Just another home video for the Israeli army

There is no outpouring of outrage among Israelis when confronted with images of brutality against Palestinians.

    An Israeli border patrol policeman beats a Palestinian man with a truncheon close to an entrance of Al-Aqsa Mosque in 2014 [Getty]
    An Israeli border patrol policeman beats a Palestinian man with a truncheon close to an entrance of Al-Aqsa Mosque in 2014 [Getty]

    When somebody mentions in discussion the "latest" video of Israeli violence against unarmed Palestinians, it is difficult to know which one is being referred to given the abundance and frequency of such footage. This week, it was of a Palestinian being beaten by soldiers.

    However, every latest incident quickly becomes old news, superseded by newer footage of abuse. The cumulative effect of this is that over time, to many viewers they cease to be shocking or even newsworthy. This compounds the injustices caught on camera.

    Beyond the right-wing viewership of Fox News, there has been outrage across the United States over a rash of recent videos showing inexcusable and sometimes fatal police brutality against African Americans.

    There is no such outpouring among Israelis when confronted with their brutality against Palestinians, though it is a different matter entirely when it comes to instances of Israeli abuse against their own.

    Israeli group says Palestinians failing to get justice

    Amid protests in April following video footage of an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier being beaten by a policeman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to "eradicate" racism.

    "We need to also fix Israeli society," he added.

    Anti-Arab indoctrination

    However, when it comes to racism against Arabs, Israeli society does not see itself as broken, and as the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It is not about a difference in citizenship - Palestinian Israelis are also considered fair game.

    Pervasive anti-Arab indoctrination in Israel begins at childhood amid an atmosphere that not only encourages and justifies the subjugation and murder of Arabs, but even their portrayal as sub-human.

    For examples, one need only look at Israel's recently elected government. Deputy Defence Minister Eli Ben Dahan has described Palestinians as "beasts, not humans", and mixed Arab-Jewish marriages as "a silent holocaust". Education Minister Naftali Bennett boasted in 2013: "I've killed many Arabs in my life and there's no problem with that."

    Pervasive anti-Arab indoctrination in Israel begins at childhood, amid an atmosphere that not only encourages and justifies the subjugation and murder of Arabs, but even their portrayal as sub-human.


    Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked posted the following on her Facebook page last year: "The entire Palestinian people is the enemy … they are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers … otherwise, more little snakes will be raised."

    Last month, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon threatened that in another war with Hezbollah, "we are going to hurt Lebanese civilians to include kids of the family".

    When such abhorrent views are not only commonplace but perfectly acceptable, is it any wonder that videos surface of Israeli children expressing their desire to kill Arabs, and of "the most moral army in the world" doing so and being hailed as heroes in the process?

    Testimonies by soldiers about the deliberate targeting of Palestinian civilians lead not to public soul-searching, but to accusations of treason.

    The reason for the plethora of videos of Palestinians being abused is Israel's culture of impunity. I had personal experience with this during my time working in Palestine, having been abused at checkpoints and twice having my life threatened by soldiers.

    Abuses caught on camera

    On one occasion, a jeep full of Israeli troops circled around me at night for no reason. One of them pointed a machine gun at me and pulled the trigger. It turned out the gun was not loaded, but in that instant I thought I was dead. The jeep drove off as the soldiers laughed.

    The knowledge by troops, police, and settlers that they are being filmed makes little difference, because they are comfortable in the fact that they will most likely go unpunished, or at the very worst receive a slap on the wrist. Abuses caught on camera are just the tip of the iceberg. The majority that are not are simply denied or distorted by the authorities.

    Israel investigates incidents (when confronted by video evidence), but this is irrelevant when it is quick to exonerate and to block independent probes. This week, it published the findings of its investigation into last year's Gaza war, in which more than 2,200 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians, were killed.

    Palestinians stand by the rubble of houses, destroyed by Israeli strikes in northern Gaza Strip [AP]

    Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused Israel of war crimes, but Israel's report said its military actions were "lawful" and legitimate." On the same day of publication came news that Israel had blocked, for the second time, a visit to the Palestinian territories by UN human rights envoy Makarim Wibisono.

    Israel last week absolved itself in specific cases of Palestinian deaths and abuses in Gaza, including children killed by an air strike while playing football on a beach, which was witnessed by journalists. What can we expect when the judge, jury, and executioner are one and the same?

    These sham investigations are bad enough without Israel's delusion that they will convince the International Criminal Court (ICC) that its probe will not be necessary. When one behaves as a law unto oneself for long enough, the belief sets in that they truly are above the law, and worse, that they are entitled to be. It is high time for a reality check, not just for Israel, but for those who believe that it is capable or even willing to come to its senses of its own accord.

    Sharif Nashashibi is an award-winning journalist and analyst on Arab affairs. 

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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