Drones and Desensitization in the Palestinian Cause

Israeli tank at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) border crossing between Gaza and Israel. (Photo: via Euro Med Monitor)

By Ramona Wadi

Footage has emerged across Israeli media of drones dropping tear gas canisters on Palestinian protesters close to the border in the South of Gaza last Friday. The Times of Israel and Haaretz have both reported the targeting of the protest with slightly differing narratives.

The former reported that an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson refuted responsibility for the drone operation, stating that the Israeli Border Police were responsible. Meanwhile, Haaretz attributed the drone use to the IDF, with military sources saying that, “This crowd-control method is still experimental and has not yet been made operational.”

Two main outcomes should be discerned from the reports. There is a clear admission that Israel experiments with new weapons on the Palestinian population in Gaza. Also, that Israel is constantly seeking ways to deflect accountability by normalizing its violence upon Palestinian civilians. Using drones to drop tear gas during legitimate protests eliminates the need for a military presence at the scene. It will also enable Israel to increase its security narrative by justifying the use of drones – so far experimental – to avoid casualties among IDF troops.

While still a new form of oppression in the name of security, this development will also enable Israel to add yet another form of violence to which the international community will turn a blind eye. The absence of open confrontation has many ramifications upon Palestinian civilians. Israel is not refraining from targeting Palestinians, it is simply refining its methods of doing so and adding to the imbalance of a colonial entity with superior military power violating the rights of a colonized population which does not have the opportunity to avail itself of its right to self-defence.

By using drones, Israel is concealing its more visible violence, as epitomized by the military, from the eyes of the world. Mainstream media will be able to capitalize upon the widely disseminated false narrative of Palestinian resistance as “terrorism”. The UN and other international institutions will follow suit, albeit with a more covert strategy to start with. When the colonizer omits the violent, visible part of colonialism from the equation, Israel’s “terrorist” narrative becomes more acceptable to the international community. It is, after all, not setting a precedent in terms of drone usage, but expanding justification for such use, through its own narrative, while shielding military personnel from scrutiny with regard to injured or murdered Palestinians.

Israel can rest assured that its drone usage in targeting Palestinian protests will not ring alarm bells internationally. It has, after all, committed worse acts against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. As drone warfare becomes a preferred option, the world has become so desensitized to Palestinian casualties that it not only has no compassion for civilians, but also is incapable of outrage against the perpetrators.

For Palestinians, it is not just about carnage. The latest experimentation by Israel is not limited to visible wounds, it is also seeking international approval for its tactics. Less attention upon Gaza’s resistance is crucial for Israel’s plans to impose oblivion upon the enclave. Adding another form of violence to the list of measures already implemented will not anger the international community, but merely provide more material for statistics and reports. Meanwhile, Gaza remains shackled to its implosion, its voice eliminated by Palestinian and other officials who propagate the Israeli narrative while claiming to speak on behalf of an incarcerated civilian population.

– Ramona Wadi is a staff writer for Middle East Monitor, where this article was originally published. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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