Why 400+ Keele Students Condemn Israel’s Massacre of Palestinian Protestors
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are my own, and do not represent the views of Keele Friends of Palestine as a society.
By Ahmed El Kady
1st Year International Relations Student
President of Keele Friends of Palestine
Last week, Keele Friends of Palestine circulated a statement to be signed by Keele students who wished to “express solidarity with Palestinians fighting for their basic human rights, and to condemn the massacre of unarmed protesters.” Over the last few weeks, 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza have demonstrated against the cruel, illegal Israeli siege endured for over a decade, and to claim their right to return to homes they were expelled from by Israeli forces. We aspired to get somewhere between 150-200 signatures over a week promoting it – we were not expecting 400+. The powerful and heartening response from Keele students has confirmed what I have already come to believe: despite Israel’s execrable attempts to justify the Gaza massacres, the average person can readily identify an atrocity when they see one.
There is a tendency to attribute the “Israel-Palestine issue” a sort of metaphysical complexity, a thorny, unassailable status as to makes it impenetrable to the amateur and casual observer. To recognise that one side is clearly in the wrong, and the other clearly in the right, is to give up claim to the self-indulgent titles of being “nuanced” and “reasonable”. Instead, all criticism of Israel must immediately, and without fail, be tempered by some uninspired remark about terrorist group Hamas. However, as Keele students have demonstrated, there are certain things which are rather simple.
It is simply condemnable to conduct, what human rights group Amnesty International has called, a “murderous assault” on thousands of unarmed Palestinian protestors. It is “manifestly illegal” for the Israeli army to fire live bullets at demonstrators, killing 39 (4 of whom are children) and wounding 1738 more. It is despicable to inflict injury on a total of 5511 protestors, including 192 women and 592 children. It is deplorable to gun down 2 clearly marked journalists and wound several others. It is disgraceful to use bullets which, according to Doctors without Borders, “literally destroyed tissue after having pulverized the bone” resulting in 18 amputations. It is unthinkable to deny victims passage for treatment when 40% of basic medicines are no longer in stock in Gaza and finally, it is contemptible to characterise these protests, which have “largely involved sit-ins, concerts, sports games, speeches and other peaceful activities” as a “violent terror gathering.” None of this has been difficult to grasp for Keele students, whose moral sense is not yet domesticated by the dogmas and hypocrisies of political discourse.
For those who insist on defending Israeli policy, no matter how inhumane and patently illegal, there is a conventional line of argument used to justify potential crimes against humanity: “Israel has the right to defend itself, civilians get hurt because terrorists hide among them.” This was the logic employed to legitimise the killing of 504 children in Israel’s last 50-day offensive in Gaza. Putting aside the cynicism and incoherence of this usual argument, when it comes to the Gaza protests, Israel is not saying even that. From official statements, it is clear casualties have been premeditated and intentional. Lt Col Peter Lerner, an Israel Defence Force (IDF) spokesmen said, “the use of snipers was against specific people who were specific perpetrators of violence,” the government has claimed to only aim at “instigators” and the IDF tweeted that the shootings were “accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.” Given the nauseating self-congratulation about precision and effectiveness, one can only conclude that videos showing snipers shooting people praying, running away from the border fence, standing far from it, and so on, are not demonstrative of deviation from policy, but rather, direct adherence to it. This conclusion becomes inescapable when Eli Razan, official spokesmen of Israel’s ruling party, calls all 30,000 protestors “legitimate targets” a sentiment echoed by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman goes as far as to say, “there are no innocent people in Gaza” a land inhabited by 2 million people, two-thirds of whom are refugees and over half children. How else is one to interpret this but as a mandate for genocide?
So here it is. For those who demand of Palestinians a Gandhian response to ethnic cleansing, occupation and massacre. For those who purport to want to stand for Palestinian rights, were it not for Hamas and their rockets. For those whose mantra of “complexity” and “nuance” renders them incapable of coming to the most basic of moral determinations. For those who avert their eyes when the United Nations announces that Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, will be “unliveable” by 2020. Here it is. Thousands of unarmed protestors, overwhelmingly peaceful, no rockets, no mortar shells, being massacred by one of the most advanced militaries in the world. The protests will continue every Friday and there will be more casualties to come. Where will you stand? I thank the 400+ Keele students who have already decided.