More than a hundred dead and several hundreds wounded – this is the terrible toll the current “escalation” in the region has taken on Palestinians and Israelis. The ongoing suffering is shocking, the empathy for the anxiety and sense of human vulnerability deeply felt. At the same time, the events of the last few weeks also serve as a reminder for other facts.
First, the complete apathy toward the occupation until Palestinian violence erupts. Could things have been different if the reality in the Occupied Territories were on the agenda at other times as well? Second, the deep shock felt at the violence coming from Palestinians is obviously understandable, as is the denouncement of any harm to civilians. But the violence in the OPT didn’t start just a couple of months ago. It began almost fifty years ago, when millions of people came under military rule, and the violence hasn’t stopped for a minute since. It’s there, year in and year out.
Of the plethora of brutal measures Israel has been using, including house demolitions, collective punishment, and restrictions on freedom of movement, one has been particularly striking – the shoot-to-kill policy, which has also been used against people who have already been “neutralized”. Spurred by senior politicians and backed by the prime minister and the weak lip-service paid by the attorney general, soldiers and police officers have become judge, jury and executioner. Although the so-called “capital punishment for terrorists” law was defeated by a landslide in Israel’s parliament, it is being implemented on the ground, outside the bounds of law and morality.
These turbulent weeks notwithstanding, we will of course continue to strive for the protection of human rights. It is precisely during trying times such as these that we must not lose sight of the connection between the end of the occupation and the possibility of upholding all human rights, including the right to life and the right to bodily integrity.