Up to the 21st of May, Israel had murdered at least 112 people and injured 13,190 during the protests of the Great March of Return in Gaza. One of Israel’s latest crimes was the killing of 21 year-old volunteer nurse Razan al-Najjar, who was shot by a sniper as she walked towards a wounded protestor with her arms in the air and wearing a clearly visible medical white coat. In the middle of the PR disaster this created for Israel, did the authorities admit to the crime, apologize, prosecute the sniper, compensate the victim’s family and cease all aggression towards the civilian demonstrators? No. Instead, they spread on social media this highly edited video designed to smear the victim:
As an excuse for her murder, it is both malicious and ludicrous. We see her throw an already activated smoke bomb away from people and a mere few meters into an empty field. The apparent suggestion is that she is a violent person in the habit of throwing bombs – perhaps even a Hamas agent – when the most likely scenario is that she was trying to spare the people around her from the effects of an Israeli tear gas canister, probably dropped from a drone.
We also hear her declare that she was acting “as a human shield”. But the video cuts abruptly before we can hear the rest of the sentence: “…as a rescuer for the injured on the front lines.” In that context, what she meant was that she was trying to protect the people. Indeed, the practice of human shields is morally reprehensible only when people are forced into it by armed forces which seek extra protection. In contrast, if one volunteers to be a ‘shield’ for injured civilians, then one is in fact a hero. The IDF video is trying to make a reference to the Israeli government line that civilian casualties are the responsibility of Hamas that seeks to attack Israel while hiding behind civilians.
The question is not whether the IDF claims are valid – they are evidently not – but why do they think that anyone apart from hardcore Zionists would take seriously such a poor attempt at misrepresenting the facts? Don’t they realize that rather than helping their case they are hurting it further?
When confronted with the massacre, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured that
Nobody intentionally went out to kill anyone. People died accidentally. And I can tell you that Hamas at a certain point said ‘not enough people have been killed. Push more, let the Jews kill more!’ …They are throwing their fighters, 50 out of 62 Hamas terrorists, and they put civilians in front of them as a human shield, to try to cross the fence and kill Israelis and kidnap them.
Earlier, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had told Israeli public radio that “everyone’s connected to Hamas, everyone gets a salary from Hamas, and all the activists trying to challenge us and breach the border are Hamas military wing activists”.
Anyone who has bothered to watch a couple of videos of the actual protests and read a few articles knows that the deaths could not possibly have been an accident, and there were no Hamas terrorists on the verge of kidnapping and killing Israelis (how would they with Israeli forces covering every inch of the border?). Apart from medical personnel, those shot included journalists wearing press vests, women and children. In fact, in a 31st of March tweet that was later deleted, the IDF admitted with pride that there were no accidents:
That they are unaware that there was something obscenely wrong with their actions was confirmed by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Michal Maayan. She was asked by RTÉ’s Morning Ireland why they were shooting civilians, to which she replied: “Well, we can’t put all these people in jail”.
Again, the claims of Israeli officials are so absurd and heartless that they can only serve to reinforce the point of view of people who are already unconditional supporters of Israel. For those of us who are not part of that choir, they are insult added to injury.
Commenting on the issue of a cartoon which the Guardian editor refused to publish – wrongly calling it ‘anti-semitic’ – Jonathan Cook argues that such censorship does not fight anti-semitism, but quite the opposite.
People understand that the cartoon above is a criticism of Netanyahu’s policies that have resulted in the massacre of innocents, as well as Theresa May’s hypocrisy at ignoring the elephant in the room. No rational person would read it as defamation of Jews in general. But if this valid political commentary is censored, Cook writes, “we are likely to infer that Israeli leaders expect and receive preferential treatment… we are likely to conclude that Israeli war crimes are uniquely sanctioned… we may assume that Israel has dispensation to bombard Gaza, whatever the toll on civilians… In those circumstances, the logic of the real anti-semite starts to sound more plausible.” We could extend this argument to include the resentment that will surely be caused by a bill proposed in the Israeli Knesset. If approved, the new law will impose prison sentences on persons charged with recording or photographing Israeli soldiers “in the course of their duties, with the intention of undermining the spirit of IDF soldiers and residents of Israel.” In other words, it will criminalize people seeking to document IDF crimes. When faced with such institutional complicity with murder, it is impossible for outsiders to conclude that Israel is fighting for a just cause.
Whether this results in real anti-semitism or not, there are signs that the world is becoming more courageous in raising its voice against Israel. In the wake of one of the bloodiest days in Gaza, as the American embassy was opened in Jerusalem, diplomats from Russia, France the UK and the Arab League, among others, expressed concern and outrage at Israeli violence, with Turkey rightly calling it ‘state terror’. Days later, US ambassador to the UN and rabid Israel-firster, Nikki Haley, vetoed a draft resolution at the Security Council calling for measures to protect the people of Gaza, but she suffered diplomatic humiliation when she had to beg for support of her own resolution condemning Hamas – for which she got none.
Many other voices have joined the chorus of condemnation: Pablo Iglesias, leader of the Spanish left-wing party Podemos called for more firm action “on an illegal country like Israel… Israel’s actions are illegal. The apartheid policies of the state of Israel are illegal”; Argentina’s national football team cancelled a friendly match with Israel that was to be held in Jerusalem; and Jewish personalities outside Israel are also making a stand. Among them, actress Natalie Portman refused to attend an awards ceremony with Netanyahu in light of “recent events”.
Some, perhaps all of the Israeli officials who offer narratives sanctioning murder that could have been taken from textbooks on criminology, may have psychopathic tendencies. This would explain both the lack of genuine empathy as well as their inability to see how their statements are perceived by other ‘normal’ people. However, they are a tiny minority. We cannot use the concept of psychopathy alone to explain the masses both inside and outside Israel who honestly think that Israel is a democracy under siege by the Arabs surrounding it and the victim of anti-semitic propaganda from the rest of the world. I refer to the sort of Israeli Jews Abby Martin interviewed last year on the streets of Jerusalem and who casually commented on the benefits of taking over, carpet bombing, or massively expelling Arabs – views which, again, are unacceptable for anyone outside their ideological group. To use the terminology of Andrew Lobaczewski, they have been ponerized. Occasionally one comes across such ideologues when debating the conflict in Palestine on social media. For example:
Clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson has lately popularized the idea of ideological possession, its negative social consequences and its role in totalitarianism – issues explored in depth in this lecture. Based on Peterson’s ideas, Robin Koerner has summarized the major symptoms of ideological possession as follows:
- The possessed insists that anyone who disfavors a specific view or policy must also reject the basic moral value that, to the possessed individual, justifies that view or policy. This is the fallacy of the assumed paradigm. […]
- The possessed uses one-dimensional labels for people they’ve never met and who clearly aren’t one-dimensional as a means of dismissing the value of all their beliefs or actions. […]
- Related to the above, the possessed will regard a few quotes or actions by an individual as proof that the individual is evil without regard to context, appreciation that everyone is a product of his time, recognition that people change over time, or consideration of other quotes and actions that provide evidence against the claimed ill intent of the individual in question.
- The possessed advocates worse treatment of people within a specified group than others. […]
- The possessed believes that a single principle provides answers to most important moral and political questions, disregarding reasonable moral intuitions to the contrary (precisely because they are to the contrary) and any uncertainty regarding the precise meaning or application of the principle. […]
- When the results of an ideologically justified action are the opposite of those intended or used to justify that action in the first place, the possessed is convinced that not only is the action not the cause of any resulting problem but that more of the same action will eventually solve that problem. […]
It is easy to see that these points describe very well pro-Israel and Zionist claims. The basic moral value and single principle justifying immoral policies is that Jews are entitled to their own historical land. The point argued by Israelis and their supporters is that if you accept that a people have a right to a land of their own, then you must also accept what Israel does in the name of that right. People such as the imprisoned teenager Ahed Tamimi or Razan al-Najjar are both described in one-dimensional labels (“barbariness”) and defamed with quotes or actions taken out of context (al-Najjar’s smoke-bomb and human shield video). Likewise, anyone critical of Israel gets the anti-semitic label. Finally, actions such as military offensives or ethnic cleansing are not only not wrong, but more of them are needed to solve the problem (calls for carpet bombings or mass expulsions).
Koerner adds that “it’s not the content of your belief that makes you dangerous, it’s the way you believe it”. It is a fair point to bear in mind for most ideologies, but unfortunately Zionism carries a contradiction at its core – at least for Zionists who believe in democratic, egalitarian and liberal values. As I have explained elsewhere, the contradiction is that a Jewish nation implies that non-Jews will always be second class citizens at best, thus denying such values. The state itself cannot be both Jewish and truly democratic/egalitarian.
Perhaps this contradiction, rather than liberate people from the ideological possession, exacerbates it – for only by being fully ideologically possessed can the average individual bury the contradiction deep inside to the point that it can be ignored. For those looking from outside and free from any personal investment in Zionism or the conflict in Palestine, the manifestations of the ideologically possessed appear even more monstruous.
Andrés Perezalonso has been a contributing editor for Signs of the Times in both its English and Spanish versions since 2007. He holds a PhD in Politics, an MA in International Studies, a first degree in Communication, and has a professional background in Media Analysis. He thinks that understanding world events is not unlike detective work – paying attention to often ignored details and connections, and thinking outside of the box. He was born and raised in Mexico and currently resides in Europe.