I first heard about this astonishing video yesterday and spent the entire day attempting to verify its authenticity (for reasons I’ll explain). But this morning, Middle East Eye and Maan published stories definitively authenticating the video’s provenance. Aside from the reporting of the story at MEE and Maan, there’s one further critical aspect of this video which wasn’t mentioned.
The IDF soldier speaking through a loudspeaker to the Aida camp residents threatens to use “gas” to kill them all. In other words, he’s not speaking about tear gas, which is the usual method used to disperse crowds (and which was later used copiously). He’s attempting to escalate the conventional tactics by frightening them into believing the army would actually exterminate all the residents of the camp, a deliberate echo of tactics used by the Nazis in the Holocaust:
“Inhabitants of Aida, we are the Israeli occupation forces, if you throw stones we will hit you with gas until you die. The children, the youth, and the old people, all of you – we won’t spare any of you”.
During the assault of the protesters, Qassan Abu Aker, 25, was arrested. The speakerphone announcement continued, “We have arrested one of you, he’s with us now. We took him from his home, and we will kill him while you’re watching as long as you throw stones.”
The chilling message concluded: “We will blind your eyes with gas until you die, your homes, your families, brothers, sons, everyone”.
As if to prove the potency of this threat, an 8 month old baby from the village of Beit Fajr was killed by Israeli tear gas earlier today. Both Aida camp and Beit Fajr are located near Bethlehem.
This conjures up two scenarios that would be present in the minds of both camp residents and the IDF itself. The first is reports that Syrian rebels and/or Syrian government forces used chemical weapons against their targets. In such attacks, hundreds have died over the past year or more. The second, and even more ominous, is the use of Zyklon B gas in extermination camps like Auschwitz. There can be little doubt that no matter what the Palestinian residents might’ve thought, the Holocaust was in the minds of whatever military intelligence officer came up with the script that the Arabic-speaking soldier used in attempting to terrorize camp residents.
I’m not an expert in international law, but the threat to use chemical weapons to exterminate an entire refugee camp would appear to me to be a clear war crime. It is, after all, a threat to engage in genocide.
Such tactics aren’t surprising considering the new moral lows to which Israel has sunk in the past few weeks. I am just wondering when the world will sit up and take notice of Israel’s increasing degradation and the echoing of tactics and attitudes employed by previous generations of war criminals convicted of genocide. How low do we have to sink?
And anyone who thinks that the rhetoric employed by the soldier in this video is a one-off aberration is deluded. The Holocaust and Rwanda genocide began with words and ideas and gradually turned into conviction and action. The world is now in a position to intervene before mass slaughter happens. It likely will not as it did not in those earlier episodes. But it could.
It remains to be seen whether this story will be picked up the MSM. But one mainstream publication you can be sure will ignore is the NY Times and its Israel bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren and her trusty sidekick, Diaa Hadid. If I am right, consider this scenario: say a Palestinian security agency blasted a Hebrew message inside a settlement claiming it would gas residents to death. What would be the reaction of world media? Double-standard? You betcha.
The Times of Israel has now confirmed the story and reported the Border Policeman who threatened the camp with a Holocaust has been suspended:
Border Police officials called the policeman’s actions “a grave incident,” and vowed that the case would be handled “to the fullest extent of the law.”
They told Channel 2 news the officer has been suspended from all operations until the end of the inquiry, and that his continued service in the force would be reviewed.
What a laugh: the most disgusting, violent, brutish police force perhaps in all the western world calls this a grave incident, when its officers routinely murder unarmed Palestinians in cold blood, including
But the only thing he’s likely to be disciplined for is referring to his police unit as the “army of occupation,” since it disturbs the conventional narrative. As for threatening mass murder, he’ll probably get a promotion for that.
NOTE: There was much discussion yesterday of the IDF speaker’s reference to the army as the “Israel occupation army.” Arabic-speakers on social media noted that the IDF never uses a standard Palestinian usage to refer to itself–until now apparently. I hesitated to post about the video till I could authenticate it. But Maan and MEE have found the original person who recorded it and he has confirmed that the IDF usage was real. Apparently, now even the IDF itself confirms that it is an occupying army. This would further strengthen the Palestinian claim that Israel is illegally occupying its territory (a claim the Israeli hasbara apparatus rejects). In other words, if you “occupy” the land of another people, you cannot also own the land or claim it is your nation’s sovereign territory (which is the standard Israeli hasbara claim).
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.