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Murder of a Palestinian baby: complicity and justice Open in fullscreen

Imogen Lambert

Murder of a Palestinian baby: complicity and justice

The death of 18-month year old Ali has elicited global outcry [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 July, 2015

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The murder of Ali Dawabsheh should be regarded within the context of Israeli colonialism and Palestinian political complicity...as should attempts to gain retribution for the killing.
Yesterday, 18-month year old Ali Saad Dawabsheh was killed in an arson attack by settlers in the West Bank, eliciting a global outcry.


"The state of Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of the perpetrators", Israeli Prime Minister Benjimin Netanyahu said in a tweet, reflecting continual attempts from both Israel and the international community to separate settler violence from responsibility of the Israeli state.

This in turn echoed the constant distinction by the international community, and certain Palestinian leaders, of "illegal Jewish settlements" and the "legitimate" state of Israel, often made in the defence of a two-state solution, that many describe as out-dated, unfeasible and ignores the claim of Palestinians to their historical land.  

Yet as many pointed out, while the actions of the settlers who murdered Ali are considered "extremist", the vast

     The killing of Ali is not the first, nor will it be the last horrific crime committed by a settler-colonial state...

majority of the Israeli population supported their state’s 2014 war on Gaza that killed hundreds of children.  

Israel, and its citizens who support the violent actions of their State, are complicit in the death of Palestinian children, whether they are living in illegal settlements in the West Bank, or in Tel Aviv - a city built on six destroyed Palestinian villages. 

During the war last year, another baby named Ali, son of Qassam leader Mohammad Deif, was also burnt to death after an Israeli airstrike on the house.  Hamas said that Mohammad Deif did not use the house – to avoid an Israeli assassination attempt risking his family’s life – a fact that Israel was likely to have known.


The killing of Ali is not the first, nor will it be the last horrific crime committed by a settler-colonial state who's ideological foundations of zionism rest on the idea of a land exclusively for one ethnic group, and who's cabinet includes a justice minister who describes Palestinian children as "little snakes".


Palestinian political parties

Accordingly, the Palestine Liberation Organization rightly said that Israel had full responsibility over the death of the toddler, and there is no doubt that the Israeli state bears the brunt of responsibility.

"We cannot separate the barbaric attack that took place in Duma last from the recent settlement approvals by the Israeli government, a government which represents an Israeli national coalition for settlements and apartheid", said PLO official Saeb Erekat.


However Erekat was the chief negotiator in during the Oslo accords - negotiations with Israel - that many say lead to the current disastrous state of affairs of continued settlement expansion, the sacrifice of right of return for refugees.  Oslo also lead to the creation of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian authority in the West Bank, who have also been complicit in Israeli violence in the West Bank, acting as a security subcontractor for Israel's interests, by imprisoning hundreds of so-called militants, and Hamas supporters.

Accordingly, in the wake of Ali's death, Hussam Badran, Hamas spokesperson demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop "chasing fighters" and release all political detainees currently held in PA jails.


Badran, called for popular action in response to the killing and said Israeli crimes can only be stopped by "comprehensive resistance in all its forms," and that the killing of 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha in the Nablus village of Duma makes all "Israeli soldiers and settlers legitimate targets for resistance."

However, Hamas have also recently been less focused on "resistance", distracted by flirtations with multiple donors, struggling with Gazan militants to sustain a ceasefire with Israel, and continual disputes with Fatah over a "reconciliation government".

A funeral held for baby Ali on Friday [Getty]

A similar reaction was issued by the PFLP, a leftist Palestinian group, who urged Palestinians to respond to Israeli settlers and their crimes, arguing that PA security services have failed to protect Palestinians and calling on the Palestinian leadership to declare a state of emergency.

Yet without strong political leadership or organisation, Palestinian anger on display in the West Bank will most likely be expressed in stone-throwing and clashes with armed Israeli soldiers, resulting in the arrest or killing of young Palestinians, while their leaders continue to utilize the rhetoric of resistance from their sofas in an attempt to sustain popular legitimacy…

And so the cycle continues.

 

The limits of Human Rights


It is in this context of Israeli impunity, and the disastrous state of the Palestinian political sphere, many – especially international supporters, more recently Palestinian leadership - turn to the inarguable nature of Human Rights and the international justice system to act as an honest broker in the abuses in Palestine, perhaps in a hope that

     Individualising these horrific acts...does not address their cause, or the solution, both of which are political

their apolitical nature might circumvent the messy state of politics in the territories.

"We are immediately preparing the file that will be submitted to the ICC," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters, and also denounced "war crimes and crimes against humanity committed each day by Israelis against the Palestinian people."

However, court cases between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank have actually utilized human rights rights to defend settlers, for in the ahistorical nature of human rights, settlers have an inherent right to Palestinian land that they are currently occupying. 

As Professor in international law, Aeyal Gross wrote that: "introducing human rights analysis into cases from the occupied Palestinian territories did not generate a jurisprudence granting better protection to people under occupation.  Rather, it legitimized the violation of their rights invoking the rights of Israelis, be they settlers or Israeli settlers in general."

A similar concern would be applicable should the Palestine case make it to the International Criminal Court, as human rights analysis may put the actions of Palestinian resistance factions on the same level as the Israeli state, particulary when considering the ICC's reputation for protecting Western interests. 

Additionally, as discussed by Valentina Azarova, professor of international law at Beirzeit university, there is a multitude of practical barriers to prosecution to the ICC, such as Israeli refusal to implement international law and esimated that the case would take at least a decade to examine.

It is easy to comdemn such an act of horrific violence as the murder of 18-month year old Ali, which has been denounced by all parties, including some with various degrees of complicity in his death.  
 
Ultimately, the killing of Ali took place within a context of settler-colonialism, and racism at the heart of Israel’s very foundations, which is unlikely to be addressed through an application of human rights law in the Palestinian territories, or a referral to the ICC.

Palestinian political parties's bickering and moral disintegration, which has also taken place under the confines of occupation, is likely to slow down any gains for the Palestinian case, especially given that the PA's security co-operation with Israel sentences their own people to prison.

Individualising these horrific acts of Israeli-state abuse, and describing them as tragedies does not address their cause, or the solution, both of which are political; the death of Ali is symptomatic of the racist policies of Israel.  And the solution will also come from an organised Palestinian resistance, free from the current oppression and self-interest of their own political elites. 



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

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