Every other day new horror stories emerge from Gaza. The Great March of Return began on 30 March and was scheduled to run until 15 May, Nakba Day. Given the brutal Israeli response to the peaceful demonstrations, it is no surprise that the border protests have continued.
As always, the flames are being fanned by US imperialism. The worst day of violence during the protests coincided with the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem. On 14 May alone, the Israelis killed 60 Palestinians at the border, bringing the then overall death toll to at least 110.
The Israeli slaughter throughout the weeks of protest, but particularly on 14 May, brought an already decimated Palestinian health service to breaking point. Sanctions and blockade mean that Palestinian infrastructure is not fit for purpose at the best of times. The situation is dire, with shortages of everything imaginable, including electricity and the medicines necessary to keep hospitals functioning.
Gaza’s hospitals were already at crisis point, with 80 percent of cancer patients not receiving treatment owing to shortages. Forgetting the human aspect for a moment, a further 100 deaths and over 14,000 wounded is the last thing Gaza’s hospitals need. Indeed, the director general of Gaza’s hospitals, Abdel Latif al-Hajj, said: “The medical system almost collapsed on 14 May.”
The large number of casualties among demonstrators, in particular the high percentage injured by live ammunition, has raised concerns about excessive use of force, alongside calls for independent and transparent investigations into these incidents, including by the UN secretary-general.
Following the events of 14 May, the spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights stated: “The rules on the use of force under international law have been repeated many times but appear to have been ignored again and again. It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured: women, children, press personnel, first responders, bystanders, and at almost any point up to 700m from the fence …
“The health response is the main priority, given the enormous rise in casualties and the poor conditions of the health system in Gaza. Last week the ministry of health in Gaza indicated that 27 percent of the drug items and over 40 percent of the medical disposables needed to treat trauma casualties were unavailable. At least one hospital has noted that it consumed the same amount of medicines and supplies yesterday alone as it does in an average month.” (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 15 May 2018)
Many more have been wounded and killed since then. The most high-profile case has undoubtedly been the killing of medic Razan al-Najjar on 1 June. The 21-year old was assisting the wounded and dead every Friday at the border protests. Before her death Razan was already becoming a symbol for the Palestinian cause with the local media; it is quite feasible that this made her a target for the Israelis, and that she was murdered to prevent her becoming a face of the movement. (Razan al-Najjar was a threat to Israel, and they knew it by Malia Bouattia, The New Arab (Al Araby), 8 June 2018)
There should be little doubt that Israeli snipers were acting on precise orders when Razan was purposefully targeted. After all, this is an entity which continually boasts of the precision of its operations. Time and again we are told that the Israeli army (Israeli Defence Force) is strategic in its operations, that it does not attack indiscriminately and that every bullet can be accounted for. But the Israelis cannot have it both ways: either they intentionally slaughtered Raza al-Najjar or they attack indiscriminately.
“We resort to live fire only when absolutely necessary and when there is clear threat to infrastructure or to Israeli soldiers. If there is, then we use snipers who fire specifically and under very clear guidance by commanders,” said IDF spokesman Col Jonathan Conricus last month. (Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?, BBC News, 17 May 2018)
Not only did they kill a 21-year old female medic in cold blood, they targeted her deliberately – and they have since gone on to defame and insult her name. Having already established the zionists as two-faced liars, why should anyone believe their lies about this heroic victim? With Razan being dubbed an ‘angel of mercy’ by supporters, the Goebbelsian Israeli propaganda machine kicked straight in to full effect.
The IDF released a doctored video to show Razan was “not an angel”. An interview with Razan was posted online with the tagline “Hamas must stop using human shields”. In the full video she talks about being present only to tend to the wounded, and makes no mention of Hamas. Yet for the IDF the message was clear: Razan al-Najjar was a Hamas agent, and Hamas are responsible for her death.
Yet again it is necessary to repeat that Razan was killed by sniper fire. Even if she was a human shield, which she wasn’t, then her death was still avoidable – a sniper can easily target those shielded without striking the shield. This is not a case of death by shelling with unavoidable collateral damage; Razan was the target.
This self-proclaimed ‘most moral army’, the IDF, rather than slander the name of their innocent victim, if they truly believed in the justice of their operations, would take ownership, admit that they killed her and defend their reasons for doing so.
Perhaps most shamefully, pictures were circulated showing Razan throwing tear gas canisters away from the wounded. “Do medical personnel around the world throw bombs and participate in disturbances and call themselves human shields?” the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson Avichay Edraee wrote on Twitter. (Israeli army edits video of Palestinian medic its troops shot dead to misleadingly show she was ‘human shield for Hamas’ by Bethan McKernan, Independent, 8 June 2018)
Razan’s selfless act of bravery has instead been portrayed as Razan throwing tear gas at Israeli troops. Always the victim; it’s never their fault.
Despite these crude attempts to manipulate her image after death, Razan will be remembered as a martyr for Palestine and the cause of humanity. This was a young woman who bravely stood up to a brutal armed-to-the-teeth aggressor, whilst armed only with medical supplies. She gave her own life in order to save untold numbers of other lives. In her short 21 years on this earth she contributed more to the cause of humanity than most would manage in a long lifetime. No matter the attempted defamation, she now exists as a shining example to millions of others.
Indeed, Razan al-Najjar has not been the only blatantly wrongful death. Also killed has been a farmer working his land, journalists wearing vests marked “press”, a fellow medic, Mousa Jaber Abu Hassanein, and an amputee in a wheelchair. In total, 223 paramedics have been injured and 37 ambulances targeted during the protests.
In relation to the targeting of journalists, “Reporters Without Borders has formally requested that the International Criminal Court prosecutor investigate the deliberate targeting of journalists in Gaza as war crimes.
“The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate is also preparing to send files to the International Criminal Court and some European courts in regards to Israel’s targeting of journalists in Gaza.” (Video: Israel targets journalists in Gaza, Electronic Intifada, 24 May 2018)
You can find out a lot about someone by the company they keep. On 14 May (the most deadly day of the protests), the US officially relocated its embassy to Jerusalem. The ceremony was attended by many of the leading christian zionist fraternity, including notorious televangelist, pastor John Hagee who gave the closing benediction prayer in front of US and Israeli politicians alike.
Hagee is a founder of the anti-Palestinian group Christians United for Israel. Hagee has previously said that Hitler was a ‘hunter’ who was doing God’s work in preparing the return of jews to Palestine. This he believes is all for the good; a historical necessity that will help to bring about the rapture and end times.
The ceremony was also attended by pastor Robert Jeffress. He told those attending that God had made Jerusalem the capital of Israel 3,000 years ago. Obviously, Marxist Leninists reject this metaphysical drivel. But so should any religious person with the slightest intellectual capacity. Believers like Jeffress simply reduce their God to the role of estate agent, which other believers ought to find deeply offensive.
Here is a previous musing from Jeffress. “Islam is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell. Mormonism is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell. Judaism – you can’t be saved being a jew. You know who said that, by the way? The three greatest jews in the New Testament: Peter, Paul and Jesus Christ. They all said Judaism won’t do it. It’s faith in Jesus Christ.”
And further: “Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism – not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell … Hell is going to be filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.” (Religious extremism is at the heart of US support for Israel by Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada, 6 June 2018)
This is the company the Israelis keep; this is the zionist mentality. And on the flip side, it is anti-zionists who are tarred with the ‘antisemitic’ brush! In the world of the Israelis, those backing equality between races and religions are continually called out as racists and bigots. But those who condemn believers of all other religions to hell (as the christian zionists do) are presented as peace-loving friends.
But it is these zionists, whether christian or jew, who are the bigots; it is they who live their lives according to the apparent wisdom of some bronze-age desert dwellers as if this were the height of human knowledge and civilisation! It is they who act out of paranoid biblical-based delusions. It is they who believe in a ‘chosen people’. It is they who share common ground with outright antisemites.
Both zionism and outright antisemitism are underpinned by unscientific, anti-human assumptions. On the one end of the spectrum, jews are inferior subhumans. On the other, they are the chosen people, above all other humans. Quite simply, zionism and antisemitism represent two sides of the same coin – an outdated coin that should have no currency within the working class.
Not only do the Israelis keep friends with such people, the friendship brings twofold benefits to Israel. On the one hand, it promotes the zionist cause in the imperialist heartlands. But the racist underpinnings of christian zionism (jews are going to hell, etc) also provides justification for Israel’s existence. For Israelis can point to these so-called friends and exclaim that other countries are not safe or welcoming to jews.
These friends of Israel, therefore, provide the ideological basis for Israel’s existence; it is such bigots who facilitate the baseless claims of Netanyahu to be not only leader of Israel, but leader of all jewish people. And this despite the fact the overwhelming majority of the world’s jews do not live nor have any intention of living in Israel. (Asa Winstanley, ibid)
Even pro-imperialist mouthpieces such as Amnesty International have spoken out about Israeli crimes. Their middle east director Philip Luther called Israeli acts a “violation of international standards, with Israeli forces in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes”.
In contrast, Netanyahu and co continue to blame the Palestinians. Of Hamas, Netanyahu declared that it “intends to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal. We will continue to act with determination to protect our sovereignty and citizens.”
This might provide sufficient reason for Netanyahu in terms of justifying the brutal Israeli response. However, Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, said: “An attempt to approach or crossing or damaging the fence do not amount to a threat to life or serious injury and are not sufficient grounds for the use of live ammunition.” (BBC News, op cit)
Clearly, for all the talk of international law and human rights, international law is the wild west and the best-armed bandit prevails. US imperialism is the law, and US imperialism holds Israel in its hands. All the condemnation in the world will not stop Israel so long as ‘international law’ is made in the US’s image. Nothing can be expected from organisations like the UN, which has time and again proven itself impotent when it comes to Israel.
Israel will act with impunity until decisive collective action is taken against it. With the Palestinians a geographically divided, imprisoned people, much greater pressure must build from the outside. Until this happens we will continue to see the Israelis condemned by everyone under the sun, but nothing actually being done to stop them. As of now, they remain their own judge and jury.
On 24 May, the Israeli supreme court ruled against two human-rights organisations that had filed a petition against the use of snipers in Gaza. The court declared the use of snipers against civilians to be entirely legal, thereby giving the green light to the IDF to continue the killing.
And so the killing goes on.