Call it what it is: Israel massacred 58 Palestinians

15 May 2018
Vashti Kenway

It is a heartbreaking scene. A woman covered in dust, dirt, and blood, cradles a dead young man. “He was my nephew”, she cries. “My love. My soul.”

Across Gaza today families, communities, schools, workplaces and friendship circles are mourning the loss of someone. Someone they loved, someone they shared a joke with, someone they protested with, someone they smiled at on the street or in the shops.

In just one day 58 Palestinians were murdered, and more than 2,700 were wounded. The Israeli military fired live ammunition, rained down tear gas, and launched firebombs at protesters who were marching on the Gaza-Israel border to demonstrate against 70 years of occupation and ethnic cleansing. This came after weeks of determined civil disobedience, which was met with brutal repression by Israel. Since the protest movement began in March over 100 Palestinians have been killed.

What happened yesterday was a massacre. What happened the week before was a massacre. And the week before that. But you wouldn’t know it from the press coverage in the West.

The Age headline this morning declared that the protests in Gaza were “deadly” and the Adelaide Advertiser announced that Palestinians had “perished”. This is the language of natural disasters. Snakes are deadly. Sharks are deadly. People perish in droughts, floods, tsunamis. They don’t “perish” from bullets, from choking on poison gas or from blood loss after their limbs have been amputated. The perpetrators of this massacre are written out of such headlines. The murderers are disappeared.

Contrast the reports of this massacre with the aftermath of any of the recent terrorist attacks. The individuals who were killed are named, given histories, lives. Their families and friends are interviewed and photos of them as children, teenagers and adults flash across our screens. In their death they are brought to life. It is a rare Australian news report that will afford a Palestinian the same honour.

Take Fadi Abu Silme a 29 year old Gazan. Father of two and husband of 7 years. Silme had grown up in the hell hole that is Gaza. He had survived the bombings of 2009 and 2014. He had survived the brutalising siege, that slowly creeping genocide.

Ten years ago, an Israeli drone strike hit his home. He only just survived but he had both legs amputated. Despite this injury he was a determined man. He refused to be cowed and participated in participating the March of Return. He went daily in his wheelchair. Yesterday he said goodbye to his children and wheeled himself off to the protest. He didn’t return.

If the mainstream media won’t provide these martyrs with names and stories, then we must.

The Australian media is in lock step with our political establishment. Turnbull called the massacre a “tragedy” this morning. A Shakespearean tragedy? A Greek tragedy? A “tragedy” where the players have no control and the forces of fate dictate the inevitable spiral of death and destruction? Again, the perpetrators of the killing are absolved.

Julie Bishop went on to declare the inalienable right of Israel to “defend” itself. What kind of defence is this? The “defence” of constant land theft? Of geographical expansion through the barrel of the gun? The “defence” of shooting to kill and maim unarmed protesters or refugees? Israel is not engaged in self-defence. It is engaged in an aggressive act of ongoing ethnic cleansing. This reality is covered up by an Australian state that has long had an interest in protecting and defending Israel: a major trade and military partner. Turnbull and Bishop are determined to maintain this partnership, and with it the “special relationship” with the US, no matter the number of deaths.

While the massacre was taking place, establishment figures of many nations were celebrating the opening of the new US embassy in East Jerusalem. The event was a testament to the terrifying state of world politics. The rabid right have taken centre stage and the world turns as normal. Far right, settler parties are key players in Netanyahu’s cabinet. And Likud, Netanyahu’s party, has been on a rapid, aggressive trajectory rightwards. Likud's Avi Dichter, chair of the Knesset defence committee, for instance, declared that the Israeli military “had enough bullets for every [Palestinian protester]”.

Ivanka Trump, the madman’s daughter, was there celebrating. She stood alongside other significant figures from the US administration and Pastor Robert Jeffress, leader of a Dallas-area Baptist church and a spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump. Jeffress is notorious for calling Islam and Mormonism “a heresy from the pit of hell” and saying Jews “can't be saved”.

During his speech Netanyahu paid homage to Trump. He said, “President Trump, by recognising history you have made history”. He then went on to say. “This is a good day for peace, too. You can only build peace upon truth, and the truth is that Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years.”

We would agree that truth needs to be spoken. And here is the truth: Palestine is an occupied land and its people have been subject to the imperial games of the powerful for too long. It is time that the institutions of lies, hypocrisy and bloodshed are not only challenged, but torn down. Free Palestine.

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