Some Lives Worth More Than Others
By Ben White
-- - Once again, we are learning that when it
comes to the conflict in Palestine/Israel, some lives are worth
more than others. Earlier today, dozens of Qassam rockets fired
from the Gaza Strip fell on Sderot, the Israeli town that has
borne the brunt of Palestinian rocket fire over the last few
years. This time, an Israeli man, “father-of-four” Roni Yechiah,
was killed in a car park by shrapnel. Others have suffered
Even as I write this, however, there is news that in the Gaza
Strip, the Israeli military, in separate attacks, has killed a 6
month old baby and three Palestinian children age 10, 12 and 14.
No names yet. In the case of the three children, the Israeli
army claims that it was aiming at militants, and a spokesperson
said it was “strange” that there should be children around the
alleged vicinity of rocket launchers.
But it is not the first ‘strange’ occurrence recently in Gaza.
On Saturday, three Palestinians in their early 20s, Mohammad
Talal al-Za’anin, Ibrahim Ahmad Abu Jarad, and Mohammad Hasan
Hussein, were killed as they prepared a picnic in a field near
Beit Hanoun. The Israeli missile hit their hut, 1.2km from the
border fence, killing and dismembering them instantly.
‘Strangely’, the Israeli army claimed it had targeted militants
firing rockets. Then on Tuesday, Palestinian farmer Hassan Abu
Sabatt was tilling his land near Qarara village, when Israeli
soldiers shot him dead. Once again, the IDF said it had killed
an armed militant – a spokeswoman said he’d been spotted
planting a bomb.
These drastically contrasting versions of what happened become
less mysterious when we remember that the IDF has a long track
record of lying, backtracking and deceiving when it comes to the
killing of Palestinian civilians. Of course, Western media
outlets either unquestioningly reprint official IDF press
releases, or ‘balance’ the two contradictory accounts.
Let’s be clear. The residents of Sderot are unquestionably
living through a nightmare. Indeed, some thought it worthwhile
to organize a concert in Los Angeles this week in solidarity
with the town. Hollywood stars were in attendance, and according
to Yedioth Ahronoth online, the three presidential candidates
all sent messages of support.
John McCain, bizarrely, believes that Palestinian violence “is
not condemned by world nations”. Hilary Clinton commented on
Sderot’s courage and sacrifice, while Barack Obama said that as
a father, he “could only imagine the terror that these rockets
cause”. The deaths of Mohammad the university student or Hassan
the farmer, however, went unnoticed and unlamented.
Presumably, if asked bluntly, Obama, McCain and Clinton would
all profusely stress that they believe a Palestinian life is
equal to that of an Israeli’s. But there will be no A-list
concert for Palestinians living under daily terror – indeed,
such an event is inconceivable because there is simply no
understanding of Israel as a practitioner of terror.
Yesterday, coincidentally just before this new bloodshed, the
Wall Street Journal published an op-ed on Sderot and Gaza by
Bret Stephens (linked to approvingly by UK-based ‘centre-left’
blog, Harry’s Place). There is not enough space here to
dissemble line by line every falsehood in the piece. But here,
in the pages of a mainstream, respected US newspaper, a writer
is afforded space to call for ‘punitive’ military operations
against a civilian population.
Stephens idly hypothesizes that perhaps a ‘proportionate’
Israeli response would involve “firing 2,500 artillery shells at
random against civilian targets in Gaza”, since the Qassam
operators are themselves apparently intent on inflicting
“indiscriminate terror”. For Stephens, moreover, the documented
and condemned Israeli collective punishment of Gaza deserves
mocking inverted commas, as if it didn’t really exist. The
writer concludes that Israel, unable to practically apply its
“right to self-defense”, is instead “counseled” to “negotiate a
cease-fire with Hamas”.
In reality, as a survey published by Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz
today testifies, it is Israelis themselves who are ‘counseling’
their government to negotiate a ceasefire (64%). Despite
Stepehens’ claim to the contrary, moreover, Hamas has in fact
held to ceasefires before, even in the face of deliberate
When picnicking Palestinian can be killed without outrage, and
Palestinian farmers can be shot without triggering angry,
impassioned editorials, then Sderot will continue to be seen as
a victim of decontextualised, irrational violence by
Palestinians. For the sake of the Israelis in Sderot – living in
fear from Qassam attack – as well as for the Palestinians in
Gaza – besieged, shelled, and raided at whim by an occupying
army – the Israeli government and Hamas must sit down and talk.
Ben White is a freelance journalist specializing in
Palestine/Israel. His website is at
www.benwhite.org .uk and his
email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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