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Friends of Sabeel North America
While watching the documentary film, “Tomorrow’s Freedom,” on Marwan Barghouti, I realized that I have been very reluctant to address one particular aspect of Israel’s behavior towards Palestinians: a streak of senseless cruelty and vindictiveness found in many (not all) Israeli soldiers and commanders. This cruelty has gained widespread approval and legitimacy in Israel, sometimes appearing as standard regulations or practices of the military: Throughout my career documenting Israeli human rights violations, I have been trying my best to understand Israeli behavior as an exaggerated, and often misinformed, response to security needs, real or perceived, and as natural responses in a bitter conflict that often involves dehumanizing the enemy. I attempted to see their actions as excesses, as overkill meant to achieve deterrence by a display of overwhelming superior force. Yet, I must admit now that much of the behavior of Israeli soldiers goes beyond such ‘rational’ explanations and slides into unjustifiable cruelty and vindictiveness that serves no rational purpose other than revenge and only feeds hatred and bitterness. What triggered this train of thought was an incident documented in that film when Fadwa Barghouti, after 8 months of not seeing her imprisoned husband, was finally given a permit to see him. With great hope and expectation, she made the tortuous journey to his prison, only to be denied at the last minute the right to see him altogether, with no explanation whatsoever.  It made me think of other incidents, far more routine: The practice of allowing wounded Palestinians to bleed to death without permitting medical ambulances to evacuate them or give them treatment. The practice of “verifying the kill” by repeatedly shooting a helpless, wounded Palestinian.  The wanton destruction of empty buildings in Gaza just before Israeli evacuation, serving no military purpose whatsoever, then gloating about it on Tik Tok. Lengthy delays and humiliations at checkpoints. Wanton destruction of property during routine “searches” of Palestinian homes, late at night, to “show presence” and intimidate populations clearly posing no danger or threat. Taking away hot water, newspapers, radio and television, kitchen privileges, and normal exercise conditions from Palestinian prisoners since October 7. Insisting on terrifying night time raids to arrest Palestinian children, who could easily have been summoned to appear in daylight at the designated police or army centers for arrest or interrogation. Targeting bakeries, food trucks and food distribution locations, particularly in the North of Gaza where starvation has set in. Killing Palestinians who are stripped and zip-tied, whose bodies have been discovered in mass graves around hospitals in Gaza after soldiers evacuated. Shooting Palestinians on supposed ‘safe roads’ and bombing innocent Palestinians in Israeli declared “safe zones,” as well as Palestinians waving white flags. Shooting those coming to assist wounded Palestinians. Adding innocuous items, such as chocolate, to the list of prohibited items not to be allowed into Gaza. Refusing to allow anesthetic materials and water purification equipment into Gaza, even when “humanitarian assistance” is reluctantly allowed in. Arbitrary refusal to allow some parents of cancer patients to accompany sick children to hospitals in Jerusalem, or excessive and unnecessary delays in granting permits. These actions are further bolstered by statements of official Israeli commanders and leaders that would indicate that the goals of the military operations are revenge and punishment, not to achieve any military goals: Statements by Police Minister Ben Gvir complaining of too many Palestinian prisoners, such as: “Couldn’t you have killed some of them?” Statements as late as Tuesday that Gazans in Rafah are “Amalek” and should be wiped out. That Rafah, Khan Yunis, Nuseirat should be “completely wiped out. No half measures”. Statements and hints by Israeli officials that the real aim of the army is vengeance and revenge. This also explains why there are no serious plans for “the Day After.” Why make such plans if the whole aim of the war is to inflict maximum hurt and damage? Each of the items in the above list has been documented, though Israeli authorities usually deny many of them. One reason such statements are not commonly reported in the mainline media is that Israel does not freely allow independent Western journalists into Gaza, while simultaneously targeting and killing local Palestinian journalists (over a hundred in Gaza in the past six months). The other reason is that these incidents do not fit into any rational framework or serve any political interest but merely indicate a cruel and vicious evil streak, which even I have been reluctant to attribute to the Israeli army, but which I now feel the need to acknowledge and highlight as a true phenomenon experienced daily by Palestinians.
Sincerely, Jonathan Kuttab Executive Director  

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Father Dave

Anglican Priest, Professional Boxer,Social activist and Father of four


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