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Thursday, July 03, 2014 

A price to be paid.

I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit, and force it to look in the mirror.

There can be no forgiveness for child murderersMay God avenge their bloodThey sanctify cruelty, and we mercy and compassion.

Rhetoric bound to incite, designed to incite, is nothing new in the Middle East.  Calls for revenge are commonplace, with both sides in Israel/Palestine issuing them.  Rarely though has an Israeli prime minister been so forthright, so irresponsible in their choice of words as Benjamin Netanyahu has since the discovery of the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers, presumed murdered by Palestinian terrorists.  "They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals," his initial statement read.  "We'll expand the battle as much as needed.  No matter where they hide, we’ll reach them until the last one and we’ll take our revenge," he added in his eulogy at the boys' funeral.

Hours later, after protests in Jerusalem which saw hundreds chanting "death to Arabs", 17-year-old Muhammad Abu Khudair was abducted, his body later found dumped, apparently set alight.  Before then, as Human Rights Watch reports, two Palestinians had already been deliberately run over by Israeli settlers, one an 9-year-old girl.  Despite Ynetnews reporting on mobs in Jerusalem attacking Arabs, most attention has instead focused on Palestinians in the occupied east of the city clashing with police, amid a strengthening of the IDF presence on the edge of Gaza.

The revelation the Israeli authorities knew almost from the outset it was extremely unlikely Gilad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrah had survived for long after they were kidnapped does not come as a surprise.  The phone call one of the boys managed to make to the emergency services included audible gunshots; these were removed from the released version.  The car used in the abduction was recovered, without the fact blood had been found inside being made public.  Indeed, it seems as though they also knew who was responsible almost from the outset, with the two men since named as believed to be the kidnappers disappearing within 24 hours of the boys going missing.  Despite this, something that looks exactly like a campaign designed to undermine Hamas in the West Bank was undertaken, with the arrest of at least 400 men and an influx of 2,000 IDF soldiers.  7 Palestinians were also killed in the period following the abduction, four of them teenagers.

Nor does it seem despite the repeated claims of Netanyahu and others that Hamas had any real involvement in the murder of the three hitch-hiking teens.  Why would they having just succeeded in reaching an agreement with Fatah to share power?  Instead, it seems a rogue element recently distanced itself further from Hamas was behind the kidnapping, probably designed to undermine precisely the agreed accord between the previously warring factions.  With the Netanyahu coalition denouncing Mahmoud Abbas for trying to achieve Palestinian unity, announcing the construction of a further 1,500 homes in illegal settlements as a riposte, any excuse to disrupt Hamas further would have been seized upon.  It just so happens they had an extremely good one.

Whether the Israeli public will react with disgust to learning the truth was kept from them for so long remains to be seen.  The response to the discovery of the bodies was always going to result in an outpouring of grief and anger, yet even by the standards of the conflict it's been a shock to the system.  Smiling teenage girls posting photos of themselves holding racist slogans; soldiers showing off their weapons, one image with "revenge" spelled out in bullets; 35,000 likes for a Facebook page demanding retribution, described as "passionate" in the New York Times.  If there's a single encouraging sign to take from all of this, and it's an extremely slight one, the swift denunciation of the murder of Muhammad Abu Khudair by the US suggests they viewed the language used by Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett among others as beyond the pale, bound to exacerbate tensions rather than attempt to calm the situation.  That the Israeli prime minister has since toned down his rhetoric, albeit far too late, could be a sign of pressure being applied.  Even so, one again fears for the trapped, beleaguered people of Gaza.

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