While Israeli soldiers stormed Jenin and killed 10 Palestinians, members of Israeli registered professional cycling teams were training on roads in and around Geelong in the lead up to the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
The sponsorship of professional cyclists is one way the Israeli state tries to divert attention from its human rights abuses. Sports-washing apartheid to avoid accountability for denying basic human rights to Palestinians sits alongside Israel’s art- and culture-washing (remember that Eurovision Song Contest win from a few years ago?).
Eurovision and bike races aside, the latest attacks on the camp where journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered in 2022 confirm that Israel’s new ultra right-wing government has permanent punishment of Palestinians as a core objective.
The Jenin raid was carried out in daylight, rather than the middle of the night, which is unusual and troubling. While Jenin is allegedly a stronghold for terrorist activity — which Israel used to justify its actions — the daylight raid on a Palestinian refugee community sends a signal that raids can occur at any time as part of Israel’s “war on terror”.
The broader implication is that Palestine/Palestinian equals terrorism/terrorist and anything that has to be done to eradicate that is perfectly reasonable. Whether intelligence agencies had knowledge of an imminent plot by jihadists is almost beside the point. Palestinian refugees are living under violent occupation and any action to push back against that is seen as terrorism. From Israel’s perspective, people who object to living under apartheid are terrorists before they’ve even opened their mouths.
The youngest victims of the massacre were two 16 and 17 year-old boys and the oldest was a 61 year-old woman. The pattern of injuries and fatal wounds suggests a shoot-to-kill approach — not some routine security sweep with the option of arresting a suspect or two. Live rounds were fired at people’s heads, chests, abdomens and legs. If you’re not immediately killed after that, you’re incapacitated and you need urgent treatment. But the capacity to treat the injured was severely hampered by attacks on the hospital in Jenin and the denial of access by ambulances.
Predictably, the mainstream media trotted out the “terrorist” line in response to the shootings in Jerusalem that claimed nine Israeli lives. In initial reports, they didn’t even bother using “Palestinian” to describe the shooter, because they could safely assume anyone watching would already be doing that.
Israeli government ministers’ calls to expel or “neutralise” Palestinians under the guise of stamping out terrorism — or give Israelis the means to do so without consequence — are reported by the media without blinking. Israel can confidently assume that there will only be token demands for both sides to calm down/step back from the brink/be willing to compromise/negotiate etc, because it can pull out the terrorism card and everyone knows that it’s heroic to fight terrorism.
Against a background of a Palestinian being killed every day in January 2023, Benjamin Netanyahu returned as Prime Minister with a cohort of even more fervently anti-Palestinian ministers. National security minister Itamar Ben Gvir doesn’t hide his wish to make the Palestinian problem “disappear”. At the security cabinet meeting convened after the Jerusalem shooting, Gvir and Netanyahu decided that Israelis should be allowed freer access to more guns with which to kill Palestinians and that relatives of “terrorists” should be denied access to social security.
It’s also fair to suspect that punishments such as “sealing the homes of terrorists” (i.e. demolishing more Palestinian homes) will increase in parallel with the expansion of illegal settlements. Gvir is previously on record as advocating for the return of the death penalty — against Palestinians.
Israeli soldiers’ actions in Jenin and Israeli politicians’ actions afterwards make it very clear that they will continue to do exactly that and do it even more aggressively — as long they are safe from being held accountable.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of al Nakba (the catastrophe) when thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homelands to establish the state of Israel. If the international community is genuinely interested in solving the conflict between Palestine and Israel, then we need to see real demands on Israel to stop the ongoing theft of Palestinian land and stop the collective punishment of Palestinians and real consequences for ignoring those demands.