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When the state dictates reactions to the killing of Palestinian children

The Israeli Broadcast Authority and the Israeli Supreme Court knew in advance what the reaction would be to a radio advert reading out the names of children killed in Gaza, and that’s why they banned it. By doing so they’ve taken a bit of our freedom.

By Hagai El-Ad (translated by Hadas Leonov)

Palestinians prepare the body of a baby in Kamal Edwan Hospital's morgue after an attack on Beit Hanoun elementary school killed at least 17 people, Jabalyia, Gaza Strip, July 24. The school was being used as a shelter by 800 people at the time (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills)

Palestinians prepare the body of a baby in Kamal Edwan Hospital’s morgue after an attack on Beit Hanoun elementary school killed at least 17 people, Jabalyia, Gaza Strip, July 24. The school was being used as a shelter by 800 people at the time (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills)

Muhammad Malakeh, two years old; Siraj ‘Abd al-‘Al, eight years old; Sarah al-‘Eid, nine years old; Saher Abu Namus, four years old; Ahmad Mahdi, 15 years old.

Some facts should not be permitted to be broadcast in public. Merely hearing them is dangerous: It could cause people to have thoughts, doubts or compassion. If this danger comes to pass, what would become of us?

Safaa Malakeh, six years old; Muhammad ‘Arif, 10 years old; Nidal Nawasrah, four years old; Muhammad Nawasrah, two years old; Miriam al-‘Arja, 10 years old.

What sort of thoughts would enter the minds of those who hear even a few names from that forbidden list? It’s difficult to estimate. As a matter of fact, it is a complete mystery as to how humans would respond upon hearing the names of foreign children, Palestinian children – more than 500 under the age of 15 – who were killed in Gaza in the past few weeks. This mystery is part of what makes us free. When that mystery is solved in advance by the government, a part of what allows the public to be free is taken away. It is no longer a mystery, it is propaganda.

Abdallah Abu Ghazal, five years old; Yasmin al-Mutawaq, four years old; Abd a-Rahman Khatab, five years old; Anas ‘Alaa al-Batsh, 10 years old; Amal al-Batsh, two years old.

Without being able to hear for ourselves, we have no choice but to rely on the thoughts of those who appointed themselves the deciders of what we can and cannot hear: the lawyers of the Israeli Broadcast Authority (IBA), the attorney general of Israel and a few Supreme Court judges, who disqualified the broadcast of a B’Tselem radio advert [Hebrew]:

Here is the rumination of the appeals committee of the IBA: “The emphasis of the ‘Palestinian children’ issue alone may strengthen the Palestinian claim that Israel is responsible for their deaths, while Israel’s stance is that Hamas is responsible for the death of civilians.”

In other words, stating the facts creates guilt. Psychologists would perhaps call this the “return of the repressed.”

When the attorney general listened to the names, thoughts entered his mind: “The advert in question voices a message and a stand, and not just mere facts – in light of its content, how it is delivered and read quietly and slowly…” That is to say, perhaps a cheerful reading of the dead children’s names, in a manner that would not provoke forbidden thoughts, is, in fact, the appropriate solution?

A Palestinian child who was killed by an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza harbour is carried away by paramedics, Gaza city, July 16, 2014. Four children were reportedly killed during the attack. As of July 16th, 196 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, and more than 1,400 have been injured.

A Palestinian child who was killed by an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza harbour is carried away by paramedics, Gaza city, July 16, 2014. Four children were killed during the attack as they played on the beach. (photo: Activestills)

In conclusion, Supreme Court Judge Elyakim Rubinstein says: “This is the place to clarify in a lucid voice first that, as human beings, we frown upon the death of innocents in Gaza, let alone children.”

Later on the court decision follows: “Israel is aware, and must be aware, of the distress of innocents on the other side – children included… as an attorney general myself, I have dealt with that quite often.”

It is interesting to listen to the “lucid” voice of a supreme court judge, the coherent and deciding voice that rules whether other tones – sober, complex, relaxing or agitating – will be heard, or not; the voice that itself admits that for years and years it has held a position devoid of repression or guilt, since it is never our fault and there must never ever be any doubt, contemplation or empathy on the matter.

Hussein Kaware’, 13 years old; Basem Kaware’, 10 years old; Muhammad Kaware’, 13 years old; Abdallah Kaware’, 12 years old; Qasem Kaware’, 12 years old.

That’s the reality we live in nowadays, and here is the bottom line: There is no one in Israel who will enable the reading of the names of Siraj, Nidal, Sarah or Amal. More than anything, this is an appalling and heartbreaking statement on the current state of affairs.

“And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?” (Genesis, 37:29)

And we, whither shall we go?

Hagai El-Ad is the CEO of B’Tselem.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call

Gaza deaths aren’t worth a mention in leading Israeli paper
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WATCH: Children long for kites, not bombs, in Gaza skies

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    1. It’s simply heartbreaking to look at those images. Those children who are entirely innocent.

      It’s a black mark on Israel’s leaders that they fail to acknowledge the human cost to their military tactics. That artillery and air strikes were used so indiscriminately, with such disregard for human life. That they were so consumed with an ideological vision of destroying Hamas, no matter what the cost.

      I weep for all innocents killed by warmongers and there are 500+ of them right on Israel’s doorstep.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn8

      Well, you shall crawl back to your European paymasters and request more money. We shall all continue to ignore you for being the foreign shill that you are.

      Reply to Comment
    3. bor

      Interesting comment on your youtube feed:

      “Does this include the more than 160 children killed while digging Hamas’s tunnels?”

      Does it, B’Tzelem?

      Of course, if it did, then you would at least be ensuring that we all know who is responsible for all these terrible and unnecessary deaths.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Felix Reichert

      The Hasbarists on this site are sidestepping the issue, as always.

      Apart from the fact that it is of course Israel, the Israeli military and the Israeli government which is chiefly responsible for these deaths, can we now talk abou the erosion of freedom of speech in Israel?

      “Only democracy in the Middle East” TM

      Reply to Comment
      • bor

        How do you know? Did the B’Tzelem propagandist include a link to the High Court’s decision or reasoning?

        Reply to Comment
    5. David

      Wow!! If only Israelis could see themselves as the rest of the world sees them. The term “fascistic” is becoming more and more common when referring to the “Jewish state.” People are shaking their heads in disbelief at the barbarism and “we don’t give a damn” attitude of the vast majority of Israeli Jews. With leaders like Netanyahu and his ilk, Israel needs no enemies. In short, Israel is digging its own grave. Remember, biblical Israel lasted a mere 73 years, less than a blip in the history of Canaan/Palestine. Wake up!!! Then again, its probably too late.

      Reply to Comment