Following Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai’s Friday warning that the Gaza Strip faces “a holocaust” if homemade rocket fire continues, Vilnai’s aides rushed to downplay the remarks, claiming the minister did not mean a holocaust exactly.
However, the following day, the Israeli army, through ground forces and helicopters in the sky, killed 61 Palestinians in Gaza, at least ten of them children. Since Wednesday, 26 March, Israeli occupation forces have killed at least 77 Palestinians in Gaza and injured approximately 130, including children who won’t live to see their first birthday.
Vilnai’s racist declarations against the Palestinian people are certainly not the first from a high-ranking official in the allegedly democratic state of Israel.
Last Thursday, 28 February, Israeli cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit said that the solution to the rocket fire would be for Israel to “hit everything that moves with weapons and ammunition.” Earlier in the month, during a cabinet session Sheetrit stated that “exactly what I think the [Israeli army] should do [is] decide on a neighborhood in Gaza and level it.”
Genocidal statements calling for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians are not reserved for those in Gaza, however. The extreme rightist Yisrael Beitenu party leader and former Deputy Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was born in Moldova and immigrated to Israel at the age of 20, advocates for the “transfer” or ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinian citizens in Israel and has declared that Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset who meet with Palestinian leaders from the West Bank and Gaza should be executed as traitors.
Before Lieberman was Rehavam Ze’evi, the assassinated Israeli tourism minister and founder of the fascist Moledet party which makes the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians part of its party platform. Regarding the 180,000 Palestinian laborers from the West Bank and Gaza working for substandard wages in Israel before the state imposed a total closure, Ze’evi described them in a 2001 radio interview as “a cancer” and advocated that “[Israel] should get rid of the ones who are not Israeli citizens the same way you get rid of lice.”
Dehumanizing the Palestinians has been necessary for Israel to justify its actions ever since, and even before, the state was declared on destroyed historic Palestine in 1948 and then in 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Taken together, they indicate the historic effort to destroy Palestinian national aspirations and this is what Israel is trying to do in Gaza, which Nobel prize winner and late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once wished would be swallowed by the sea.
Gaza is no stranger to devastation. In 1956, for example, former Israeli prime minister and war criminal Ariel Sharon moved troops under his command into the town of Khan Younis where a massacre was committed. Since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, Israel has been particularly cruel to Gaza, committing crime after crime without sanction from the so-called international communiy. The firing of homemade rockets — no match to Israel’s US-supplied and funded military arsenal — came only after decades of violent Israeli oppression against Palestinians trying to shake off the military occupation.
Fourteen Israelis have been killed by the crude rockets since Palestinian resistance began firing them in 2001, while approximately 300 Palestinians were killed just in the few months since the renewed peace process was declared in Annapolis in November of last year. Nearly 5,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been killed since 2000, all “terrorists” in the eyes of Israeli intelligence chief Yuval Diskin.
Though he may have passed on, the words of deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ring ever true thirty years since he uttered them: “Those who call us terrorists wish to prevent world public opinion from discovering the truth about us and from seeing the justice on our faces. They seek to hide the terrorism and tyranny of their acts, and our own posture of self-defense.”
Rami Almeghari is currently contributor to several media outlets including Palestine Chronicle, IMEMC, The Electronic Intifada and Free Speech Radio News. Rami is also a former senior English translator at and editor in chief of the international press center of the Gaza-based Palestinian Information Service. He can be contacted at rami_almeghari at hotmail.com.