Students for a Democratic Society condemns the air strikes on Gaza and the use of excessive force on the Palestinian people during Operation Brother's Keeper by The Israeli Defense Force and Israeli settlers. SDS stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine in the face of violent Israeli repression and terrorism.
Early on July 1 Israel began a series of what would be in total over 40 air strikes on the Palestinian territory of Gaza. The strikes are part of larger Israeli operations in the past two weeks that have sought to terrorize the Palestinian population of both Gaza and West Bank.
The operations come in the wake of several important events, most importantly the announcement in early June of a Unity Government in Palestine between the political organizations of Fatah on the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. The second event being the disappearance of three hitch hiking teenage Israeli Settlers on June 12 near the West Bank city of Hebron.
The air strikes over Gaza are only the most recent act in a larger Israeli military campaign titled Operation Brother's Keeper which began in the immediate wake of the disappearance of the Israeli teens. This operation began on June 15 and 16 with arrests of members of Hamas who were accused of responsibility for the boys disappearance by Israel.
Hamas for its part has stated it has had no part in the kidnappings. It's efforts have been focused primarily on forming a Unity Government with Fatah and continuing work to negotiate an end to years of Israeli occupation of Palestine. It has no vested political interest in petty crimes or kidnappings.
The military operations have repeated a routine pattern of Israeli collective punishment of Palestinians. Operation Brother's Keeper mobilized 10 divisions of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) as well as the Israeli special forces. In addition to the IDF, Israeli settlers increasingly harassed Palestinians, in particular around Hebron where the disappeared boys lived in an illegal Israeli settlements.
Over 1,500 homes, businesses and schools have been raided and over 500 Palestinians have been arrested (over half without charges). There have been over 100 Palestinian injuries reported and six deaths including a 78 year old woman whose home was raided and a teen boy shot point blank in the chest.
The Israeli government has justified the most recent air strikes through two media narratives. One being that the bodies of the three murdered boys warranted "revenge," the other being that 14 rockets were reported fired from Gaza over the past three days (most intercepted by the Israeli missile defense shield known as the 'Iron Dome') thus inciting a military response.
The first claim must be understood as nothing less than a sensational exploitation of what no person will doubt is the tragic loss of three young lives. The kidnapping and death of Israeli's as an excuse for massive military action by Israel is nothing new though. It was also used as one of the justifications for the 2006 conflict with Hamas in Lebanon.
This narrative also demonstrates the Israeli monopoly of tragedy and the media negligence in reporting the countless killings of innocent Palestinians, including children. According to the Defense for Children International over 1,400 Palestinian children have been killed by the IDF or Israeli settlers since 2001. That is one child every three days. Yet the international media has expressed no outcry and the IDF and Israeli settlers have gone unpunished. The US has never condemned Israel and there was no massive military operations undertaken in the name of justice.
Most recently two Palestinian teens, Nadim Nuwara (17) and Muhammad Abu al-Tharir (16) were killed in May during Nakba Day demonstrations. These annual demonstration remember the 'Catastrophe' when 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 over night were made refugees. (Since then the UN Relief and Works Agency reports that their are over 5 million Palestinian refugees.) The murder of these boys by the Israeli security forces was captured on film. Nuwara was shot in the back. Both boys were unarmed peaceful demonstrators. Still there were no charges, no action, no justice.
This monopoly of tragedy also has neglected the 2,000-3,000 Palestinian children detained each year over the last 5 years according to the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights. This measures out to over 200 children being arrested and detained each month, some as young as 12 years old. In addition many are held in 'Administrative Detention' indefinitely without charges or a trial. Indeed, this tragedy cannot even be ignored in Israel. Israeli journalist Gideon Levy on June 15 wrote "No one cares about Palestinian prisoners. Last week Israeli's were much more interested in Mier Sheetrit's housekeeper than the 125 hunger strikers who have been slowly starving to death for 53 days."
Levy writing in Haaretz wrote a scathing critique of Israeli apathy and negligence of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory and the suffering of the Palestinian people. "The curtain has come down on the peace process... and with it the last Palestinian hope for national liberation through negotiations. Life in Israel and the West Bank settlements is back on track, a life of freedom and accomplishment... entirely untouched by the occupation. The same cannot be said for the Palestinians: They have none of this, and for them every delay is a solution to the conflict only extends their suffering, humiliation and tribulation."
In its effort to find the three missing teen settlers, the Israeli government has made thousands of arrest, holding over a quarter in 'administrative detention,' raiding both Gaza and the West Bank all without saving the boys lives or capturing and bringing to justice any kidnappers. Thus one may wonder, with thousands of arrests and no charges in the kidnappings, what are these ten divisions of the IDF really doing?
In as one account to justify the most resent air strikes, the Israeli government has claimed the strikes were a response to rockets being fired from Gaza. Yet, while rocket fire from Gaza has routinely been an excuse for violent Israeli retaliation against Gaza, it is a facade for a more explicit political task, destroying Hamas and dismantling any Palestinian unity.
While rockets are routinely fired from Gaza by marginal militant groups, Hamas has long distanced itself for these attacks in an attempt to make progress towards a unoccupied and liberated Palestinian state. Though despite the way Israel repeats over and over its reports of Gaza rocket fire into Israel, most rockets never get past the 'Iron Dome' and those that do often cause little more than property damage. The rockets launched from Gaza are largely a symbolic act of defiance aimed at disrupting the daily routine of Israeli occupation. Indeed according to Levy, "if the Gaza Strip doesn't fire Qassam rockets at Israel, the Gaza Strip doesn't exist."
Though the response each time by Israel to alleged provocation by Gaza rocket attack rarely adds up. Since 2001 some 13 Israeli's have been killed by rocket fire, most of them during the heightened conflict of the 2008-09 Conflict with Gaza. However just in the past three years alone 40 children have been killed on the West Bank (not including Gaza) according to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions. Amnesty International adds that since 2011 there have been 261 Palestinians seriously wounded, including 67 children, by live ammunition of the IDF on the West Bank. Additionally over 8,000 (1,500 children) have been seriously injured by other means including rubber coated metal bullets and tear gas. In 2013 protests against the Israeli apartheid wall, home demolitions, evictions, check points and the segregation of roads and utilities in the West Bank 27 Palestinians were killed, 14 of which were children.
As for Gaza the ongoing conflict has been even more unstable since 2000. While Israeli settlers and the IDF withdrew from Gaza after 2005, it and it's politically elected representation Hamas have remained a consistent target in Israeli crosshairs. In 2011 there were 105 Palestinians killed, 37 were confirmed civilians by international observers. In 2012 the numbers spiked as a result of the November clash between Israel and Gaza in which 1,500 sites were struck by the IDF. In less then two weeks 133 Palestinians were killed, some 54 of which were confirmed to be civilians, with an additional 840 Palestinians wounded. In 2013 Gaza saw the loss of 38 lives, the youngest being only 6 and the oldest being a 61 year old. Many killed in Gaza were attempting to cross the boarder 'illegally' for work as a result of the high unemployment in Gaza as a consequence of an Israeli blockade. Gaza also suffers from massive Human Rights violations at the hands of the Israeli blockade, not the least of which is the increasing shortage of safe water.
Thus according to Israeli standards of justice 13 civilians killed in 13 years equates to hundreds of Palestinians killed, thousands injured and thousands more indefinitely detained without charges, representation or a trial. (These numbers in the case of the Palestinians representing only the last three years)
Israel has conducted massive military operations in the name of its monopoly over tragedy while the international media and community has remained largely silent over the ongoing terrorization of the Palestinian people. While the disappearance and death of three Israeli teens is tragic, their lives have been placed at a higher value by the media and international community, including the United States, than that of thousands of Palestinians. This is the status quo of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This military operation, while claimed by Israel to be about the kidnapped and murder of three innocent teenage settlers or a few rockets being fired from Gaza, is in fact is only about one thing. Operation Brother's Keeper is a strategic military response to the formation of a Palestinian Unity government between Fatah and Hamas. Explicitly the operations have targeted Hamas, as they did in the 2012 conflict with Gaza when Israeli strikes targeted Hamas offices, radio stations and Hamas leadership, thus carrying on a pattern of political precession against Palestinian attempts at national self determination.
It is no coincidence that in the wake of the announcement in early June of the formation of a Palestinian Unity government that Israel announced 1,500 more illegal settlements. This policy is an Israeli standard response to undermine any Palestinian progress toward self determination. When in 2012 the UN recognized the Palestinians right to statehood, Israel announced 3,000 settlements. Settlement is simply another one of the weapons Israel uses to collectively punish and terrorize the Palestinians in their attempts for National Liberation in addition to arrests, assassinations and mass incarceration.
Under the slogan of 'Revenge!' Benjamin Netanyahu has aggressively attacked Hamas directly using any excuse available to do so. In the words of Economic Minister Naftali Bennett Operation Brother's Keep seeks to "turn membership in Hamas into an entry ticket to hell." The IDF has openly stated the operational was planned before the teen boys kidnappings in an attempt to stir unrest, not to find any missing youth. The mass arrests that have take place were, according to the IDF, an attempt at a "thorough cleansing," indeed an attempt to dismantle and destroy Hamas and thus any attempt at a liberated Palestine.
In a quick survey of social media the 'revenge' and 'cleansing' promoted by Israeli politicians has been celebrated by some extremists including members of the IDF in a uniquely savage and disgusting manner. In the wake of the murder of unarmed Palestinian teen, Yousef Abu Zagha, in the Jenin refugee camp outside Hebron, a picture titled "terrorist killed last night in Jenin" posted on Facebook received over 70,000 'likes.' Comments included things like "death to Arabs" and one army employee Naor Aharon commenting "what fun!" Another comment by Robi Yaakov asks, "Why only one? Why not another four million?" It is under the incitement and provocation of the Israeli government and international media that Israeli settlers and the IDF currently conduct violent crimes of 'revenge' against Palestinians, a political "cleansing" of Hamas, the mass incarceration and the murder of countless innocent Palestinians.
The current operation being conducted by the IDF must be understood to be nothing less than an attempt to continue to destroy the social, economic and political integrity of Hamas. This violent oppression is a systematic act of state terrorism by an apartheid Israel illegally occupying the Palestinian Territories.
This conflict is not some distant abstraction. These acts come as a direct result of the United States which sponsors such violent oppression with over $3 billion a year. The blood of Palestinians is on American hands. These acts of terrorism must not be tolerated.
Students for a Democratic Society stands opposed to the acts of Israeli terrorism in Gaza and the West Bank. The settlement from which the three young boys were tragically killed is illegal according to the International Court of Justice. Perhaps such tragedies could be avoid by the abandonment of thousands of illegal Israeli settlements across the West Bank. Perhaps the violence which Israel claims to be the 'victim' of may never be necessary if Israeli occupation and apartheid were ended.
Students for a Democratic Society says no to Israeli settlements! SDS says no to 'Administrative detention!" SDS says no to mass raids, arrests, air strikes and murder of Palestinians! SDS demands an end to US aid to Israel. SDS stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their demands for the freedom of movement, the right to employment, the right to education, the right to health and well-being, the right to return and the right of self determination.