Let’s Talk About Genocide: Shoot to Kill – Israel’s New Phase of Genocidal Policy

The most recent report from the Palestinian Health Ministry relates that 44 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s army, police and settlers, since the beginning of the month- in the past 18 days. 11 of them were children under 18 years of age. All 44 have been shot, most during demonstrations, least while wielding a knife, and others while standing in the street being Arab.

The most disturbing aspect of this new wave of extrajudicial executions is of course the latter, in which random Palestinian citizens of Israel are attacked in the street  by random Jewish citizens if identified to be Arab. In the best case scenario, they are just humiliated and brutally beaten, in the worst case they are shot multiple times by hysterical police officers.

So great is the fear (otherwise known as racism) of Arabs, that occasionally Jews of Arab origin (60% of the Jewish-Israeli population) are shot by Israeli police or stabbed by Jewish-civilians.

Bleeding Into 1948

Remember when two months ago Israel decided, to much military and media lamentation, to tighten open-fire regulations? No? Well that’s because this temporary tightening didn’t really change anything on the ground. On September 22, about two weeks before the current wave of executions began, 18 year-old Hadeel Hashlamoun was gunned down by Israeli soldiers in a checkpoint at al-Khalil (Hebron). The soldiers claimed she had a knife, but according to the Amnesty International report, this accusation was far from reality.

Of course, executions of Palestinians, under guise of “security threat” is not a new trend, in fact it dates back to 1947 (you know, that first time Zionist militias went all genocidal on the Palestinian people):

The Holocaust, argues Oron, was politically crucial to Ben-Gurion. It not only contributed to the support of Zionist goals and migration to Palestine, but also strengthened the Yishuv’s incentive to fight a war against the Palestinians and Arabs in the desire to avoid, at all cost, the possibility of a Holocaust reoccurring. Ben-Gurion was repeatedly quoted, saying: “We must not say that what happened in Europe to six million Jews cannot happen to 650,000 Jews in Palestine … what happened in Europe may happen in Palestine … if we do not prepare seriously and without delay” (p. 108). Ben-Gurion’s use of the Holocaust had a vital impact on the Jewish Yishuv’s leadership, individual members, and armed forces, and, among other factors, contributed to the Yishuv belief in waging a struggle of existence; they would either be victorious over the Palestinians and Arabs, or they die. What awaited them if defeated would be comparable to the Holocaust.

Back to 2015; like a self fulfilling prophecy, several Palestinian youth have lashed out and stabbed Israeli soldiers and civilians. Though this phenomena isn’t coordinated, or sustainable, Israel is using the opportunity to tighten its control over the West Bank, and reestablish and escalate the already lax open-fire regulations. So lax, in fact, that many of the Palestinians being killed are citizens of Israel.

Dodging the Bullet – Discrimination Before the Law

Before we get into the details of Israel’s new shoot-to-kill policy, a little context is needed. The mainstream media is heavily reporting Israeli stab victims, while labeling Palestinian shooting victims as “terrorists”. More often then not, the circumstances of death are not investigated, even when social media is abound with evidence contrary to the official Israeli version. No police officer has been prosecuted, and Israeli civilians that wage stabbing or shooting attacks against Palestinians also somehow find a way to dodge both the proverbial and actual bullet. This alone sends a message to Israelis- both armed forces and armed civilians- that killing Palestinians is OK.

Beyond the particularities of this bloody episode, there is also the wider context of the crime of genocide, which I discuss at length in the “Let’s Talk About Genocide” series [Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. My analysis stems from the assumption that Palestinians are in a reality of a continuous genocide, according to the Convention of Prevention of Genocide, with recurring peaks of violence (last summer’s bombing of Gaza to the effect of 6 nuclearbombs, murdering 2300 people, including over 500 children, is one harrowing example) that induce heightened acts of resistance. The mechanisms of genocide that are in place are not put on hold because the victims of the genocide killed members of the population that benefit from the genocide. These uncoordinated stabbings are a gut response to the continuous extermination.

Shoot-to-Kill: New Phase of Israel’s Genocidal Policy

Shoot-to-Kill is not a new Israeli policy. It’s been alive and well in Gaza and the West Bank for decades, and at times bled into Israel. This time around, however, the volume is jacked up to genocidal extents. It took less than two months for Israel to backtrack on its tightening of the open-fire regulations and excelerate it in full force. The first step was to once again give official legitimacy to extrajudicial executions:

Israel’s security cabinet voted unanimously Thursday evening to permit the use of sniper-fire against stone throwers in circumstances where an officer’s life is not at imminent risk… “Until recently police would open fire only when their own lives were in danger. As of now, they will be permitted to open fire – and they will know that they have the right to open fire – when they face danger to any lives,” Netanyahu said.

This decision was made in the context of Israel’s latest takeover of Al-Aqsa mosque, and a day after Hadeel Hashlamoun’s execution. The next step was to out-right call on citizens to carry arms and use them:

Several high-ranking Israeli officials have called on civilians to start carrying weapons around the clock, following a spate of stabbings and shootings by Palestinians in Jerusalem in recent days, Ha’aretz reported Thursday. “It’s like doing reserve duty,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat said during an interview with Army Radio Thursday morning, according to the Israeli newspaper.

A police commander of Ashdod made a similar call during a town hall council meeting in the coastal Israeli city…

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan has joined the call for all Israeli citizens licensed to carry weapons to do so, following a stabbing in the coastal Israeli city of Tel-Aviv. He reportedly said any terrorist who chooses to stab someone with a knife should expect to be shot in response, according to the Jewish Press.

While Jerusalem’s mayor, was reliving his glory days in the occupying army, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, promptly joined the incitement, slightly more subtly:

We have boosted our forces and are using all necessary means and methods in the fight against this terrorism… Civilians are at the forefront of the war against terrorism and must also be on maximum alert…

Less subtle was Internal Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, who took the next step and announced on his Facebook page that he is easing restrictions on attaining a weapon-carrying licence. Here are the main points:

  • The lowest ranking army and police officers (teenagers), including those in reserves will be permitted to obtain a licence.
  • The requirement of a two year minimum on the job is cancelled.
  • In addition to active duty and reserves, people who have served in certain unites in the past, but are no longer serving, are also permitted.
  • Anyone who worked as a security guard for two years (past, or present) is permitted. (On a side note, one of the ways of excluding Palestinians from the workforce, especially, but not limited to security jobs, is requiring full army service.)
  • Settlement residents and visitors are permitted.

Joining them with his usual fascistic rhetoric (and surprisingly religious rhetoric), from the expanded annexed territory in al-Aqsa, Law Maker, Yair Lapid, took it a notch further and commended the armed forces on their shoot-to-kill policies:

… we have removed our request for a vote of no confidence in the government because this is not the time to deal in politics… what the country of Israel needs right now- unity, the feeling that we are all standing together against a common enemy… A terrorist came and tried to stab the security forces and was shot and killed and that is the way it should be… The rabbis teach that if someone comes up against you to kill you, you should kill him first and that should be our working model.

On a side note: The thwarted “terrorist attack” Lapid was referring to was the extrajudicial execution of 18 year-old Mustafa Adel al-Khatib, whom witnesses report was still in his car, when he was shot.

The Israeli public was quick to follow the politicians’ and media incitement. The guardian quotes Israeli gun shop owners, reporting “a dramatic increase in demand for guns”.

Targeting Women and Girls

While under international law, all Palestinians under military occupation are protected persons, “women shall be especially protected.” In the past month, two Palestinian women and two Palestinian girls have been killed. Aside from pregnant Nour Hassan (30) and her 2-year-old daughter Rahaf, who were bombed to death in their home in Gaza, the two others- Marah al-Bakri (15) and Bayan ‘Oseyli (16)– were just teenagers. This count doesn’t include mother of three, Israa Abed (mid-20s), who survived multiple gunshot wounds, Shrouk Dowiyyat (18) who was shot by a settler who later claimed she had a knife, and teenager Hadeel Hashlamoun, who was the precursor to all this shooting.

Comparably to the grand total of 44 killed (45 as I write), these 6 women and girls seem like a negligible number.  But it’s the recent coverage in Israeli media that points to an escalation of harm to Palestinian women. This is the front page of last Wednesday’s paper:

At the Terror Front: Women

They go out to murder civilians with knives, move car bombs, and throw stones: In the new wave of terror Palestinian women play a central role.

These kinds of headlines, put together with the calls to Israeli Jews to shoot-to-kill Palestinians further thrust Israel into the genocidal mindset. Palestinian men and boys were already fair-game, and were, until these days, Israel’s prime target. Now women- specifically young women- are also explicit targets. In other words, all Palestinians are now shoot-to-kill targets. Their killing carries no punishment, and their killer can be anyone: A soldier, a police officer, the guy behind them in the checkout line at the super-market.

It is no wonder that a Palestinian woman wrote “The guide to Palestinian survival in Israel”:

I was surprised to find out that many of my Arab friends “shared” my call, and that they themselves are just as afraid to walk around or enter the public sphere, for fear of falling prey to Jewish mobs. This is especially relevant following the videos of Jews only calling to execute Arab who fell into their trap. In Netanya we saw a lynch of Arab workers, while in Jerusalem a group of criminals roams the streets at night looking for Arabs. They ask random people for the time, and if they answer with an Arabic accent, it’s all over.

On days where insanity is the indisputable ruler — when anyone can carry a weapon and feel like his life is in danger, simply because an Arab woman opened her bag next to him — who knows how things will end.

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