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It is not a war crime if they are Palestinian

The horrifying reminder of the cost of impunity

By Youssef Salem


Photo courtesy via Wikimedia Commons


On the 26th January an IDF raid in the city of Jenin killed 9 people in what Israeli officials claim ‘an operation to arrest Jihad “terror operatives” planning “major attacks”’. Seven of the nine victims were claimed by various militant groups, while the other two were confirmed to be a 61-year-old woman and a male civilian, added to the around twenty people who were seriously injured. Moreover, Israeli forces blocked ambulances and fired tear gas at a hospital, reportedly causing suffocation injuries to sick children. Later that day, another Palestinian was shot during a confrontation with Israeli troops just outside of Jerusalem. Overnight, an airstrike was carried out in Gaza after two rockets were fired into Israelian territory. The raid’s death toll is the highest in recorded history by the United Nations . To complete the picture, the following day a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven Israelis outside a synagogue.

on one side you have members of organisations and individuals that in most cases get arrested or die during their disgraceful acts, on the other side we have a country whose impunity allows it to continue with its illegal actions

These recent events follow what has been the bloodiest year on record in the area. 2022 saw about 150 Palestinians killed (nearly all by Israeli forces), and 30 Israeli casualties; the same number of Palestinians killed in January 2023.


Let me be clear, this does not mean that any lost life on either side is justified, but it serves as an introduction to the following argument: the perpetrators of these killings are criminals. The difference is that, while on one side you have members of organisations and individuals that in most cases get arrested or die during their disgraceful acts, on the other side we have a country whose impunity allows it to continue with its illegal actions. Many civil rights organisations (including the Israeli B’Tselem) claim that Israel’s actions entail apparent war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Additionally, the subjection of Palestinians to forced evictions, arbitrary detention, torture, and other ill-treatment are part of a discriminatory system that constitutes a form of apartheid, a crime under international law. One thing everybody can agree on is that criminals should be treated as such, and that they must pay the consequences of their actions. Now, no matter which side you are on, there is no denial that many – or at least some – of Israel’s operations are criminal actions.

In a world where the need for justice is strong, we forget that there is a land called Palestine where these injustices have been going for more than most of us can remember.

So then, why is it not punished?


Everybody knows the scenario: world leaders come out of the shed, say a few words that would not make them look bad, or in worst cases show unconditional support to Israel, while simultaneously not fully condemning its actions. UN Secretary General said that he was “very concerned” by the rise in Palestinian fatalities. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell reacted to these events by confirming that, while the EU recognised Israel’s “legitimate security concerns”, “lethal force must only be used as a last resort when it is strictly unavoidable in order to protect life”. French President Emmanuel Macron only added “The spiral of violence must be avoided at all costs”. Finally, US President Joe Biden said that the attack on the synagogue “was an attack against the civilised world” and stressed the US commitment to Israel’s security.


As the French saying goes: “Deux Poids Deux Mesures”.

While all these distinguished gentlemen harshly condemned the attack on the synagogue, they did not choose the same words to react to the innocent people who were involved in the Israeli attacks. In a world where the need for justice is strong, we forget that there is a land called Palestine where these injustices have been going for more than most of us can remember.

In a world where justice is sought by anyone everywhere, we once again forget that there is a criminal called Israel that has not yet paid for its crimes.

What is the difference between a black person getting racially profiled in Minneapolis and a Palestinian person getting the same treatment in Jerusalem?


What is the difference between an LGBTQ+ activist being illegally detained in a Russian prison and a Palestinian pacific activist in a jail in Tel Aviv?


What is the difference between a Ukrainian kid losing his leg because or Russian strikes in Kharkiv and a Palestinian one in Gaza?


If it is true that Israel’s actions are not punished by other governments, it rests on our shoulders too. Our governments answer to the will of the people (or at least this is how it should work). How many demonstrations around the world have we seen in support of sending weapons to Ukraine? How quickly did the Black Lives Matter movement get support in other countries outside of the US?


In a world where justice is sought by anyone everywhere, we once again forget that there is a criminal called Israel that has not yet paid for its crimes.


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