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CJ Werleman

Israeli forces kill Palestinians for sport

The US refuses to condemn the actions of a merciless Israeli military [AFP]

Date of publication: 15 May, 2018

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Comment: Israel is killing human beings who pose no threat to the state of Israel or its citizens, writes CJ Werleman.
Sixty unarmed Palestinian protesters, including eight children under the age of 18, were shot and killed by Israeli snipers on Monday, alongside another 1,700 who were injured, in what has been described as the deadliest day for Gaza since Israel's siege of the embattled Palestinian enclave in 2014.

You can add these extinguished lives to the 50 or so who have been killed by Israeli occupation forces in Gaza during the course of the past six weeks of Palestinian protests. While you're at it, you can also add these lives to the total number of Israeli fatalities, which is precisely zero.

You read that right, not a single Israeli has been killed since the Great Return March protests began. In short, Israel is killing actual human beings who pose no threat to the state of Israel or its citizens.

In fact, eyewitness testimonies and video footage show unarmed Palestinians being shot hundreds of meters from the Gaza perimeter fence, so let's call this for what it is: Israeli snipers are basically shooting unarmed Palestinians for sport, and given these protesters are already caged in what has been described as the "world's largest concentration camp" or "open air prison", it's akin to shooting fish in the proverbial barrel.

Palestinians were shot during prayer, while talking to friends, preparing a meal, flying a kite or even taking a nap. Moreover, they were shot and killed by Israeli snipers securely positioned more than a kilometre away and whose lives were never in danger. Israel is killing Palestinians for sport. There's no other way to frame it.

Among the dead were a medic, a journalist with Al Jazeera, a 14-year-old boy, and a man in a wheelchair who had been pictured on Twitter using a slingshot. How on earth do any of these now murdered individuals pose any threat to the Middle East's most powerful military? The answer is, they don't.

Not a single Israeli has been killed since the Great Return March protests began

"No one is carrying any weapons here, there are no bullets being fired by Palestinians on Israeli soldiers, there's nothing I have seen that poses any threat to the Israeli military, not a single Israeli soldier has been injured, and yet, these killings continue," reported journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous from Gaza.

"All I saw in the past hour is blood, with people's heads, necks and chests injured," said Hind Khoudary, a contributor to Middle East Eye. "The Israelis have been shooting randomly at protesters the minute they tried to break the fence. Some bodies are still trapped there too, and ambulances can't reach them."

Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer for Adalah, a Palestinian advocacy group, said, "The sound of snipers was very intense. The use of tanks as well was very much heard. What we heard and what we saw definitely reflect the high number of deaths."

Others described how Gaza's hospitals were overflowing with the bodies of the deceased and wounded. Responsibility for these deaths and injuries lies squarely at the feet of the Israeli government, which has enshrined the hunting of Palestinians in Gaza as a form of sport into unofficial Israeli policy.

"There are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip," declared Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on the tenth day of the Great Return Protests.

Read more: Palestinians mark Nakba Day across the occupied territories

By this logic, and in the minds of every Israeli sniper, all two million Palestinians in besieged Gaza are guilty of being an existential threat, and one that must be neutralised, whether by siege, blockade, bombing or sniper fire.

Do not be mistaken in believing that Israeli soldiers are innocent of merely following orders. Last month, a video clip emerged of a group of Israeli snipers celebrating and cursing a Palestinian they had shot in the head. One of the soldiers can be heard shouting, "What a video." Another yelled, "Legendary clip" before calling the deceased a "son of a whore".

Palestinians were shot during prayer, while talking to friends, preparing a meal, flying a kite or even taking a nap

This kind of moral and emotional detachment Israeli soldiers display towards Palestinian civilians often reflected among Israeli society writ large. When Palestinian protesters were arrested outside the newly moved US embassy in Jerusalem yesterday, Israelis chanted, "Burn them, shoot them, kill them."

It's little wonder that Israeli soldiers kill Palestinians for sport, a claim also made by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges.

"Children have been shot in other countries I have covered - death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo - but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport," writes Hedges in 'A Gaza Diary: Scenes from the Palestinian Uprising'.

When I interviewed Hedges, he told me how Israeli soldiers would dare Palestinian kids to emerge from the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza by taunting them with calls over a loudspeaker, such as "Come out, you sons of whores." Falling for the trap, the kids would come out and throw rocks towards the Israeli military jeeps, and the Israeli soldiers would fire upon them in return.

"I would see the destruction, the way their intestines were ripped out, the gaping holes in their limbs and torsos," said Hedges.

This is the reality that faces Palestinians in the occupied territories, and this is the reality that continues to be ignored by the US media.

Predictably, the major US television networks blamed today's violence against Palestinians on protests against the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, or Hamas.

No doubt Palestinians feel frustrated and betrayed by the Trump administration validating and sanctifying Israel's illegal annexation of the Holy City, but Palestinians are aggrieved by much more than that.

Palestinians are protesting being denied freedom of movement and the right of their displaced families to return to their Palestinian homeland. They're also protesting the inhumane living conditions forced upon by them by the state of Israel, conditions that deny them access to healthcare, clean drinking water, fishing lanes, and a future.

When I interviewed Basim Naim, former Palestinian health minister, I asked him what he thought about the UN assessing Gaza to be "unlivable" by the year 2020. "What are they talking about?" Naim replied. "It's unlivable now."

That's what Palestinians are protesting, and for that they're being shot and killed by a merciless Israeli military, while the United States government refuses to condemn Israel's unjustifiably excessive use of violence.


CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman


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


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