The abduction and killing of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, is an abominable crime. The revenge killing that claimed the life of Mohammed Abu Khudair, a 17-year-old from the Shuafat neighborhood in East Jerusalem, is an equally abominable and despicable crime. These crimes and the reactions that followed in their aftermath show, once again, the inhuman face of the occupation and why it must be ended.
Since three Israeli youths went missing on June 12, Israel carried out dozens of military operations in the West Bank, bombed Gaza and arrested hundreds of Palestinians, including lawmakers and former ministers. Without providing evidence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly blamed Hamas and promised further attacks. Hamas denied any links to the incident.
The Israeli public reacted to the killings with furious anger, calling for revenge and retribution. A Facebook page named "The People of Israel Demand Revenge" gathered 35,000 'likes' and included pictures of Israeli soldiers posing with their guns. Another picture showed two smiling girls who held a sign reading, "Hating Arabs is not racism, it's values!"
In a rally in Jerusalem on July 1, Israeli demonstrators shouted, "Death to Arabs!" and attacked a number of Palestinian bystanders. Israeli settlers attacked Ahmad Zabir, a Palestinian gas station attendant, calling him a 'terrorist' and beating him over the head. Zabir said he thought they were going to burn him with gas.
Netanyahu said he "calls on all sides not to take the law into their own hands. Israel is a nation of laws for all, and all are compelled to follow the law."
But the call came too late. Seventeen-year old Mohammad Abu Khudair was burned to death on July 2 in an apparent crime of revenge. "The body of the Arab boy was found in a forest in Jerusalem," Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat was quoted as saying. "This is a serious, barbaric and unacceptable act," he added.
New acts of revenge and retaliation are feared to follow. The collective punishment the Israeli government is lashing out on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is already making a bad situation worse. Night raids, home demolitions, arbitrary detentions and aerial bombings are illegal, inhumane and inflammatory.
Putting aside all politics, this is an unbearable human drama. The families of the three Israeli teens are mourning the death of their loved ones. Nothing will bring them back. There is no justification for this and the criminals must be brought to justice.
Suha Abu Khudair, Muhammad's mother, is also crying in anguish and disbelief: "Are we not human like them?"
Nothing will bring her son back. Her cry, "are we not human like them," is a summary of the horrors of occupation that has destroyed thousands of lives over the last 50 years.
These kids should have lived to see their countries reach peace and live in freedom and dignity without fear of one another. They lost their lives as tragic witnesses to the inhumanity of occupation.
Killing, retaliation and revenge have once again become a daily routine in the Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation. Since the beginning of June 2014, 15 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured. According to B'Tselem, since September 2000, Israeli forces have killed more than 3,000 Palestinians who did not participate in any clashes. Only six Israeli soldiers have been sentenced for unlawfully killing Palestinians, with the longest jail sentence being seven-and-a-half months.
In recent years, Israel has experienced a relatively long period of peace and calm. Instead of using this as an opportunity to advance the two-state solution, the Netanyahu government looked for excuses to undermine the Palestinian national unity government and derail the peace talks led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. It seems to have found that excuse in the deplorable killings of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers.
On the political side, the Netanyahu government is reacting to several key political developments that it sees as threatening. The first is the Palestinian national unity government, which it is openly seeking to undermine despite calls to the contrary by the U.S., Europe and Arab countries. The second is the application of the Palestinian Authority to join international treatises and organizations including the International Criminal Court, which will open the crimes in the occupied territories to the jurisdiction of international law and war crimes. The third is to stop the normalization of Hamas in Palestinian and Arab politics and provoke it to violence so that the policies of occupation, humiliation and dispossession can find some justification with the right-wing Israeli and Western publics. The Netanyahu government is also seeking to use this incident to justify its settlement policy.
None of these policies are conducive to peace, dignity, justice or freedom. They only show the irrationality of the occupation and the settlement movement.
Let's not forget that it is the occupation that has wrought so much loss, pain and suffering. It is not ordinary Palestinians and Israelis but the half-a-century long occupation that is spilling blood and causing revenge. It is only by ending the occupation that Israelis and Palestinians will reach peace, security and freedom.