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Treating a Massacre as ‘Business as Usual’

The indifferent reaction to the illegal shooting of unarmed protesters is truly obnoxious.

Walter Russell Mead offers a typically vacuous assessment of the massacre of Palestinian protesters that happened last week:

It didn’t. Stones were thrown, tires were set aflame, and shots were fired. When the smoke cleared, the borders were still in place and 15 Palestinians lay dead, with three more succumbing later from injuries. While families endured their private tragedies, familiar controversies swirled. The usual people denounced Israel in the usual ways, countered by the usual defenders making the usual arguments.

Mead’s world-weary pose is merely tedious, but his indifferent reaction to the illegal shooting of unarmed protesters is truly obnoxious. The use of lethal force against unarmed people is a crime. Human Rights Watch released a report today on the shootings that concluded that the crime was premeditated:

Both before and after the confrontations, senior officials publicly said that soldiers stationed along the barrier that separates Gaza and Israel had orders to target “instigators” and those who approach the border. However, the Israeli government presented no evidence that rock-throwing and other violence by some demonstrators seriously threatened Israeli soldiers across the border fence. The high number of deaths and injuries was the foreseeable consequence of granting soldiers leeway to use lethal force outside of life-threatening situations in violation of international norms, coupled with the longstanding culture of impunity within the Israeli army for serious abuses.

“Israeli soldiers were not merely using excessive force, but were apparently acting on orders that all but ensured a bloody military response to the Palestinian demonstrations,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The result was foreseeable deaths and injuries of demonstrators on the other side of a border who posed no imminent threat to life.”

To use Mead’s phrasing, the “usual people” denouncing the unlawful killing of more than a dozen people and the wounding of over 700 more are human rights advocates describing the criminal behavior of government forces. The “usual defenders” would be the ones pretending that gunning down unarmed protesters is somehow an appropriate response. This is “business as usual” only to the most morally bankrupt of pundits.

If the forces that shot these protesters worked for a different government that wasn’t a U.S. client, American politicians and pundits would presumably not be shrugging at evidence of a massacre of unarmed people. We would be hearing demands for an investigation, sanctions, and probably much more. Instead the U.S. helps to quash any international investigation and provides diplomatic cover as always for the government responsible.