Artema's vision was simple: that Israelis and Palestinians could live together, as one people. Artema stated:
"If you want my personal opinion, I don't believe in liberation [of land in Israel]. I believe in ending the apartheid system in Israel like the end of the apartheid system in South Africa, and we live all in one democratic state," Artema said in an interview in Gaza City. "I want to live with Israelis."As the Facebook post went viral and organizers began to work towards making it a reality, a decision was made to decrease tensions by camping out hundreds of meters from the Israeli border, celebrating, marching, and 'creating a new culture'.
Artema's noble ideals however were not viewed as such by the Israeli government and military. Since March 20th, nearly 3,000 Palestinians have been injured and - at the time of writing - 39 have been killed as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) turned Palestinians peaceful protests into a bloody shooting gallery. Let's not kid ourselves - the 'March of Return' has been yet another macabre step in the slow eradication of Palestine and its people. Perhaps what differentiates it from others before it is that the world is watching as the IDF picks off protesters (and members of the media) in broad daylight. On this occasion, there were no 'military targets' that later 'turned out to be schools, or farms, or factories'. The Israeli authorities have provided little justification for their use of deadly force against transparently civilian targets.
Nothing screams 'Holocaust' louder than mowing down people as they dare to approach 'our fence'. It doesn't matter if they're 'designated Hamas agents' or not - the world is rightly shocked by this shameless display of barbarism. As Philip Weiss wrote, "The American Jewish love affair with Israel is over. We are going to see more and more outright signs of the breakup in the discourse and in our politics too in coming years."
That may be overselling American disgust with Israeli practices, but it does seem that Israel has hit a deep vein of public revulsion this time. This doesn't mean Israel will lose the tremendous clout it has over US politicians, or the tremendous US taxpayer donations they receive. And it doesn't mean that the plight of the Palestinians is in any way coming to an end. But, ever since Donald Trump openly violated international agreements by announcing the US embassy move to Jerusalem, Israel has been gradually losing its 'moral high ground' while looking more and more like the maniacal bully it really is. For those interested in the Truth coming to light, this seems to be a positive development.
March for Return in Context
After wresting Gaza from Egypt in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, then Prime Minister Levi Eshkol strongly hinted at what was to come for residents there:
"Precisely because of the suffocation and imprisonment there, maybe the Arabs will move from the Gaza Strip. Perhaps if we don't give them enough water they won't have a choice, because the orchards will yellow and wither."Thus he revealed the explicit Israeli government policy of deliberately strangling Gaza. This is the same mentality that forcibly conscripted Holocaust survivors (under threat of loss of employment and rights) to wage Israel's first wars in Palestine, and which has ever since used Judaism as a cover for its aggressive schemes.
On March 30th, 1976, thousands of Palestinians gathered for the first mass protest against this Israeli policy of land confiscation and gradual extermination. Several were killed and hundreds wounded, and the day has since been commemorated as Land Day. Around that time, Israeli intelligence began actively supporting the rise of Hamas as a counter to this form of peaceful protest. As the Washington Post reported back in 2014,
To a certain degree, the Islamist organization whose militant wing has rained rockets on Israel the past few weeks has the Jewish state to thank for its existence. Hamas launched in 1988 in Gaza at the time of the First Intifada, or uprising, with a charter now infamous for its anti-Semitism and its refusal to accept the existence of the Israeli state. But for more than a decade prior, Israeli authorities actively enabled its rise.Israel covertly promoted radical Islamic activity in the Strip, which overturned the previous policy of cracking down on extremism in Gaza under Egyptian rule. Hamas' founder Sheikh Yassin set up a network of 'charities', schools, and training centers, and was treated favorably by Israel's military establishment. When he was arrested in connection with secret weapons caches in 1984 and sentenced to 12 years in prison, he was released after only one year, allowing him to pursue the foundation of Hamas as a militant organization in time for the First Intifada. Ever since, the group has effectively served as Israel's foil for regularly pummeling the Gaza Strip. Shooting 'fish in a barrel' also provided opportunities to showcase Israeli military technology for international investors.
When framing the current protests, Israeli spokesman David Keyes claimed:
"What actually happened is that Hamas engineered an event where they wanted thousands of people to swarm into Israel, to crush Israel, to commit acts of terror. Indeed, we have captured on camera pictures of people shooting guns, people placing bombs, people shooting rockets."None of that was true of course, but just the fact that Hamas operates in Gaza was enough to paint the protests as 'tarred-by-association'. What he really meant is that Hamas' very existence provides Israel with the pretext to collectively punish the people of Gaza. Keyes had no video evidence of people shooting guns or rockets, instead, what he counts on is a carefully controlled narrative. This is an 'art' that Israeli officials, and their Western partners, have practiced together for decades. And yet, even then, the sheer brutality of Israel's actions in recent weeks have backfired.
Shameless Displays of Extermination
When Israeli PM Netanyahu recently defended the massacre of Palestinian protesters - claiming that IDF snipers targeting them were on a 'holy mission' and that all Palestinians were terrorists deserving of being killed - he was tapping into an entrenched theocratic and existentially-motivated belief that is very particular to Israeli society. For example, Rabbi Ophir Wallas of the Bnei David Military Mechina was recently recorded teaching young soldiers that Israelis are allowed to commit genocide on Palestinians - and that the only thing holding them back is fear of retribution:
"In conquering the Land [of Israel] according to Nachmanides and Rashi, who say that the wars of today are also mitzvah wars for conquering the Land, I am beholden to nothing. This isn't the law of the persecutor, right? What law are we dealing with? The laws of a mitzvah war, a war of occupying the Land. Even if I don't conquer Gaza right now, [conquering it] is part of my ability to settle the Land of Israel, so it is also a part of the mitzvah of conquering the Land. And therefore it follows, there's no other way; like, we'd have to kill them all. Because this is the difference between the Law of the Persecutor and mitzvah wars. [...] A mitzvah war of conquering the Land, which is not limited to saving the people of Israel from their enemies, according to some of the Rishonim I could, on the face of it and by the essential law, destroy, kill and cause to perish all of them. I will not do so, because if I were to do so, and reject international treaties, then the State of Israel shall perish, unless we shall witness a miracle of miracles - and one must not trust in a miracle. And that's the only reason I won't do it."As Yossi Gurvitz at Mondoweiss pointed out in the aforementioned article, "Jewish [not Israeli] warfare law distinguishes between two sorts of wars: reshut (permitted) wars and mitzvah (ordained) wars." Thus the eradication of Palestinians is a war 'ordained by God' and is thus a holy war, and all soldiers are on a holy mission. As Israel's Chief Rabbi believes, the day is 'fast approaching' that the Messiah will return and, with him at the helm of the Israeli state, there will be no more need for worrying about things like international public opinion, law, or morality. Thus Israeli society as whole becomes less and less restrained by concern for international opinion in its conduct towards its neighbors. Richard Silverstein writes,
"Some may argue that these figures are marginal in Israeli society. However Rabbi Yosef is not just the chief Sephardic Rabbi, but also a spiritual leader of one of Israel's major political parties, Shas. As such, he wields considerable power in Israeli society. Israel, which was once a largely secular society, has become increasingly theocratic. [...]What we see transpiring in Israel, and increasingly across the West, is not confined to extremist ideology or religion: these are manifestations of a deeper and more cannibalistic disorder - one that is too shocking to most people and which has a particular genesis and teleology in the culture of Zionist Israel.
There may be those encouraged by this to claim that these interpretations represent Judaism in full. Not so. They are not arbiters of Judaism for millions of the rest of us who do not ascribe to these views. But since there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions who do follow them, their views are worth portraying."
When an IDF sniper killed a child in the protests, Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett brushed off his death by saying that, "If he had gone to school like every other kid, there wouldn't have been a problem." Referring to the murder of another Palestinian in a Jerusalem protest, an influential member of the Knesset, Oren Hazan, stated: "What's all the fuss about? it was noted in advance: anyone who approaches the fence, armed or not, is gonna get it. As it should be!"
Israeli officials have apparently devolved to the point of being incapable of grasping the horrible optics that go along with massacring those who 'approach our fence'. But they are used to pandering to a local audience. Regardless of the Israeli narrative that Hamas is 'weaponizing' these people, what the world sees is far different from what Israeli officials see: one sees a 'holy mission', the other sees a shameless massacre.
Worse still, one can almost hear the 'holy mission' in the ecstatic howls of Israeli snipers shooting unarmed protesters. The following video shows IDF soldiers in the West Bank, well aware that a camera is recording them, reveling in shooting Palestinian children with 'rubber' bullets (i.e. actual bullets encased in a think shell of rubber):
Another video recently emerged of Israeli snipers ecstatically cheering after shooting another protester:
IDF spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner recently claimed that "The use of snipers was against specific people who were specific perpetrators of violence." Yet in this next video an unarmed man is clearly walking - just walking - and is targeted and hit by an Israeli sniper:
In the following video we see footage of young men running with a tire - which the protesters have been setting alight to make it difficult for snipers to get people in their sights - then getting shot on their return to the group:
Haaretz reports that the young man shot in the back in the video above was 18-year-old Abed el-Fatah, and that he is now dead as a result of the shooting, but buffers it by claiming that many videos are 'Hamas productions' and thus either fabrications or manipulated footage. The problem with this is that these videos are from protest scenes at which the IDF has been officially and openly authorized to kill Palestinians. What need then is there to 'fabricate evidence' when the IDF itself has already provided a steady stream of objective material?
Indeed, what need is there to fabricate evidence of the deliberate murder of Palestinians by the IDF when the Israeli military command openly sanctions such.
The following is a transcript of an Israeli General on an Israeli radio station (begins 6.52 in) defending the latest killing by Israeli army snipers of a 14 year old boy who posed no threat of any kind.
Brigadier-General (Res.) Zvika Fogel interviewed on the Yoman Hashevua program of Israel's Kan radio, 21 April 2018.The Mask Has Cracked
Ron Nesiel: Greetings Brigadier General (Res.) Zvika Fogel. Should the IDF [Israeli army] rethink its use of snipers? There's the impression that maybe someone lowered the bar for using live fire, and this may be the result?
Zvika Fogel: Ron, let's maybe look at this matter on three levels. At the tactical level that we all love dealing with, the local one, also at the level of values, and with your permission, we will also rise up to the strategic level. At the tactical level, any person who gets close to the fence, anyone who could be a future threat to the border of the State of Israel and its residents, should bear a price for that violation. If this child or anyone else gets close to the fence in order to hide an explosive device or check if there are any dead zones there or to cut the fence so someone could infiltrate the territory of the State of Israel to kill us ...
Nesiel: Then, then his punishment is death?
Fogel: His punishment is death. As far as I'm concerned then yes, if you can only shoot him to stop him, in the leg or arm - great. But if it's more than that then, yes, you want to check with me whose blood is thicker, ours or theirs. It is clear to you that if one such person will manage to cross the fence or hide an explosive device there ...
Nesiel: But we were taught that live fire is only used when the soldiers face immediate danger.
Fogel: Come, let's move over to the level of values. Assuming that we understood the tactical level, as we cannot tolerate a crossing of our border or a violation of our border, let's proceed to the level of values. I am not Ahmad Tibi, I am Zvika Fogel. I know how these orders are given. I know how a sniper does the shooting. I know how many authorizations he needs before he receives an authorization to open fire. It is not the whim of one or the other sniper who identifies the small body of a child now and decides he'll shoot. Someone marks the target for him very well and tells him exactly why one has to shoot and what the threat is from that individual. And to my great sorrow, sometimes when you shoot at a small body and you intended to hit his arm or shoulder it goes even higher. The picture is not a pretty picture. But if that's the price that we have to pay to preserve the safety and quality of life of the residents of the State of Israel, then that's the price. But now, with your permission, let us go up one level and look at the overview. It is clear to you that Hamas is fighting for consciousness at the moment. It is clear to you and to me ...
Nesiel: Is it hard for them to do? Aren't we providing them with sufficient ammunition in this battle?
Fogel: We're providing them but ...
Nesiel: Because it does not do all that well for us, those pictures that are distributed around the world.
Fogel: Look, Ron, we're even terrible at it. There's nothing to be done, David always looks better against Goliath. And in this case, we are the Goliath. Not the David. That is entirely clear to me. But let's look at it at the strategic level: you and I and a large part of the listeners are clear that this will not end up in demonstrations. It is clear to us that Hamas can't continue to tolerate the fact that its rockets are not managing to hurt us, its tunnels are eroding ...
Fogel: And it doesn't have too many suicide bombers who continue to believe the fairytale about the virgins waiting up there. It will drag us into a war. I do not want to be on the side that gets dragged. I want to be on the side that initiates things. I do not want to wait for the moment where it finds a weak spot and attacks me there. If tomorrow morning it gets into a military base or a kibbutz and kills people there and takes prisoners of war or hostages, call it as you like, we're in a whole new script. I want the leaders of Hamas to wake up tomorrow morning and for the last time in their life see the smiling faces of the IDF. That's what I want to have happen. But we are dragged along. So we're putting snipers up because we want to preserve the values we were educated by. We can't always take a single picture and put it before the whole world. We have soldiers there, our children, who were sent out and receive very accurate instructions about whom to shoot to protect us. Let's back them up.
Nesiel: Brigadier-General (Res.) Zvika Fogel, formerly Head of the Southern Command Staff, thank you for your words.
Fogel: May you only hear good news. Thank you.
In November 2017, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely held meetings with Google and YouTube executives in order to begin removing pro-Palestinian material from websites. A week ago YouTube was caught banning pro-Palestinian videos of the March and associated protests - including videos from Norman Finkelstein and Alison Weir, as well as a tribute to a fallen Palestinian journalist. Yet they haven't been able to control everything - videos of brutality and its justification by Israeli officials continue to circulate. Even the normally fawning Western media is having trouble defending Israel.
The UK's Independent has published op-eds supporting Palestinian protesters, noting that if the refugees were Syrian the MSM would be up in arms against Assad. The best the Washington Post could do was to claim that Israel "fell into Hamas' trap" by killing so many civilians. The New York Times published an editorial entitled 'Israel Courts Catastrophe in Gaza Protests'.
issued a public statement saying that "Recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel" and that "she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony." Her open condemnation of Israeli violence was indicative of a change in the Western perspective on Israeli crimes. As James North of Mondoweiss pointed out, "Natalie Portman ... sends yet another message that profound changes are afoot among communities Israel could once count upon for support."
Portman's full statement reads:
My decision not to attend the Genesis Prize ceremony has been mischaracterized by others. Let me speak for myself. I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony. By the same token, I am not part of the BDS movement and do not endorse it. Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation. I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance. Israel was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today's atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.We can only hope that she won't be the last high-profile cultural symbol turning their back on Israel.
Please do not take any words that do not come directly from me as my own.
This experience has inspired me to support a number of charities in Israel. I will be announcing them soon, and I hope others will join me in supporting the great work they are doing.