The Israeli leader lamented the killings of the three “gifted, pure, honest and decent teens,” bloodshed that he said shows “a broad moral gulf (that) separates us from our enemies.”
“They sanctify death, we sanctify life,” Netanyahu said, comparing the teens to those who killed them. “They sanctify cruelty, and we mercy and compassion. That is the secret of our strength.”
Then he ordered a campaign of “collective punishment” against virtually all Palestinians, including an indiscriminate bombing campaign against Gaza and security crackdowns in the West Bank that led to the arrest of hundreds of people who had nothing to do with the murders. Because he sanctifies compassion.
During the security crackdown, Israeli police beat a 15 year old Palestinian American boy, Tariq Abu Khdeir, until his face was almost unrecognizable, and then they arrested him for unknown reasons. Because they sanctify mercy.
If Tariq was protesting at the time he was beaten, which is disputed, then he was protesting the murder of his cousin, 17 year old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, whose body was dumped outside Jerusalem. Medical evidence, including soot found in his lungs, says that Muhammad was burned to death by his killers. Somebody, most likely Israeli police, circulated a story that Muhammad had been the victim of an honor killing, but yesterday six Jewish extremists were arrested and charged with the crime. The crime, again, being the murder of a 16 year old boy by burning him to death. Because they sanctify life.
Note that Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s murder was handled with targeted police work, leading to the identification and arrest of the particular individuals suspected of committing the crime. Israeli security forces didn’t go around demolishing the homes of the suspects. No air strikes were launched against Jewish settler targets. No blockades were implemented to block large populations of Jewish settlers from getting to work. Those things are all “collective punishment,” hostile actions that directly target civilians and non-combatants. Not only is collective punishment inappropriate for solving a murder, it’s also a war crime. When a Palestinian boy was murdered, Israeli security forces (to their credit) found and arrested the alleged perpetrators. When three Israeli boys were murdered, the Israeli security establishment was mobilized to make the entire Palestinian population pay the price. That’s a bit of a dichotomy.
You can’t pile everything on Netanyahu, though, because he wouldn’t be able to get nearly as far in justifying his actions without his partners in Hamas, who are ever willing to lend Netanyahu a helping hand. They’ll continue to fire rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory, rockets that almost never hit anything so they’re both totally unjustifiable and completely ineffective as acts of armed resistance. The only thing they do accomplish is to provoke massive Israeli airstrikes in retaliation, which is horrible for the people of Gaza but good for Hamas, who get to trade on their armed opposition to Israel in order to remain in power.
If Hamas ever stopped shooting rockets into Israel, how would Netanyahu continue to justify treating Gaza as a giant open-air prison camp? Conversely, if Netanyahu stopped using his security forces to indiscriminately extract vengeance from the Palestinians over every extremist crime or terrorist act against Israel, how would Hamas continue to justify its own existence? Hamas and Netanyahu are playing a game with each other, and the Palestinian and Israeli people (mostly the Palestinians, to be sure) are suffering the consequences.