Israel changes tack

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When compared to the 34 Palestinian deaths of the past two Fridays, this week’s casualty toll at the Israeli-Gaza border is, though still unacceptable, fortunately much less: one dead and the injury of hundreds more.

Although as many as 10,000 Palestinians massed along the dividing fence, this time the deaths were kept to a minimum. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman attributed the low body count to “the other side” having understood Israel’s resolve. However, it is more likely that the stinging rebuke Israel received from the world community after using live fire against peaceful Palestinian protesters during the first two weeks of the Great March of Return forced Israel to follow, at least a little bit, the proper rules of engagement.

The Israelis could also have been worried by how the events of the past two weeks could lead to the intervention of the International Criminal Court. The world war crimes court’s chief prosecutor had called for an end to the ongoing bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, warning that the court could try those who commit gross atrocities.

It is worth mentioning that throughout the Gaza violence, not a single Israeli border guard has been killed, nor has one even suffered a scratch, proof that the Israelis were never in serious jeopardy from Palestinian protesters.

After weeks of indiscriminate shooting, Israeli guns might also have been tempered by the video which recently emerged of an Israel Defense Forces sniper shooting an apparently unarmed Palestinian man standing near the border fence, after which Israeli soldiers are heard cheering in the background. Although the video was filmed in December last year, the incident is a perfect example of the recent wanton killings of Palestinians by all too willing, trigger-happy Israeli soldiers.

The IDF said relevant commanders would conduct a full operation inquiry into the incident, and will do the same after the death of a Palestinian journalist shot and killed last week during the border clashes. That Israel has decided that these are the only two deaths it will investigate while refusing to open any other investigation into the killings of dozens more Palestinians is what is galvanizing Palestinians and world public opinion. Every Palestinian life lost is worthy of an investigation, not just those that Israel feels will tarnish its image.

There will be more Fridays to come. They will culminate on May 15, the 70th annual commemoration of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the war which followed Israel’s creation in 1948. The Palestinian people are holding on to their homeland and their right to return to the homes from which they were driven.

Palestinians are showing that they are not afraid of Israeli bullets in the face of land stolen from them. America’s recognition last year of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was supposed to set the occupied territories on fire with the possibility of a third uprising seemingly on the way. But the protests following the Jerusalem announcement were for the most part sporadic and muted. The protests for the right of return have been more consistent, forceful and deadly. This could be because even though Palestinians always envisioned Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state, a state is in the end more important. A state is born first; its capital comes later.

Foreign parties and governments who have been asking those on both sides of the Gaza border to adopt self-restraint have constantly lectured about the necessity of Palestinians forgoing violence when demanding what is theirs. By holding peaceful rallies, the Palestinians have taken the advice. However, the result has been brute force being used against them. Shall we now see these same governments impose any form of sanctions on Israel?


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