To the Israeli government, any person living in Gaza – regardless of age, gender, occupation, ethnicity or religion – is guilty by association with Hamas; and all those who approach the border fence to continue protesting for the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees are “militants” who are fair game for Israeli snipers.
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – Outrage continues to mount over Israel’s repeated shootings of unarmed demonstrators near the Gaza-Israel border, as Palestinians protest along the border fence as part of the “Great Return March.” Under fire over the growing number of civilian deaths, Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman has not only showed no remorse for the loss of life, but has also asserted that all persons living in Gaza are assets of Palestinian resistance group Hamas and, thus, are targets.
Speaking on Israeli pubic radio on Sunday, Lieberman stated his view that “there are no innocent people in the Gaza strip,” adding that “everyone [living there] is connected to Hamas.”
“Everyone gets a salary from Hamas, and all the activists trying to challenge us and breach the border are Hamas military-wing activists,” he continued.
A day prior, Lieberman also responded directly to one of the most controversial deaths to have taken place in Gaza in connection with the march — the death of Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja who was shot last Friday by Israeli soldiers while wearing a press jacket. His death constitutes a war crime.
Lieberman doubted Murtaja was a journalist, asserting that “many terrorists disguise themselves as journalists.” He also stated that the fact that Murtaja was filming the protests with a drone made him a target, stating that his unarmed camera drone “posed a threat to Israeli soldiers.”
In addition to Murtaja, 29 Palestinians have been killed since the march began two weeks ago, and over two thousand have been injured.
In other words, from the perspective of the Israeli government, any person living in Gaza – regardless of age, gender, occupation, ethnicity or religion – is guilty by association; and all those who approach the border fence to continue protesting for the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees — among them women and children — are militants who are fair game for Israeli snipers.
Israel’s “collateral damage” mindset regarding civilian deaths
This justification provided by Lieberman – that murdered civilians are terrorists in disguise or covertly collaborating with terrorists – is undoubtedly twisted. However, above all else, it is frightening, as it promises that more innocent lives in Gaza will be lost and that absolutely anyone who is killed is “guilty,” their deaths deserving of no investigation, no justice.
This is hardly new.
Israel consistently justifies killings that qualify as war crimes – such as the mass murders of civilians – and the bombing of civilian infrastructure, by asserting that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields” and that the group’s “integration” into Gaza society — i.e., popular support — justifies attacks on the Strip’s power plants, water treatment facilities and hospitals.
In addition, Israeli soldiers have openly admitted the existence of Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) policies aimed at indiscriminately murdering Palestinians, including orders such as “kill anything that moves” and “every person you see on the street, kill him.”
Such atrocities are often celebrated by IDF soldiers, who have even created T-shirts showing pregnant Arab women in cross-hairs with the legend “1 shot 2 kills,” as well as a young child also in crosshairs with the words “the smaller they are, the harder it is.” It comes as a little surprise, then, that Israeli attacks on Gaza result in high civilian death tolls.
Aside from the Gaza Strip, Israel has also used this same logic to justify the bombings of civilians in other countries, like Lebanon, where they have accused Lebanese political party Hezbollah of similarly “integrating” itself into civilian structures and residential areas. For instance, Israeli government officials have stated that Israel’s next war with Lebanon must “hit civilians where it hurts” because “Hezbollah is embedded in sovereign Lebanon,” as it is “part of the government and, according to the president, also part of its security forces.” Therefore, Lebanese civilian institutions “should all be legitimate targets if a war breaks out.”
This tactic of mass labeling civilians in a certain area as “militants” is nothing more than war propaganda. Israel is hardly concerned about the loss of innocent human life, as has been demonstrated time and again. Instead, it is more concerned with the false veneer of “humanitarianism” used to justify its aggression being wiped away, which would then expose the real and much less palatable motives behind the violence. As Lieberman’s words show, the “collateral damage” mindset is alive and well.
Top Photo | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman shake hands in front the media after giving a statement in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)