Why Speak of the Israeli Occupation Abroad? So That This Disgrace Will End

A disgrace is when during protests over the past months, Israeli snipers killed three 11-year-old children in the Gaza Strip. It is a disgrace that a Palestinian cannot know whether they can go abroad, or receive medical care, or work their land

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Israeli soldiers restrain a Palestinian in Hebron in September 2016.
Israeli soldiers restrain a Palestinian in Hebron in September 2016.Credit: AFP
Hagai El-Ad
Hagai El-Ad

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked this week by the editor of the most-read propaganda paper in Israel an obsequious question at a conference for the Christian press. The concealed propaganda appeared in the question itself: The hint, not to say the explicit statement, that the activities of B’Tselem are “anti-Semitic.” Netanyahu did not reject what had been placed before him, and added his own definition for B’Tselem: “a disgrace.”

And so, let us add even more to it. Netanyahu, what is a disgrace?

A disgrace is when during protests over the past months, Israeli snipers killed three 11-year-old children in the Gaza Strip. Nassar Musbah, Yassar Abu Al-Haja and Majdi al-Sitri are three of the 31 minors the army killed. We killed paramedics and journalists, too, and injured with live fire over 5,300 people. Some will remain disabled for their entire lives.

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A disgrace is that in the face of this horror two members of the security cabinet are arguing between themselves: One takes pride in the great number of Palestinians injured, the other demands more blood.

It is a disgrace that this horrifying “discussion” between two of the members of the small group of senior decision-makers in Israel is seen as completely normal and acceptable, and as such it is covered in the media as a routine matter. It almost does not matter what level of violence the speaker incites to, as long as he is a Jew demanding more deaths of Palestinians, more steps of collective punishment, more superiority and more troops – his words will never be framed as “incitement.”

The disgrace is the routine in which violent settlers – in practice, the militia of the occupation regime in the West Bank – harm Palestinians and their property while soldiers watch them and do nothing to stop it, except maybe to guard the attackers or even join them.

One may also characterize the Israeli planning system in the West Bank as a disgrace. It is a bureaucratic mechanism whose entire purpose is to pave the way to take control over more and more land and build more and more settlements. To hell with the Palestinians. How much shamelessness and callousness is needed to be part of this system, one of the foundation stones of the enterprise of dispossession?

B'Tselem executive director Hagai El-Ad.Credit: Emil Salman

It is a disgrace that after so many dead Palestinians and Military Police investigations that were never opened, or covered up, or failed, or were dragged out, every Palestinian mother knows, with almost complete certainty, that if God forbid her son is killed by an Israeli bullet, and even if everything is recorded on video, and even if there are witnesses and evidence, no one will provide justice.

It is a disgrace to send our soldiers to enter Palestinian homes in the middle of the night, to politely wake up all the residents, to gather all of them, young and old, in the living room or a bedroom, and then to put their names down on a form and take their pictures.

It is a disgrace that a Palestinian cannot know whether they can go abroad, or receive medical care, or work their land, or get to work on time. All he knows is that none of these things depend on him, only on an arbitrary Israeli decision that he has no way of influencing.

It is a disgrace that battalions of Israeli jurists – in the military prosecution and the State Prosecutor’s Office, military advocates and legal advisers, military judges and Supreme Court justices – have been greasing the wheels of this monster for over 50 years.

Using hollow legal formalism, while conveniently ignoring the facts and the context, they are harnessing their legal prestige to excuse almost every injustice: Administrative demolitions and “punishment” demolitions, long-term detention without trial, the imprisonment of almost 2 million people in the Gaza Strip, firing at unarmed Palestinian protesters, taking over Palestinian land using a wide range of techniques, and more and more.

FILE PHOTO: Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian during clashes at a protest in Hebron in the West Bank, February 23, 2018. Credit: Mussa Issa Qawasma / Reuters

To legalize all this, lawyers have invented their own legal language, based on absurd legal interpretations, which were adopted afterward in judicial decisions and implemented – “according to the law!”

Netanyahu, all that I have written above is known and documented. And it is clear enough where this is all leading. This situation, despite the unequal balance of forces and Israel’s renowned power – is a dangerous reality, violent by its nature and immoral.

The documentation of this situation, its exposure, condemnation and the demand for change are not just a moral imperative, but a matter of saving lives. It is a disgrace to continue to repress the Palestinians and kill them. And it is a disgrace to lead Israelis further and further down this slope.

Why overseas? So that this disgrace will end.

Hagai El-Ad is executive director of B’Tselem.

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