No Israelis were harmed in the making of this massacre

No Israelis were harmed in the making of this massacre
Comment: This wasn't self defence; Israeli troops were compelled only by politics to kill protesting Palestinians, writes James Brownsell.
6 min read
14 May, 2018
At least 52 protesters were killed, and 2,000 injured on Monday 14 May [AFP]
We're unlikely to know the full death count for days, but we know that dozens of ordinary people fighting for their rights were killed on this day by the Israeli military. Thousands more have been injured, and are fighting for their lives as you read this.

Protesters, medics, journalists - our brothers and sisters - were mown down in a hail of bullets as Jared Kushner was speaking at the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

"The pursuit of peace is the noblest pursuit of humankind," he told his audience of clapping hypocrites, as the gunshots rang out and the unarmed fell. "I believe peace is within reach."

I find it easier to think of Kushner not as some chinless, duplicitous failed property tycoon slimeball, but as some kind of alien robot poured into an ill-fitting skin suit woven from lies and mendacity.

It's the only way I can begin to understand the coldness behind the eyes, the almost absent-minded indifference and inability to recognise the experiences (even existence) of fellow human beings.

His capacity for hypocrisy may well be limitless.

How can you speak of peace-building at the exact moment your allies, to whom you give billions of dollars of military aid, are gunning down unarmed protesters?

And let us be clear: these protests were, from their very inception months ago, non-violent. They were not organised by Hamas or any group with an armed wing.

Organisers were very clear that while political movements should be represented on organising committees, this was a demonstration rooted in civil society, born of ordinary people's daily frustrations. The only flags permitted by organisers were those of the United Nations and of Palestine.

And let us remind ourselves that the ultimate goal was a dignified march home; to return to the lands from which they and their families were forced to leave either by violence or by fear of violence during the creation of the state of Israel.


So many times have I heard the following argument from Western "leftist intellectuals": "The problem with Palestinians is that they're violent. They want to take back the land they perceive to be theirs by killing Israelis and driving them into the sea. What they need is a leader willing to embrace the spirit of non-violence, like Gandhi, to lead them in their thousands, unarmed, to the checkpoints. The army couldn't shoot them all, and they would win. Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?"

The answer is clear: the Palestinian Gandhi is dead

This line of reasoning, incidentally, is most prevalent among self-professed liberals who have shown a curious unwillingness to put their own lives on the line in joining any such protest. It is also a stunningly condescending way of telling Palestinians what they need from the safety of a dinner party in Islington or Park Slope - what if Palestinians don't want a Palestinian Gandhi? What if they want a Palestinian Malcolm X? 

But all that is by the by - because the answer is clear: the Palestinian Gandhi is dead, killed by an Israeli sniper, killed by a bulldozer demolishing a family's home, killed by a decade of blockade, by seven decades of displacement.

Read more: The Nakba: A Palestinian inheritance of trauma and resilience

Today in Gaza wasn't a battle in a conventional war. There weren't two equally matched sides locked in combat. One side was marching, one side was massacring. The bloodshed was all on one side.

There have been reports that Israeli snipers were targeting protesters carrying bolt-cutters. Given the scale of the injuries (2,000+ in one day) and a lingering doubt over the number of bolt-cutters readily available across the embattled Gaza Strip, this doesn't provide a satisfactory explanation for the mass killings.

Even if the reports are correct, and some protesters did carry the tools to dismantle the border fence - what of it? What violence are you going to commit with bolt-cutters? You don't attack people with bolt-cutters, you dismantle obstacles with bolt-cutters. You can't be violent towards a fence - you can't violate property, you can only violate people. Protesters equipped with bolt-cutters to dismantle a fence in the name of a just cause remain non-violent actors, not legitimate military targets. 

The ultimate weapon

If Palestinians had turned up with automatic weapons, an array of toxic gases, tanks and an air force to rival the world's fourth-largest military - then maybe it would be understandable that Israeli soldiers may have felt threatened enough to shoot to kill.

But Israeli soldiers weren't fighting today in self-defence, they were fighting in state-defence. Their lives were never at risk - but the continued existence of their country may have been.

Israel is a country built on a lie - that there were no indigenous people. It was, pre-state Zionist militants said, "a land without a people for a people without a land". To have that lie exposed - to lay bare the truth that hundreds of thousands of Arab people were displaced from their homes amid massacres and the razing of farmland by armed Jewish gangs - would be to unravel the entire "liberal, democratic" narrative thread from which the tapestry of the state was spun.

Because the ultimate weapon is no weapon, and non-violence remains the ultimate threat. If the thousands of protesters really were dedicated to destroying the fence and returning to the lands taken from their ancestors 70 years ago this week, what choice did Israel have?

The 'threat' posed by these unarmed protesters is not personal, but political - existential, maybe. And that is why they were killed

These protesters are no threat to Israelis, only to Israel - at least, to the rabidly right-wing, neo-messianic, apartheid-embracing, with-us-or-against-us vision of Israel that successive governments have corrupted the country into.

The "threat" posed by these unarmed protesters is not personal, but political - existential, maybe. And that is why they were killed. It is not possible to over-estimate the lengths to which the Israeli military and political establishment will go to keep hold of what they have built over the past 70 years of embracing the dispossession and displacement of Palestinians.

We have all known that this day would one day come; when a mass uprising of unarmed Palestinians would demand their freedom and the Israeli military would respond in the only way it knows. What we don't know is what will happen now - when the injured have been treated and the dead have been buried.

The more than 100 people killed by Israel since protests began at the end of March can not have made their sacrifices in vain. Their deaths have exposed the truth of the state of Israel; that it will murder on an industrial scale - not for the safety of its people, but to preserve its sickening colonialist ideology.

With the Trump family regime's zealous support for Binyamin Netanyahu's coterie of criminals, it is difficult to predict much in the way of global diplomatic outrage leading to any sustained pressure on Israel to stop the killings - let alone to end the occupation.

But today is a day beyond diplomacy, and we must demand today that Israel be held accountable and treated as the pariah state that this latest barbarism demands - until the occupation is ended and generations of refugees are finally allowed to return home.

James Brownsell is the Managing Editor of The New Arab. Follow him on Twitter: @JamesBrownsell

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.