Reprinted from Palestine Chronicle
"Whether he made a mistake or not, is a trivial question," said an Israeli Jewish man who joined large protests throughout Israel in support of a soldier who calmly, and with precision, killed a wounded Palestinian man in al-Khalil (Hebron). The protesting Jewish man described Palestinians as 'barbaric,' 'bestial,' who should not be perceived as people.
This is hardly a fringe view in Israel. The vast majority of Israelis, 68%, support the killing of Abdel Fatah Yusri al-Sharif, 21, by the solider who had reportedly announced before firing at the wounded Palestinian that the "terrorist had to die."
The killing scene would have been relegated to the annals of the many "contested" killings by Israeli soldiers, were it not for a Palestinian field worker with Israel's human rights group, B'Tselem, who filmed the bloody event.
The incident, once more, highlights a culture of impunity that exists in the Israeli army, which is not a new phenomenon.
Not only is Israeli society supportive of the soldier behind this particular bloody incident, almost a vast majority is in support of field executions as well.
In fact, the culture of impunity in Israel is linked both to political leanings and religious beliefs. According to the latest Peace Index released by Tel Aviv University's Israel Democracy Institute, nearly 67% of the country's Jewish population believes that "it is a commandment to kill a terrorist who comes at you with a knife."
Killing Palestinians as a form of religious duty goes back to the early days of the Jewish state, and such beliefs are constantly corroborated by the country's high spiritual institutions, similar to the recent decree issued by the country's Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef. While 94% of ultra-Orthodox agree with the murder edict of Yosef, 52% of the country's secularists do, too.
In fact, dehumanizing Palestinians -- describing them as "beasts," "cockroaches," or treating them as dispensable inferiors -- has historically been a common denominator in Israeli society, uniting Jews from various political, ideological and religious backgrounds.
Rabbi Yosef's decree, for example, is not much different from statements made by Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya'alon, and other army and government officials, who made similar calls, albeit without utilizing a strongly worded religious discourse.
Using the same logic, the quote above describing Palestinians as beasts is not divergent from a recent statement made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "At the end, in the State of Israel, as I see it, there will be a fence that spans it all," Netanyahu said in February. "In the area that we live, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts," he added.
While pro-Israeli pundits labor to explain the widespread Israeli perception of Palestinians -- and Arabs, in general -- on rational grounds, logic and commonsense continues to evade them. For instance, Netanyahu's last war on Gaza in the summer of 2014 killed a total of 2,251 Palestinians -- including 1,462 civilians, among them 551 children, according to a report prepared by the UN Human Rights Council. During that war, only six Israeli civilians were killed, and 60 soldiers.
Who, then, is truly the "wild beast"?
However, Palestinians are not made into beasts because of their supposedly murderous intent for, not once, statistically, in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict did Palestinians ever kill more Israelis, as opposed to the other way round. The ailment is not the number, but a common Israeli cultural perception that is utterly racist and dehumanizing.
Nor is the Israeli perception of Palestinians ever linked to a specific period of time, for example, a popular uprising or a war. Consider this eyewitness account from August 2012, cited in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, years before the current uprising in the West Bank and Jerusalem:
"Today I saw a lynch with my own eyes, in Zion Square, the center of the city of Jerusalem ... and shouts of 'A Jew is a soul and Arab is a son of a --,' were shouted loudly and dozens of youths ran and gathered and started to really beat to death three Arab youths who were walking quietly in the Ben Yehuda street," the witness wrote.