By Hossam Shaker
After the representatives of Western democracies issued successive statements asserting “Israel’s right to defend itself”, the Israeli army wasted no time in exercising this “right” in its own way. It killed a Palestinian paramedic wearing her white coat while she was busy tending to the wounded.
What threat did this petite young woman pose to the most powerful army in the Middle East? The truth of the matter is that the practical translation of Israel’s right to defend itself is a license to kill or justify it. In the name of such defence, the Israeli army has been committing atrocities against civilians for decades. The world witnessed this again during the bloodshed rampage carried out by Israeli forces on 14 May 2018 against helpless protesters on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip.
The 21-year-old paramedic Razan Al-Najjar became a symbol of resistance when her name was announced as a victim on Friday, 1 June. She is a well-known figure in the humanitarian field and has made numerous press statements about the health of unarmed individuals who fell victim to the Israeli gunfire during the Great Return marches.
This energetic young woman volunteered to give medical attention to demonstrators who were shot by Israeli soldiers, and then she was shot by the Israeli army’s snipers from a distance while she tended to the wounded. Her white coat was stained with red blood and Razan Al-Najjar took her last breath after being shot in the chest.
Razan Al-Najjar paid with her life as the price to heal the wounds of her people. Large masses attended to her funeral in a scene where emotions were high and tears were shed. Ambulances lined up in a symbolic march for a martyr of humanitarian work. Today, she is a Palestinian icon that will inspire generations.
Razan was the martyr of the day amongst the large crowds who protested in the open square east of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip. Her death was an intimidating message to those who volunteer to stop the bloodshed of the innocent. Since the beginning of the Great Return marches in March 2018, Israeli soldiers have consistently targeted paramedics, press photographers, and people with disabilities. Some head and chest injuries have resulted in immediate death, incidents of which were documented by cameras.
The Israeli army has treated peaceful popular demonstrations as an open arena for easy killing by means of swift fingers on the trigger. This is all being done under the pretext of its “right to self-defence”. Israeli snipers continue to hunt unarmed Palestinians hoisting flags, as if they are on a hunting trip in the wild and the toll is a long list of more than 100 Palestinian martyrs, as well as thousands of wounded, some resulting in amputated limbs and permanent disabilities.
All this savagery and brutal abuse has not stopped the traditional propaganda phrase that European and Western capitals constantly reiterate, i.e. “Israel’s right to defend itself”. This phrase has been established over the decade as one of the sacred phrases enshrined on either side of the Atlantic. Who dare to try to use their brain and ask opposite questions? Does Palestine also have the right to defend itself? How should its people act if it is under military occupation and deprived even of international protection?
It is not a complicated puzzle in any way, as everyone knows that the Israeli occupation has exceptional immunity in the international community that protects it from accountability or punishment. This is reflected in the veto in the Security Council, which makes Palestinian blood and lives almost worthless in the eyes of Western democracies. European foreign policymakers are taking part in this chronic stagnation, which is unmoved by the continued occupation and continued violations, despite the growing demonstrations in European squares and the actions and movements taken by the world’s civil society against this inaction.
Since the result of such inaction is more innocent victims, an extraordinary scene created by civil society activists awaited the EU foreign ministers on Monday (28 May), as they gathered for their meeting. They were met by a line of 4,500 pairs of shoes, lined up outside their Brussels headquarters. This large display symbolises the number of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip in just 10 years.
What we should publically admit and recognise is that neither Europe nor the world have a road map to liberate the Palestinian people from occupation, but rather a lot of empty verbal statements after every massacre committed by Israeli forces, without prejudice. However, this does not affect the special privileges and immunity granted to them. The politicians of Europe and the world now have to gaze carefully into the face of Razan Al-Najjar and look at the pictures of her in her white coat, stained with blood, before daring to utter the phrase “Israel’s right to self-defence”.