This article contains graphic images.
Palestinians are calling for escalating global campaigns to isolate Israel after its army killed 16 people in the Gaza Strip and wounded almost 1,500 others.
“Evoking memories of the South African apartheid regime’s massacre of peaceful protesters in Sharpeville in 1960, Israel’s military committed a new massacre against Palestinian civilians as they were peacefully commemorating Palestinian Land Day,” the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) said Monday.
The BNC, the steering group for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, urged people around the world to “mainstream the demand for all private and public entities in your country to end all cooperation and/or trade with the Israeli military and ‘security sector.’”
It also calls for heightened campaigns targeting companies and financial institutions complicit in Israel’s crimes.
On Monday, the health ministry in Gaza announced that 29-year-old Fares al-Ruqab had succumbed to wounds he suffered after Israeli snipers opened fire into the territory Friday.
Tens of thousands took part in Great March of Return rallies to demand their right of return to lands from which Palestinians were ethnically cleansed, and to protest Israel’s decade-long blockade of Gaza.
That brought to 16 the number of Palestinians killed.
The Israeli army injured almost 1,500 people, more than 800 of them with live ammunition, according to the health ministry.
Dr. Mohammed Ziara, a general practitioner at Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital, posted pictures on Twitter that show devastating injuries sustained by protesters. Ziara told The Electronic Intifada that the images were taken by surgeons at the hospital who treated the injuries.
The images indicate Israeli forces may have used bullets that fragment in the body causing massive damage to tissue. Bullets that expand or fragment are banned under international law.
Over the weekend, Israel continued to try to portray victims of its violence as hardcore Hamas militants who had organized a violent invasion across the boundary.
But the propaganda narrative collapsed as videos emerged documenting apparent war crimes, particularly the lethal shooting of Abd al-Fattah Abd al-Nabi, 19, as he ran away from the Israel-Gaza boundary fence. Abd al-Nabi was reportedly shot in the head.
The Israeli military on Saturday tweeted a statement claiming full responsibility for the killings, asserting that “everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”
But it quickly deleted the statement as emerging evidence gave the lie to its claims.
Moreover, the human rights group B’Tselem had warned in advance about Israel’s preparations and threats to “shoot-to-kill unarmed Palestinians.”
B’Tselem had also warned about Israel’s efforts to spin its premeditated assault on civilians protesting the “disastrous reality in Gaza.”
“Completely ignoring the humanitarian disaster in Gaza and Israel’s responsibility for it, [Israeli officials] are couching the planned protest in terms of a security risk, framing the demonstrators as terrorists and referring to Gaza as a ‘combat zone,’” B’Tselem stated on the eve of the bloodshed.
There were also shocking examples of public incitement. The right-wing publication Israel National News, for instance, published an op-ed asserting that the “Palestinian leadership wants pictures of dead bodies littering the field and for once, in the interests of our people, we should give it to them.”
“They don’t think we have the guts to shoot them down in mass numbers and that our hesitation will enable them to attack us,” the writer states of Palestinians. “Shoot to kill. Nothing less.”
On Monday, B’Tselem responded to Israel’s aggressive spin. “Friday was a bloody day, but Israel has already long since become an expert at whitewashing such bloody days and weeks,” the group tweeted.
“Do not anticipate any investigation, and even if eventually one is conducted, certainly do not expect accountability,” B’Tselem added.
Calls for investigation
The demand for an inquiry has however become the centerpiece of the official international response to the Israeli massacre.
These calls can be seen as cynical: they allow international officials to seem like they are taking a robust stance while avoiding any clear condemnation of Israel’s actions, as if what happened remains a mystery.
Even though the US predictably blocked any action by the UN Security Council, where Washington holds a veto, an independent inquiry could be commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, like the one into Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.
That investigation documented extensive evidence of war crimes by Israel, but has resulted in no accountability.
Indeed, as the BNC stated Monday, Israel’s violence has been “emboldened by the unprecedented level of support from the xenophobic Trump administration in the US and the ongoing complicity of the European Union.”
That complicity remains on full display.
With robotically similar language, EU governments over the weekend expressed “deep concern” about the situation in Gaza, but made no clear condemnations of Israel and called for “restraint” from all sides, as if occupier and occupied are equal in power and responsibility.
Expressions of “deep concern” are the international diplomatic equivalent of the empty “thoughts and prayers” routinely offered after mass shootings by US politicians who intend to do nothing about the problem.
So why would the EU demand an investigation now if its only response in the past has been to do nothing at best, or more typically increase its level of rewards for Israel?
A reasonable conclusion is that calls for an investigation are nothing more than an attempt to mollify public outrage at Israel’s premeditated slaughter.
Lieberman commends slaughter
There is an immediate opportunity to test the EU’s seriousness, however.
Israel has already stated that it will not cooperate with any inquiry, and its defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, praised the slaughter, stating that the army “did what had to be done.”
“I think that all of our troops deserve a commendation,” Lieberman added.
An EU serious about human rights and accountability would not need to wait for a UN inquiry to robustly condemn Lieberman: at the very least it would impose diplomatic sanctions.
Compare this with what happened in Salisbury in Britain a few weeks back. European governments now acting as if they need a UN inquiry in order to figure out what happened before the eyes of the world in Gaza last Friday did not wait for any solid evidence of Russian government involvement in the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in order to expel dozens of Russian diplomats.
This double standard is reminiscent of the EU’s quick move to impose sanctions on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea, even though the EU has refused for 50 years to take any effective action against Israel’s ongoing colonization of the occupied West Bank.
The BNC is demanding an immediate arms embargo on Israel, but given the extent of the EU’s support for Israel’s war industry, this will only happen if grassroots pressure intensifies.
In an encouraging sign, EU officials last year privately identified opposition from ordinary people disgusted with violations of Palestinian rights as one of the “biggest challenges” to their plans for an even tighter relationship with Israel.