Earlier this year Angela Merkel was awarded Israel’s “presidential medal of distinction.” The German chancellor merited this honor, some journalists dutifully reported, because of her “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”
That “unwavering commitment” might help explain why Merkel does not appear perturbed by what happened to Ibrahim al-Kilani. He was a citizen of Germany, where he had lived for twenty years. He had qualified there as a civil engineer, before returning to Gaza in 2001, where he had married and started raising a family. On Monday, Ibrahim, his wife Taghreed and their five children were wiped out in an Israeli attack.
Ilias, the youngest of the children, was only four. His sister Yasmin was six. The other siblings — Yassir, Sawsan, and Rim — were aged between eight and twelve. It should not be necessary to spell out that they were entirely innocent of any crime.
One day after this family was wiped out, Germany and all European Union governments issued a statement on the events in Gaza. As the Union’s foreign ministers were meeting that day, they had every opportunity to demand an explanation from Israel as to why it had just killed a family of EU citizens.
Yet the EU’s statement did not even mention the al-Kilanis. Rather, the foreign ministers stressed that they recognized “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against any attacks.”
Israel was politely asked to make sure its military action was “proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law.”
It is hard to remain calm when reading those carefully chosen words — of abject cowardice. Not for the first time, the EU was blaming Palestinians for the atrocities visited upon them by a brutal occupation. The truth was turned upside down.
Many of us have long suspected that the European Union doesn’t really care when Palestinians are killed by Israel. Now we can say for certain it doesn’t care even when Israel bombs EU citizens.
Ahmad al-Kilani, Ibrahim’s cousin, made this point in an interview with a Turkish news agency: “No German or American nationality stops Israel from murdering us. Israel is like a monster that destroys everything it encounters. This is genocide.”
Eventually, the German foreign ministry announced yesterday that it was seeking “clarification” from Israel about why it killed the al-Kilani family.
That is a hollow gesture, when you recall that Merkel explicitly stated last week that “we stand by the side of Israel, when it comes to self-defense.” She has not withdrawn that remark, despite the abundant evidence that the al-Kilani family and the people of Gaza more generally have not been bombed for reasons of “self-defense” but in grotesque acts of aggression.
The al-Kilani family had already suffered enormously from Israel’s latest attack on Gaza. They had fled their home in Beit Lahia, an area in northern Gaza that Israel has shelled continuously.
Stand by Palestine
They tried to escape once more, finding an apartment in Rimal, supposedly a safer part of Gaza City. It has been reported that Taghreed al-Kilani was preparing an iftar, the meal that ends a day of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, when Israel shelled them.
More than 700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in the current Israeli offensive.
Insipid requests from the European Union for Israel to behave in a “proportionate” manner won’t stop the slaughter. It, therefore, falls to ordinary people of conscience around the world to take action.
We know what we have to do: intensify our campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. If Angela Merkel and other Western leaders are so determined to side with Israel, the rest of us must stand by the Palestinians.
Thanks to Shahd Abusalama for help with research and translation.