On the morning of Thursday 23 February, Israel yet again launched air strikes in Gaza. This attack came after rockets were fired into Israel in response to its raid on Nablus on Wednesday. However, in addition to its military aggression against Palestinians, Israel also attacked the Syrian capital of Damascus on 18 February. The overnight strike, which came unprovoked, destroyed a ten-story building in the residential Kafr Sousa district.
It almost beggars belief that, in a world where not a day goes by without hearing news about Russian violence or Iranian proxy wars, Israel can brazenly continue with its military aggression. Not only is it able to do so uninterrupted but global superpowers – the US in particular – enable this aggression.
Palestinians under attack
Regarding Thursday’s air strikes on Gaza, Wafa news agency reported one of the missiles landed near the entrance of al-Bureij refugee camp. AJ+ tweeted:
2022 was the deadliest year in the territory since the United Nations (UN) started tracking casualties in 2005. Moreover, Wednesday’s attack on Nablus was the deadliest Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank in nearly 20 years. Israeli gunfire killed 11 Palestinians, including a 16-year-old child, and left at least 82 wounded. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said its medics also treated 250 cases of tear gas inhalation.
Talaat Ziada, head of intensive care in Nablus’s Rafidia Hospital, said his youngest patient from Wednesday’s raid was an 11-year-old boy. He had been shot in the stomach and leg. Speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP), Ziada painted a grim picture of the hospital that day:
The corridors and stairs were covered in blood, and people were scrambling to check on their relatives.
Despite these reports, however, there remains little recognition of the heinous nature of Israel’s crimes.
Kicking Syrians while they’re down
Syria, meanwhile, is still reeling from the 6 February earthquake. The disaster has killed more than 47,000 people across Syria’s north and west, and southern Turkey.
However, this hasn’t deterred Israel. Shortly after midnight on Sunday 18 February, Israel “carried out an aerial aggression… targeting several areas in Damascus and its vicinity, including residential neighbourhoods”, according to a statement from Syria’s Defence Ministry.
Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described it as “the deadliest Israeli attack in the Syrian capital” since the civil war began. In the wake of the attack, journalists called out the lack of outrage and demanded accountability:
Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said the attack was:
a crime against humanity, especially as Syria races against time to face the disastrous consequences of the devastating earthquake
And people have expressed similar sentiments on Twitter, describing the attack as a “war crime”:
Israel has in fact carried out hundreds of air strikes against Syria during over a decade of war. It attacks its neighbour using the pretext of targeting the Syrian army as well as Iranian forces and Hezbollah.
Israel: ‘defending’ itself against terrorism
Whether it be Syria or Palestine, Israel and its supporters justify Israeli acts of military aggression as being necessary for its national security. Following the raid in Nablus, for instance, according to AFP the Israeli army claimed it was targeting suspected militants. Regarding Thursday’s attack on Gaza, the official account for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted:
In response to the rockets fired from Gaza, IAF fighter jets struck both a weapons manufacturing site and military compound belonging to the Hamas Terrorist Organization, located in central and northern Gaza
Similarly, Israeli social media influencer and former IDF soldier Hananya Naftali tweeted:
BREAKING: Six rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, five intercepted by Iron Dome. The Israeli Air Force struck terror targets in Gaza in response to that.
Note that neither tweet mentions Israel’s raid in Nablus. And when it comes to the attack on Syria, Naftali had a similar, unequivocal defense of Israel, as he told Indian news outlet Republic World:
Why are Israeli forces striking Syria? The answer is Iran…
Iranian forces are using the earthquake tragedy to supply weapons to Syria.
After claiming that Syrian deaths ‘break his heart’, Naftali adds:
the fact that Iran is using Syria, they don’t care about Syrian lives. I wish the Iranian people would have a leadership that cares for them rather than investing in terrorism.
And herein lies the key. Israel and its supporters know full well that as long as they use the word “terrorism”, they can put up their hands, shake their heads, and dismiss the very real human cost of Israeli violence.
The language of the war on terror
As ever, Western mainstream media in particular both perpetuates and validates Israel’s anti-terror narrative. In the name of balanced coverage, Israel’s claims of fighting terrorism are reported uncritically.
For example, articles on Israel’s attack on Damascus mentioned that the Kafr Sousa district “is home to senior state officials and Syrian intelligence headquarters”. Moreover, reports from AFP claimed that missiles “hit a warehouse used by pro-regime Iranian and Hezbollah fighters near Damascus”.
Following “missiles” with mentions of “pro-regime Iranian and Hezbollah fighters” is intentional. It’s meant to provide a fig leaf, in the form of political or strategic reasoning, for Israel’s naked aggression. But as journalist Rania Khalek pointed out, even if these claims are true, they do not justify military attacks from Israel:
One of the achievements of the ongoing post-9/11 ‘war on terror‘ is the framing of terrorism as the ultimate evil. However, the label of ‘terrorism’ has specific requirements. Namely, it’s almost exclusively associated with Muslims and people of colour. And in response to terrorism, any act of aggression, no matter how egregious, is justifiable in the name of ‘defense’ and ‘security’.
For the sake of security, Eastern/Muslim organisations and states associated with the ‘terror’ label are therefore always fair game: Syria, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. Any association with such terrorism renders entire nations and peoples as sub-human targets.
The death toll from the war on terror could be as high as six million people. Shockingly, while this figure includes Syrians, it doesn’t even account for the Palestinians killed by Israel on the pretext of fighting terrorism.
There’s little doubt that the prevalent narrative around terrorism has led to the persistent dehumanisation of brown and Muslim people. It is intrinsically racist. Until those in power start to question and challenge it, the death toll will keep rising – in Palestine and beyond.
Additional reporting via AFP
Featured image by Majdi Fathi/ NurPhoto via AFP