Who are the terrorists now?


If the Israeli account is to be believed, never before have so many terrorists been killed or wounded in a single incident. Some 2,758 “terrorists” were gunned down by Israeli soldiers as they approached the heavily defended border.

Yet, of course, the 58 dead and thousands of injured were not terrorists. They were Palestinians who were protesting the 70th anniversary of Al Nakbah - “The Catastrophe” - that saw the enforced exodus of the original inhabitants from Palestine with the creation of the Israeli state.

The Israeli soldiers who perpetrated Monday’s massacre were not therefore heroes firing on terrorists; they were thieves gunning down the angry victims from whom they had stolen their homes, their lands and their livelihoods. For the last 70 years, Palestinians have lived as refugees in the tightly controlled West Bank and Gaza enclaves on their own country.

Though Israeli politicians have always protested a desire for a peaceful settlement, they have consistently sabotaged all international attempts to find a just solution for the Palestinians. They have instead penned them into ghettos in an appalling echo of the Nazi ghettos into which their own people were herded by Hitler’s murderous thugs.

The only difference between then and now is that in the eyes of many powerful Israelis, their final solution is the complete expulsion of all Arabs from their state. Though not the physical extermination of the Palestinian people, it is the mass murder of their dreams of justice, a holocaust of hope.

The White House has cried crocodile tears and blamed Hamas for the “tragic deaths”. The leadership in Gaza had “ intentionally and cynically provoked” the killings. This comment was in itself no doubt intentionally cynical, since President Trump had chosen to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on the eve of Al Nakbah. Hamas, unlike Fatah, has refused to recognize the Israeli state and this has been used as an excuse by the Israelis to repeatedly scupper any meaningful negotiations. But it has always seemed clear that Hamas held recognition of Israel as a bargaining tool, perhaps the only real bargaining tool, to bring about a just settlement.

Hamas did not force Palestinians to flood toward the heavily guarded frontier. They went because of 70 years, fully three generations, of humiliation, repression, anger and helplessness. And for their part the Israeli soldiers were not forced to pull their triggers and cause this slaughter. “Rules of engagement” are a highly flexible excuse for taking careful aim with live rounds at unarmed demonstrators.

The stark fact is that 58 lives were snuffed out and many hundreds of people wounded, often seriously, in an act of utter barbarity. Had this happened in Europe or North America, the outrage would have been immense. This would have been declared a terrorist act. Politicians from around the world would be linking arms to march in unity.

Yet the international reaction to this latest carnage has been supine and hypocritical. Only South Africa has recalled it ambassador. Turkey called it a “vile massacre”. The UK said the large volume of live fire was “extremely concerning”. Germany and France condemned the violence, but Kuwait’s call for a UN investigation was blocked by Washington. Yet it is hard to escape the reality that on Monday, it was the Israelis, not the Palestinians who were the real terrorists.