Not all Israelis unified on IDF's response to Gaza violence

Meretz MK says the Hamas-initiated protests are ‘a logical consequence of Israel’s behavior.

By BENJI FLACKS/THE MEDIA LINE
May 18, 2018 22:19
2 minute read.
Not all Israelis unified on IDF's response to Gaza violence

Palestinians collect tires to be burnt during a protest marking the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip May 15, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS)

While both the majority of Israel's political class and public remain steadfast in their support of any military action that prevents Hamas-backed March of Return protesters from breaching the Gaza Strip border fence, others have voiced disapproval of what they perceive as a disproportional use of force by the IDF against demonstrators.

The issue came to a head on Monday, when sixty-one Palestinians were killed in massive clashes with Israeli forces, in what was the most deadly day in the enclave since the 2014 war.

Knesset Member Mossi Raz of the Meretz party is one of the leading opponents of the IDF's use of live-fire against Gazans who approach the security zone that straddles the frontier. “These protests are a natural outcome of years of blockade and strikes against Gaza," he contended to The Media Line. "True, it’s not the only possible outcome but it is a logical consequence of Israel’s behavior.

“The orders given to the soldiers on the border must be to try and use every method possible which is non-lethal," Raz elaborated. "There is [other] equipment to use and therefore, they should not shoot unless their lives or the lives of other soldiers are in direct danger.”

When asked if there are any circumstances in which the use of lethal force is justified, Raz responded “yes, if clearly armed combatants are coming over the fence. [In this instance] there is no alternative but I don’t think this was primarily the case here."

Overall, the Israeli lawmaker believes that there is no military solution to the problems in Gaza, but, rather, advocates for the “creat[ion of] opportunities for [the enclave's] residents to escape the economic situation and be given work permits in Israel.”

For its part, the IDF is adamant that its rules of engagement are correct and necessary. One Facebook post written by an Israeli reserve soldier stationed on the border during the protests read, “I want to testify that what I saw and heard was a tremendous, supreme effort from our side to prevent in every possible way Palestinian deaths and injuries.”

Nevertheless, Michael Sfart, a lawyer and political activist specializing in international human rights law, stressed the need for an independent inquiry into the clashes. “Even if I take the existing statements by Israeli officials [at face value], it is clear that the rules of engagement allow the targeting with live-fire of any demonstrator considered a ‘principle agitator,' he explained to The Media Line. "This does not include the [pre-] condition that they must pose an imitate threat to life as international law requires.”

Sfart also highlighted the humanitarian situation and lack of economic prospects in Gaza, the root causes in his estimation that motivated tens of thousands of people to risk their lives by protesting along the border.

“There hasn’t been widespread condemnation by Israelis as the mainstream political echelon is not concerned about the way things have deteriorated. This is thanks to a decade-long intensive [process of] dehumanizing Gaza residents by the Israeli government. So now Israelis see all Gazans as terrorists and not people.

“After such a long period with no genuine contact," Sfart concluded, "the only information Israelis get is vicious, often racist and unfair. This has created an intense apathy for the plight of the Palestinian people.”

Benji Flacks is a Student Intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program

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