Analysis

Israeli Conduct in Gaza: Violations of Human and Ethical Values – Dimensions and Motivations

Saher Ghazzawi [1]

The Israeli occupation presents a stark model of brutality and sadism against Palestinians, particularly in Gaza. This manifests both through its religious and political rhetoric and its actual military practices during the conflict in Gaza. In the operation named “Al-Aqsa Flood,” the substantial shock experienced by Israelis provided an opportunity for the occupiers to strip Palestinians of their humanity—a fundamental component of the media war against Palestinians to justify genocidal warfare, deny the actual situation, and disregard international law and humanitarian and ethical values in the conflict.

The behavior of the Israeli military, influenced by religious and political narratives, and its ongoing brutal warfare in the Gaza Strip surpass all claims by Tel Aviv of adherence to ethical standards and compliance with international law. This has led some international entities to discuss the actions of Israel in Gaza as constituting “genocide,” conducted without regard for human rights and international law, supported extensively by the United States and the broader Western community.

This report aims to scrutinize Israeli actions that violate human and ethical values in the war on Gaza. This conduct is characterized by demonizing Palestinians and stripping them of their humanity, through the dissemination of false news and fabricated lies, as part of a systematic narrative to justify the diverse and numerous brutal crimes against civilians and Palestinian detainees in Israeli facilities.

Israeli behavior during the war on Gaza:

The savage behavior of Israel against Palestinians reveals the racist nature of the occupation, and its insecurity despite significant military strength. In its war on the Gaza Strip, Israel has violated all humanitarian laws and principles, exceeding ethical norms and controls. It continues to use internationally banned lethal weapons in its retaliatory war, employing them in acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the population in Gaza, inflicting maximum pain on all Palestinians—men, women, children, and the elderly. This is considered a key factor in deciding the battle and achieving its goals, none of which have been realized so far. The following are manifestations of this behavior:

1. Dehumanization of Palestinians:

The Israeli discourse directed at its domestic audience fundamentally seeks the dehumanization of Palestinians, an endeavor initiated at the onset of the Israeli war on Gaza. This strategy aims to eliminate any empathy towards Palestinians and to justify violent actions against them, including killings through bombings, sieges, and starvation tactics, or demolishing buildings on top of their civilian inhabitants—children, women, and the elderly—with neither mercy nor distress at the sights of children and innocents dismembered following the bombardment of their homes. Some Israelis have likened Operation “Al-Aqsa Flood” to the September 11 attacks on the United States, while others see it as a continuation of the Jewish catastrophe, the Holocaust, describing the operation as the largest pogrom, or mass attacks against Jews, since the Holocaust, painting Hamas as Nazis or ISIS-like entities.

This strategy of stripping Palestinians of their humanity is a core component of the media war against them. Benjamin Netanyahu has described Gaza as “a city of evil.” Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant, in discussions about aggression towards the Gaza Strip, stated, “We are fighting human animals,” justifying the severance of electricity, water, and food supplies to Gaza. Phrases such as “Gaza must be wiped out” or “flattened” circulated, with no readiness to equate the casualties between Israeli civilians and Palestinian civilians. Israeli Minister of Heritage Amichai Eliyahu remarked that one of Israel’s options in the war on Gaza could be to drop a nuclear bomb, and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir claimed that “the only thing that should enter Gaza is hundreds of tons of explosives.” Palestinians have been portrayed as “rats or snakes” on Israeli social media accounts. These statements are clear examples of this strategy aimed at dehumanizing Palestinians while simultaneously justifying Israeli war crimes against them.

Furthermore, the shock of October 7th explains the significant mobilization within the Israeli society and the overwhelming support for a severe Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, whether from the air or through backing a ground operation to eliminate Hamas’s rule in Gaza. This reveals the extreme positions within the Israeli society towards the Gaza Strip, not just Hamas. The Israeli opposition rallied alongside the government and the military, forming an emergency government to manage the war with participation from the “National Camp” party, led by former Security Ministers Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, whose positions do not differ from the Israeli security consensus, including a ground invasion of Gaza and the potential opening of a second front on the northern border with Hezbollah. Israeli President Isaac Herzog defended the intensive bombing of the Gaza Strip from the beginning of the war, despite the large numbers of children, women, and elderly killed. A shell signed by Herzog before being fired towards the Gaza Strip during his visit to soldiers at the Gaza border, inscribed with “I rely on you,” surrounded by smiling soldiers in a celebratory-like setting, revealed the comprehensive support for a harsh Israeli military operation in Gaza. Herzog, portrayed as a “peace dove,” does not differ in mindset from the Israeli vengeful mentality in the genocide war in Gaza.

Moreover, the vast majority of discussions in the Israeli academic and cultural community have aligned with the military in justifying the widespread killing of Palestinian civilians, considering it an existential war. A very limited few have attempted to trace the root of the October 7th operation back to its original causes: occupation, displacement, humiliation, oppression, siege, and the ongoing killing of the native inhabitants of the land. This shows that the Israeli academic community, in its majority, is an integral part of the Israeli societal structure and ideology, which sees Palestinians as either dead or outside of geography and history.

The strategy of dehumanizing Palestinians by demonizing both the Palestinian resistance and civilians aims to produce a distorted consciousness to garner justification and blessings from major states, particularly the West, to carry out the bloody massacres planned by the occupation in the Gaza Strip, despite its departure from humanitarian values and international human rights law in warfare.

2. Incendiary Religious Rhetoric:

Israel has long employed religious rhetoric to galvanize support for its genocidal war on the Gaza Strip, harnessing the biblical dimension to rally and mobilize Israelis for combat in Gaza. The religious discourse accompanying the Israeli aggression on Gaza reflects the prevailing and dominant governing system within Israeli society, encompassing political, military, and religious elites alike.

In a televised address on October 25, Benjamin Netanyahu invoked the “Prophecy of Isaiah” in his attempt to perpetuate the genocide in Gaza, stating: “We are the children of light, while they are the children of darkness, and light will triumph over darkness.” He further added, “We will fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy; you will no longer hear of devastation in your land. We will be a source of honor for your people, we will fight together, and we will achieve victory.” Netanyahu also referenced another religious text, saying, “You must remember what Amalek did to you, as our holy book tells us, and we indeed remember, as we fight with our brave soldiers and our troops now fighting in and around Gaza and in all other regions of Israel.”

The term “Amalek” refers to a tribe of nomadic people who inhabited the Sinai Peninsula and southern Palestine. In Jewish culture, it has come to symbolize the pinnacle of physical and spiritual evil. The Book of Samuel states: “Go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them. Kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey, and fight them until they are exterminated.” Therefore, invoking this religious text signifies the use of overwhelming force in a fierce retribution against resistance forces, implementing collective punishment policies against civilians, shedding blood, and demolishing homes on their inhabitants. The connotation of this term also encompasses the use of siege and humiliation policies, eradicating livelihoods, restricting freedom of movement, denying healthcare services, and conducting arrests and torture operations, all in an attempt by the occupation army to defeat Palestinians psychologically and render them helpless, forcing them to succumb to the status quo.

Netanyahu also aims to associate the Jewish and Christian psyche with the notion that Palestinians are the modern-day Amalekites, suggesting that Israeli military action in Gaza and against Palestine in general is the execution of God’s will as expressed in the Old Testament. This theological narrative hints that the military objective will be the annihilation of the current representatives of Amalek in Palestine. Netanyahu subsequently referenced passages from the “Books of the Prophets,” asserting that “Israel represents the light, and Hamas represents the darkness.”

Rabbi Manis Friedman openly declared that the only way to conduct an ethical war is the Jewish way: “Destroy their holy sites, kill their men, women, children, and livestock.” He asserted that these are Torah values that will make Israelis “the light that shines for the nations suffering defeat due to the destructive ethics invented by man.” He emphasized that this approach forms “the only real deterrent to the steadfastness and continuous resistance of the Palestinians.” Statements by Minister Amichai Eliyahu, advocating for dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza and rebuilding settlements there, reflect a significant current entrenched within Israeli society, wielding influence in political decision-making circles. This current, driven by distorted Torah teachings, justifies violence against those it labels as “goyim” (non-Jews), advocating their expulsion from what they claim is the land of “Israel,” or their annihilation, presenting these non-Jews with no option other than genocide or displacement according to their beliefs.

At the outset of the Israeli aggression on Gaza, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) youths volunteered to fight on the Gaza front, despite the conscription law exempting them from military service as they dedicate their lives to studying Judaism and the Torah in religious schools. Jewish religious beliefs permeate various units of the Israeli army participating in ground incursions in Gaza. The Kahanist chants sung by these forces indicate that the ideology of “messianic nationalism” is widespread among them, particularly as they raise banners proclaiming the return of settlements to “Gush Katif” on their advancing tanks.

All of this suggests that the Israeli ruling system has resorted to these biblical narratives to legitimize their war in Gaza, framing it as an “ethical war” aimed at exterminating “a group of gangs that do not comprehend the meaning of humanity.”

3. Brutal Treatment of Palestinian Prisoners:

Since October 7, the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has deteriorated from bad to worse, exacerbating their suffering and subjecting them to conditions devoid of basic human dignity. Arrests have surged, with numbers escalating, and Israeli violations and crimes against them have increased to unprecedented levels. Eighteen prisoners have lost their lives since October 7, 2023, due to systematic torture or medical neglect. Below is a summary of arrest campaigns from October 7 until May 8, 2024, including those detained from the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem.

Total ArrestsWomen (including 17 administrative detainees)ChildrenJournalists (48 remaining)Administrative Detention Orders
8640290610755900

Additionally, detainees from Gaza remain subject to enforced disappearance, with an estimated 3,000 detainees now categorized as “unlawful combatants.” These individuals fall under military jurisdiction rather than the prison authority, with Israel preventing any communication with them through the Red Cross or legal representatives, and withholding their names and detention conditions. When brought before a judge, it is done without legal counsel and via video conference (VC).

Israel has enacted and amended numerous laws and decisions since the declaration of war, targeting Palestinian detainees and prisoners in ways that contravene international law and the international agreements to which Tel Aviv is a signatory. These measures infringe upon the fundamental rights of prisoners, exposing them to the risks of torture, enforced disappearance, or even death.

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails endure daily severe torture, violations, and abuses. Testimonies have confirmed that detainees, both men and women, range in age from 6 to 82 years, with some having died due to violence and extremely poor detention conditions inflicted by the occupation. Accounts from prisoners reveal they have been subjected to beatings, stripping, theft, blindfolding, sexual assault, and denial of access to lawyers and doctors, often for more than a month. Palestinian detainees from Gaza who were held by Israeli forces have described enduring continuous torture, unregulated field interrogations, deprivation of food and sleep, and additional atrocities. An Israeli doctor disclosed the severe torture endured by Gaza prisoners in field detention centers.

Testimonies from dozens of prisoners, collected by lawyers from Physicians for Human Rights during prison visits, recount jailers hurling obscene insults, slapping and punching prisoners while transporting them between cells. Prison guards forced detainees to kiss the Israeli flag, beating those who refused, and forcibly stripped prisoners, mocking and humiliating them during searches. Prisoners who complain to the court or their lawyer about being beaten are subjected to further beatings or placed in solitary confinement. Additional testimonies indicated that Gaza prisoners were held in detention centers in the Zikim area and Negev Prison, where they were beaten with metal rods and electric batons, had hot water poured on their heads, and were subjected to public torture and humiliation. These acts were recorded by Israeli civilians on their mobile phones, who also participated in the abuse, hurling blows and insults in Arabic.

An investigation by CNN recently uncovered the torture and brutality inflicted by the Israeli occupation forces on Palestinian detainees from the Gaza Strip. The report revealed that there have been severe violations and torture of Palestinian detainees by Israeli soldiers at a secret detention center in the Negev. The investigation described scenes of men dressed in gray tracksuits sitting on thin paper mattresses, surrounded by barbed wire, all blindfolded with their heads hanging heavily under the glaring floodlights, amidst a foul smell filling the air. The room was filled with the noise of men who were forbidden to speak to each other. According to the investigation, the facility, located about 18 miles from the Gaza border, is divided into two sections: containers where approximately 70 Palestinian detainees from Gaza are subjected to extreme physical restraints, and a field hospital where injured detainees are tied to their beds, wearing diapers and fed through plastic straws, stripped of anything resembling human dignity. The CNN investigation emphasized that the beatings were not aimed at gathering intelligence but were acts of revenge.

These crimes add to a long record of violations against Palestinians by the Israeli army in Gaza and other Palestinian territories. The occupation seeks to achieve multiple objectives through its systematic treatment of Palestinian prisoners, justifying its actions under the pretext of combating terrorism, attempting to remove the context of targeting prisoners from its rightful place as guaranteed by international decisions that should provide full protection for them, considering they are under Israeli occupation. It is crucial to emphasize that the assault on Palestinian prisoners and the severe violations of their fundamental rights have existed since the beginning of the occupation. The lives of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails have never been a “five-star hotel,” but the conditions and practices they have been subjected to since October 7 have surpassed and exceeded all international and humanitarian norms and conventions, foremost among them the International Humanitarian Law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Principles of Human Rights, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

4. Plundering Palestinian Property:

The Israeli army has given its soldiers free rein in the Gaza Strip to engage in unethical practices against Palestinian civilians during house raids, including looting and theft of property. According to a report by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, new testimonies have been received about extensive looting and theft by Israeli forces from citizens and their homes. The testimonies documented by the Monitor indicate the theft of personal belongings of Palestinian civilians and widespread looting of valuable items, with the total potentially amounting to tens of millions of dollars, including gold, money, mobile phones, and laptops. The Monitor added that many of the homes that were looted were subsequently burned or bombed and destroyed by soldiers, in a systematic approach of collective punishment and dehumanization of Palestinians. Israeli soldiers have posted videos on social media documenting their deliberate vandalism and burning of civilian homes in Gaza, boasting about seizing money and valuable possessions.

Nahum Barnea, an analyst for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, confirmed that his country’s army committed unjustified acts of looting and demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza. Barnea warned about the repercussions of these practices on Israel itself and expressed concerns that images and scenes of collective punishment of Palestinian residents in Gaza could be used against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

The soldiers’ motivation for looting is unlikely driven by physical needs or greed. Rather, looting during combat is an expression of a desire for revenge. Soldiers engage in symbolic revenge, as seizing the property of their enemies after defeating them symbolizes complete victory. This notion is supported by Yagil Levy in an article for Haaretz, who also asserts that looting represents general revenge. It is not coincidental that such acts are accompanied by property destruction, including several incidents where homes were unnecessarily burned. Furthermore, looting reflects a denial of the enemy’s humanity, making it acceptable to rummage through their personal belongings, including the most intimate items, and select what to take. It is important to note that the phenomenon of looting and theft of property in war is not new to the Israeli army but is a deeply rooted legacy in the Zionist mentality. Recently revealed Israeli archives have shown that Jewish military and civilian personnel looted everything they could lay their hands on during the Nakba across Palestine.

The looting of property is not confined to the Gaza Strip. The West Bank has also witnessed Israeli army thefts of citizens’ property, including money, gold, private cars, and other belongings.

  1. Utilization of Internationally Prohibited Starvation Tactics:

Israel continues to employ a scorched-earth policy in its retaliatory war on the Gaza Strip since October 7, 2023. It has destroyed agricultural crops, prevented civilians from accessing them, closed border crossings, and barred humanitarian aid trucks from entering. Israeli airstrikes have targeted fruit-bearing trees, farms, fields, and water reservoirs, while all trucks carrying food supplies for the residents of Gaza have been denied entry.

From the first day of the war, Israel resorted to the use of starvation, an internationally prohibited weapon, employing it as a tool of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the civilian population of Gaza by imposing a complete blockade on the strip. This directly follows the orders of Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who stated: “I have ordered a complete siege on Gaza: no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed.” This policy also aligns with the demands of Israeli generals and politicians who advocate for the continuation of the “starvation policy” in Gaza.

Data published by human rights organizations indicate that the deliberate killing of the hungry and bombing of aid efforts are systematic Israeli strategies to entrench famine in Gaza. The Israeli military has killed 563 Palestinians and injured 1,523 others during its military operations targeting aid recipients, distribution centers, and workers responsible for organizing and distributing aid in Gaza. Furthermore, eleven countries have announced the suspension of their funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) following Israeli allegations that twelve of its Palestinian employees participated in the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation on October 7. Despite these claims, Israel has yet to formally submit its dossier to the United Nations regarding these accusations, raising significant questions. This suggests that the cessation of UNRWA funding represents the final phase of the genocide against the people of Gaza, exacerbating the Israeli blockade, deepening the suffering of Gaza’s civilian population, and intensifying the looming specter of famine resulting from the use of starvation as an internationally prohibited weapon.

In conclusion, the measures implemented by Israel and the collective punishments imposed on the Gaza Strip are explicitly and directly aimed at starving the entire population. This is not merely a tactic of war but constitutes a war crime in itself, putting the population at real risk of annihilation. These actions form an integral part of the genocide perpetrated by Tel Aviv against all residents of Gaza since October 7.

Reasons Behind Israeli Brutality and Aggression:

The previously discussed data reveal a set of motivations and reasons that drive the unprecedented Israeli brutality. Among these factors are:

  • Religious Factor: The use of incendiary religious rhetoric in Israel and the presentation of a theological narrative based on the Torah to justify its war against Palestinians is not a new phenomenon. Israeli occupation leaders rely on their distorted religious texts, which call for massacres and crimes, to further motivate their soldiers in carrying out criminal objectives. Netanyahu seeks to emphasize that Israel’s identity has shifted from a Zionist state to a Jewish state that uses the Torah as the foundation for governance and political and military decisions. Netanyahu aims to imbue the war against Gaza and Hamas with a religious character, hoping to motivate the religious community in Israel to participate in the war and support military service in the future. Additionally, Netanyahu seeks to rebuild his electoral and popular base through religious mobilization, as opinion polls have shown a significant decline in his popularity. Invoking the theological narratives of the Torah and Christianity provides support from 13 percent of the religious Israeli community, which holds significant political and religious influence that Netanyahu relies on to escape judicial prosecutions.
  • Demonization of Palestinians: The profound shock caused by Operation “Al-Aqsa Flood” and its negative repercussions on Israeli society, coupled with the feeling of severe defeat and national humiliation, has unleashed unprecedented Israeli brutality. The Israeli incitement campaign against Palestinians paved the way for a vast and unrestricted military operation launched by Tel Aviv against the Palestinian people in Gaza, turning into a war of genocide and displacement. This campaign was accompanied by unprecedented slander aimed at demonizing the Palestinian people and the resistance, labeling them as terrorists, and justifying violations of international laws to the extent of committing documented war crimes.
  • Loss of Stability: October 7 marked a turning point in the existential future of Israel’s project in the region, changing the rules of the conflict. This event represents the greatest shock in Jewish history since the Holocaust, raising doubts about the existential reality of the Israeli entity, which originates from abroad. Consequently, Israel has invoked the “existential threat” to its survival and project, frequently discussing this threat in such a “hostile environment.” This factor motivates Israeli brutality against Palestinians to demonstrate what they perceive as strength that helps them achieve psychological balance. Additionally, Tel Aviv has exerted maximum effort to unify its internal front to showcase unity and cohesion in the face of existential threats. Netanyahu expressed this by saying, “When there is an existential threat, we unite our forces and do not divide them.” Israel formed an emergency government and unified the Israeli public, which clamored for revenge against Palestinians.
  • Fear of Military Failure: The ongoing war on Gaza, coupled with the failure to achieve decisive victory and the quest to attain any semblance of victory, fuels Israeli desires for revenge against Palestinians and unprecedented brutality against them.

Conclusion:

The conduct and brutal, sadistic ethics of the Israeli military in its war on Gaza against Palestinians have increasingly placed Israel under international scrutiny. The ongoing genocide waged by Tel Aviv on Gaza, persisting for seven months, has revealed a moral compass lost, positioning the world in an ethical, legal, and political dilemma. The international community’s relationship with Israel will no longer remain the same. Global public opinion, including that in the West, has significantly shifted, viewing Israel largely as a pariah state engaged in war crimes. This image starkly contrasts with the narrative Israel and Zionist institutions have strived to promote for nearly a century. Moreover, Israel’s subjection to trial at the International Court of Justice on charges of genocide has officially marked it as accused of war crimes and genocide, supported by extensive documentation and evidence.

Despite internal document leaks from the U.S. Department of State expressing Washington’s concerns over Tel Aviv’s conduct in its Gaza campaign and warning that Israel’s global reputation is being severely damaged, there is also acknowledgment of a significant “credibility crisis” facing both the United States and Israel due to the military operations in Gaza. Nevertheless, ensuring that Tel Aviv is not held accountable for its relentless brutality, war crimes, and responsibility for the war and humanitarian disaster in Gaza hinges on the cessation of ongoing Western hypocrisy and bias, which shields it from accountability by international institutions.

………..

[1] Academic researcher in political issues from Nazareth.

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