As the Great Return March continues in Gaza, peacefully protesting Palestinians are being killed and injured by Israeli forces. The Israeli government has reiterated that all Gazan civilians are targets, thus justifying the extermination of the besieged and concentrated population. While Israel’s claims and actions are alarming, they are not new. Indeed, Israel has long identified Palestinians as a collectively enemy that needs to be eliminated.
Since the beginning of the Great Return March on March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least thirty-nine protesters and injured over 4,000. Atrocities include the shooting of women, children, and journalists. The IDF has even deliberately mutilated protesters. The NGO Médecins sans Frontières has reported receiving “patients with devastating injuries of an unusual severity, which are extremely complex to treat. The injuries sustained by patients will leave most with serious, long-term physical disabilities.” Many of these patients will have to undergo amputations, as a result of their injuries.
Several executions of demonstrators were filmed on camera, including a video of Israeli snipers laughing passionately after shooting one Palestinian protestor:
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) April 10, 2018
The Israeli government has embraced this senseless violence. Responding to criticism, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed, “I am proud of our soldiers and together with all cabinet ministers we give them all the backing they need to do their holy work,” as The Times of Israel reported. “Defense” Minister Avigdor Liberman claimed that “there are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip. Everyone has a connection to Hamas. Everyone receives a salary from Hamas,” according to the Jerusalem Post.
Seen as a “demographic threat” by the Israeli regime, Palestinians have been consistently and collectively dehumanized and criminalized, with their deaths and subjugation justified by labeling them terrorists. A similar kind of rhetoric was used by Israeli officials during their intensive bombardment of Gaza in 2014, which Professor Ilan Pappé has referred to as “incremental genocide.”
Indeed, Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people must be analyzed using a genocide framework. According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, this violation of customary international law encompasses “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” According to the Russel Tribunal for Palestine, Israel’s 2014 attack in Gaza qualified as genocide as it involved killing Palestinians because they were Palestinian; causing serious bodily or mental harm to them; and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
Israel’s reaction to the Great Return March is a continuation of this long-standing policy. Unfortunately, however, the international community continues to ignore Israel’s acts of genocide. All members of the international community are more than aware of recent comments by Netanyahu, Lieberman, and other Israeli officials, but refuse to respond. The U.S. remains a hysterical supporter of Israel’s actions, the EU continues its passivity, and powerful Arab governments are forging alliances with Israel, with little interest in the circumstances facing the Palestinian people.
Meanwhile, as the world looks on, hundreds of innocent civilians are being injured and killed with impunity and without restriction by the Israeli government.