Syria, Iran and North Korea quickly pop up on the front pages of western media when the term “axis of evil” comes up. The brutality or the nefarious designs of their regimes command headlines in the media. But when another evil around the corner does its dirty work in full view of the public, it barely finds mention in the inside pages of the same media outlets. The silence is deafening.
In the past two weeks 1,297 Palestinians have been shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers and snipers and the numbers are rising. The Palestinians were marching en masse in a peaceful protest to decry Israeli brutality against the lawful residents of the land. An additional 1,554 Gaza residents have been treated for tear gas inhalation or injuries by rubber-coated steel pellets.
Additionally, 33 Palestinians have been killed during this period, including 26 in border demonstrations. In typical fashion, the Israeli military has disputed the Gaza count of the dead and wounded, saying that at the most dozens were struck by Israeli fire. But it has not offered any evidence to refute the charges. This indiscriminate target shooting against unarmed civilians has drawn the ire of many rights groups who charge that the Israeli military’s orders to open fire on unarmed Palestinians approaching the border fence are unlawful.
The protests by the Palestinians are not without cause. They have been fuelled by widespread hopelessness and despair from within the territory’s two million people. For the past 25 years, Israel has tightened restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip in ways that far exceed any conceivable requirement of Israeli security. These restrictions affect nearly every aspect of everyday life — separating families, restricting access to medical care and educational and economic opportunities, and perpetuating unemployment and poverty. It has been more than 50 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These are Palestinian lands that the Israelis control through repression, institutionalised discrimination and systematic abuse of Palestinian rights.
Human rights organisations have periodically highlighted major violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law that illustrate the occupation: Unlawful killings; forced displacements; abusive detentions; the closure of the Gaza Strip and other unjustified restrictions on movement; and the development of colonies, along with the accompanying discriminatory policies that greatly disadvantage Palestinians.
Israel always explains away its abusive practices in the name of security. “Whether it’s a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably, or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit, or checkpoints through which only colonists are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during this 50-year occupation,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Israel today maintains an entrenched system of institutionalised discrimination against Palestinians in the Occupied Territory — repression that extends far beyond any security rationale.”
The Israelis have killed more than close to 3000 Palestinian civilians in the last three Gaza conflicts (2008-09, 2012, 2014) alone. Mind you, these were civilians whose only crime was living peacefully on their land. In the West Bank, the Israelis routinely use excessive force in policing situations, killing or grievously wounding thousands of demonstrators, rock-throwers, suspected assailants, and others with live ammunition when lesser means could have averted a threat or maintained order.
Since 1967, the Israeli government has been sanctioning the illegal colonies that have sprouted on Palestinian lands in occupied West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel provides colonists with infrastructure, services and subsidies that it denies to Palestinians, creating and sustaining a separate and unequal system of law, rules and services.
Over the years, Israeli authorities have illegally expropriated thousands of acres of Palestinian land for colonies. For decades, Israeli authorities have demolished homes on the grounds that they lacked permits, even though the law of occupation prohibits destruction of property except for military necessity, or punitively as collective punishment against families of Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis.
Israel has also arbitrarily restricted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians of their ability to live in and travel from the West Bank and Gaza. Israel also revoked the residency of more than 130,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and 14,565 in occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, largely on the basis that they had been away for too long.
Israeli authorities have imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Palestinians since 1967, the majority after trials in military courts, where the verdict is known before the trial even begins, and conviction is the order of the day!
In recent times, Palestinian children, some not more than 10 years old, have become tragic targets on a daily basis of armed Israeli colonists who have shown no remorse in killing the children in cold blood. It is said that this philosophy of targeting defenceless Palestinian women and children is to break the will of the resistance to their occupation.
The “axis of evil” may revolve around the previously mentioned nations, but the more sinister mantle of the ‘core of all evil’ definitely rests on the shoulders of Israel in its current form. This is the mother of all rogue nations, make no mistake abut that.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You can follow him on Twitter: @talmaeena.