refers to homes as "operation centers."
One of the "military targets" eliminated by Israel this week was known by local Gazans as the Batsh family (18 members).
Israel’s vision of the future is premised on total Jewish control over people, land, and resources in Mandate Palestine. This supremacist view is taught to their children, divinely sanctioned by their rabbis, repeated by their media, pumped into their soldiers, and reinforced with each bullet.
Why should we care about any of this? Perhaps the most compelling reason is this:
On average, Israel has killed one Palestinian child every three days for the past 13 years.
And U.S. taxpayers are making it possible.
Ida Audeh, an editor who lives in Colorado, grew up in the occupied West Bank. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.