Israel Generates the Illusion that Violence is Routine

By Ramona Wadi

A recent joint press release by Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) and Palestinian prisoners’ NGO Addameer has laid bare the facts regarding Israel’s prosecution of children within the context of the current uprising. Around 350 Palestinian children have been arrested by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank recently, which has led to a marked increase in children being incarcerated since September. Statistical data summarised by both organisations has revealed a systematic implementation of collective punishment and deprivation of human rights, including the fabrication of evidence, solitary confinement, torture and coerced confessions. According to DCIP, such methods have been experienced by 86 per cent of Palestinian minors detained between January and June this year.

While the earlier days of the Jerusalem Intifada were marked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s macabre incentives to increase surveillance with the intention of eventually escalating to unbridled murder, it is clear that Israeli tactics have, this time, shifted in focus. The intention is obviously to target the younger generation of Palestinians first and foremost.

Recently, the state’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation proposed a bill that stipulates the lowering of the age at which people can be imprisoned to 12 for Palestinian children convicted of “nationalist-motivated” actions. There are precedents to this law, notably the recent harsher sentences for Palestinians embarking upon resistance tactics such as stone throwing and restricting the possibility of suspended sentences. Israel has also reinstated administrative detention for Palestinian minors, meaning that they can be imprisoned without charge or trial indefinitely.

At the other end of the spectrum, Israel has, under the pretext of security concerns, permitted the extrajudicial killing of Palestinians. The aforementioned press release includes a very pertinent quote from DCIP’s Accountability Programme Director, Ayed Abu Eqtaish: “While all states have the right to protect their children from violence, it cannot be used to justify extrajudicial killings or the unlawful use of intentional lethal force.”

Meanwhile, after embarking upon an incitement campaign, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon repudiated former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s calls for ground incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestinians in the West Bank. Speaking on Israel Radio, Lieberman criticised Netanyahu’s “policy of containment and defeat.” Ya’alon, who in the past advocated targeted assassinations, now argues in favour of undercover units tasked with arresting Palestinian “terrorists”.

Targeted assassinations, in such a context, would unravel the intent of Netanyahu’s calculated strategies. The current Palestinian resilience may prove to be more formidable despite the reluctance of resistance movements to involve themselves beyond rhetoric. However, Israel’s narrative of security concerns allows for a drawn-out phase that will eventually synchronise with the perpetual use of “self-defence” jargon with which it tries to justify its heinous actions.

Ya’alon’s adherence to this alternative strategy is not a result of his aversion to targeted assassinations. Rather, it is a systematic refining of tactics that, despite initial furor, tend to generate the illusion that violence is routine and, as such, is nothing to be concerned about. The maiming and murder of Palestinian civilians year after year results in hardly any outrage; it is the context of the latest intifada that has propelled Israeli violence to the fore. Netanyahu’s government has embarked upon an approach that refines the existing macabre legislation, in a manner that allows for international law violations under the pretext of security concerns while gradually increasing the number of Palestinian victims.

(This article was originally published in Middle East Monitor – MEMO)

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