By Ramona Wadi
Israeli Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel wants more injured and dead Palestinians in Gaza. “What is this special weapon we have that we fire and see pillars of smoke and fire, but nobody gets hurt?” he said on local radio. “It is time for there to be injuries and deaths as well.” This was reported by Haaretz.
Ariel’s comments come at a time when, bolstered and emboldened by US support over Jerusalem, Israel is seeking to increase ways in which Palestinians are restricted even further in terms of politics, freedom of movement and resistance to its military occupation. The increasingly threatening rhetoric, combined with its often resultant violence, is a clear message that Israel wants Palestinian existence to be determined according to its own colonial needs.
Indeed the minister’s remarks are indicative of Israel’s need for violence and conflict to sustain its existence. Framing his penchant for more deaths against the narrative of the purported “Palestinian terrorist”, he also amalgamated his demands with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s comments from 2016. At that time, far-right extremist Lieberman recommended the further fragmentation of Palestinians by suggesting that the homes of those involved in resistance should be demolished, and that those who “desire coexistence” should be rewarded.
Lieberman’s differentiation of Palestinians, particularly the latter group, is a simplistic approach which negates many of the reasons why not all Palestinians are visibly involved in resistance. One obvious reason which Israel has perpetrated is the juxtaposition of survival due to extreme poverty and lack of basic necessities, and the struggle against several forms of state violence. It also refutes the fact that most Palestinians, unlike the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, do not want to live under colonial rule.
Whether Ariel’s statement suggests yet another military offensive against the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip remains to be seen. However, there is no doubt that demands for state violence against civilians will become more brazen, as Israel basks in the impunity which is sustained on two levels: that generated by its own actions and absence of accountability under the pretext of “security concerns”; and the international community’s endorsement of this false narrative.
Another ramification of Ariel’s words is the separation of the visible injuries and killings in the occupied West Bank and the silent forms of slow extermination in Gaza as a result of Israeli-imposed deprivation. Clearly, he prefers the macabre spectacle of multitudes of injured and dead Palestinian civilians in Gaza and, what is more, he is allowed to express himself in such a manner without censure of any kind, safe in the knowledge that killing Palestinians has not only become normalised, but also expected.
The dehumanization of Palestinians in the Israeli minister’s words is also reflective of how statistics contribute to the absence of Palestinians in terms of collective memory. For Israel, the numbers serve to boost the false claims of self-defense. Conversely, statistics for Palestinians depict the cycles of murder by Israeli institutions. The international community, on the other hand, is partial to the anonymity of numbers, particularly when there is no requirement other than for it to turn a blind eye until Israel decides upon the next phase of Gaza’s destruction, whereupon the UN will exhort the colonial entity’s “right” to defend itself against the colonized. In doing so, it will also affirm its contempt for human rights and resolutions by refusing to uphold the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and, indeed, their right to resist military occupation by any means available.
– Ramona Wadi is a staff writer for Middle East Monitor (MEMO) in London, where this article was originally published. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.