As Israel ordered 1.1 million Palestinians – many of whom are the children and grandchildren of refugees – to leave their homes in northern Gaza ahead of its ground offensive, I asked myself how much more killing and destruction will be necessary to satisfy this death drive.
Israel is clearly seeking retribution in the wake of Hamas’s horrific attack. In the Israeli imagination, October 7 will be forever remembered as the day Hamas massacred more than 1,300 citizens. Hamas fighters entered Israeli settlements and towns, killing hundreds of children, men and women. An attack on a music festival in the desert left more than 250 Israelis dead.
Legally speaking, these attacks constitute a series of blatant and egregious war crimes and thus it is only natural that leaders around the world have denounced them as heinous acts of violence.
Yet, Israel attacking civilian buildings and infrastructure and killing more than 2,300 Palestinian children, men, and women have been met with silence from Western leaders. Moreover, Israel’s decision to cut off electricity, limit the water supply and flatten large parts of the Gaza Strip has barely engendered any criticism from the West even though these actions also constitute flagrant war crimes.
In order to understand why the death of Palestinian civilians fails to generate moral indignation among the Western elite as well as what likely lies ahead for Palestinians in Gaza as Israeli troops cross the border, we need to take a look at dominant Israeli narratives of past assaults.
In 2014, for example, during Israel’s invasion of Gaza, more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, 556 of whom were children; this is compared to 64 Israelis who were killed in that round of violence.
So how is it, then, that even after Israel unleashed such disproportional and lethal violence in 2014, the West overwhelmingly continues to believe that the Israeli army is “the most moral in the world”, while Palestinians have been relentlessly cast as “violent aggressors”? Why is it that Western leaders never publicly denounce Israel for war crimes?
The answer is complex, as there are a number of factors at play. But one of them is Israel’s incredibly savvy manipulation of the laws of war that has successfully helped to frame Israeli violence as ethica