Seeing the gaunt body of a Palestinian man, Mohammed Al Naem, hanging from the blades of an Israeli military bulldozer near the fence, which separates besieged Gaza from Israel, left me speechless. There can be no justification or apparent ‘logic’ for the heartlessness behind such an inhumane act.
The Israeli government, however, is never short of bizarre explanations. An Israeli right-wing politician offered an answer to why Israel would kill, mutilate and then steal the body of a dead Palestinian using an army bulldozer.
“If we have bodies of Palestinian terrorists, we can release those in return to get back the bodies of our soldiers,” Jeremy Saltan of the right-wing Yamina political alliance said in defence of the barbaric scene which was caught on camera on Sunday, February 23.
The Israeli response to the army’s blatant savagery in Gaza is quite typical, as it follows the same grotesque logic that Israel has used for decades to justify its numerous crimes against occupied and besieged Palestinians
Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett also jumped at the opportunity in defence of the Israeli army’s barbarism in Gaza.
“Enough of the hypocritical criticism by the left about the ‘inhumanity’ of using a bulldozer to recover the body of a terrorist,” Bennet said, showing no remorse for a scene that sent shock waves throughout social media, asserting that “that is how it should be done, and that is how we will do it”.
The Israeli response to the army’s blatant savagery in Gaza is quite typical, as it follows the same grotesque logic that Israel has used for decades to justify its numerous crimes against occupied and besieged Palestinians.
The Israeli behaviour, however, cannot be understood in the context of Israel’s obsessions with ‘security’ or its tired cliches of ‘fighting Palestinian terrorism’. Its basis lies in something entirely different: humiliating the Palestinian people, simply because it has the power to do so.
Naem was only 27-years-old when he was killed, thus, he was merely 13 years of age when Israel placed the minuscule Gaza Strip — 365 square kilometres — under a hermetic and deadly siege.
Chances are the young man’s political discourse was already inundated with terminology that no child anywhere in the world should be exposed to. He must have already been familiar with the concept of martyrdom, along with other similar notions, as he watched close relatives, friends and neighbours, children of his age and even younger, being killed by the Israeli military for their sole desire and insistence on living a life of dignity — a wish that Naem himself was ultimately denied.
The Israeli military, which was forced to accept the damning evidence that the Palestinian man’s body was, in fact, “collected” by a bulldozer, countered this apparent justification with the same familiar lines, that Naem, along with his peers, were members of a “terrorist organisation” and that they were planting explosives near the fence.
But let’s assume for a minute that the Israeli army narrative was perfectly true. Should we be surprised that a man who grew up under siege, who experienced, since childhood, the most horrific and unjust Israeli wars, would grow up to be a fighter, defending whatever dignity is left for him and his family?
What is so shocking about Palestinians fighting back?
Why should Palestinians accept their punishment and perpetual humiliation, besiegement, and victimhood as if they are subhumans incapable of engaging with the most basic human instincts of self-defence, sacrifice, and self-preservation?
The fact is, Naem is Gaza. He is every Palestinian man, woman, and child in that tragic place. He is also every Palestinian man, woman, and child standing at an Israeli military checkpoint in the West Bank, hoping to be granted access to their jobs, schools, hospitals or homes.
The Israeli bulldozer that dangled Naem like a sacrificial lamb in front of TV cameras in the middle of the day, although unwittingly, sent a message to the rest of the world: this is us — Israel is the bulldozer, and this is them, Naem is the Palestinians, in all of their vulnerability, nakedness, and defeat, and there is nothing that anyone can do about it.
No sense of normality
“Israel has the right to defend itself” is the typical retort emanating from Washington and its allies. Translation: Israel has the right to oppress and besiege Palestinians, to disrupt any sense of normality in their lives, to deny them food and medicine, to block every entrance and every exit — to trap them for eternity.
The humiliation of the Palestinians is part and parcel of an Israeli historical discourse that has dehumanised the Palestinians to the extent that during the genocidal war of 2014, Israelis gathered to watch the onslaught in Gaza, dancing, barbecuing and cheering every time white phosphorous came raining down on hapless Palestinians.
The perception of Palestinians as ‘beasts’ and ‘cockroaches’ who deserve to be erased and ethnically cleansed without impunity has penetrated every stratum of Israeli society, politics, and even school curriculums.
Naem’s death will not end resistance in Gaza. Instead, it would further accentuate the savagery of Israel as a heartless military occupier in the minds of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and anyone who can see through Israeli state-sanctioned lies and propaganda.
Israel does not want peace with the Palestinians because peacemakers do not besiege people, do not kill innocent children, and do not destroy people’s lives and deprive them of their dignity. And, most importantly, because peacemakers do not dangle the corpses of young men from the blades of military bulldozers.
— Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta).