Why was a Palestinian Toddler Burned to Death?

News coming out of the occupied Palestine on 8 August 2015 said that Saad Dawabsheh, the father of a Palestinian toddler Ali who was killed in a firebombing of his home a week ago, has died from wounds he sustained in the incident.

Early in the morning of July 31, Israeli settlers hurled a Molotov cocktail into a window of Dawabsheh’s home in the Duma village in occupied West Bank. His 18-month-old son, Ali was burned to death in the arson attack, while his four-year-old son Ahmad, and his wife, Riham were seriously injured and remain in critical condition.

The arsonists left inscriptions on the wall of the house, saying: “Long live the Messiah” and “Revenge”. Israeli settlers attacking Palestinian homes, churches and mosques characteristically use this price tag tactic.

Ali Dawabsheh is not the first Palestinian child to be burnt to death. Last year, another baby named Ali, son of Mohammad Deif, was also burnt alive after an Israeli airstrike on the house. Also, sixteen-year-old Mohamed Abu Khdeir was beaten tortured and burnt alive by a group of Israeli extremists in July 2014.

Little Ali is thus not different from over 500 Palestinians children killed in Israel’s last summer invasion on Gaza, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians.  The Dawabsheh family home, which was completely burnt, was not different from the 20,000 Gaza homes which, according to the UN, were destroyed during the Israeli carnage in Gaza.

The Israeli regime’s illegal settlers have carried out 11,000 assaults against Palestinian residents and their properties across the occupied West Bank since January 2015. According to an Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, 85.3% of police investigations into Palestinian complaints are discarded without actions being taken. It is all part of Israeli occupation policy, with numerous crimes going unpunished.

In fact, the Israeli armed forces responded to protests against the torching of the family’s home by killing another Palestinian child,15-year-old Laith. They also killed 16-year old Mohammed who was at another demonstration inside Gaza.

The brutal assassination of Ali is a direct consequence of decades of impunity by the Israeli Government towards settler terrorism. It is the direct outcome of Israel’s culture of hate and violence, of Israeli policies that create an environment allowing the illegal setters to commit murder and terror while protecting them from any accountability.

We cannot separate the barbaric attack on the Dawabsheh family from the illegal settlement recently approved by the Israeli government, a government which represents an Israeli national coalition for occupation.

Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land are illegal under international law, yet Netanyahu’s government is committed to building even more. The latest planned expansion was announced by Netanyahu on 29 July, when he authorised the construction of a further 300 settlement buildings. On the following day, deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely pledged that the Israeli government would carry out the building of yet more illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land

Settlement expansion is bound to increase the numbers of extremist Israeli settlers who take up arms and run amok across the West Bank, without fear of apprehension and prosecution. According to B’Tselem statistics, in the past three years, Israeli settlers have torched nine Palestinian homes. A Molotov cocktail was also thrown at a Palestinian taxi, severely burning the family on board. No one was charged in any of these cases.

Following the killing of toddler Ali, condemnations poured in from various sources. Among the first to ‘mourn’ was Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who “vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice”.

He said, “I am shocked by the murder of Ali Dawabsheh; this is a reprehensible and horrific act of terrorism in every respect.”

Netanyahu even made a phone call to Palestine Authority’s President Abbas, condemning the incident and pledging “full investigation”

The corporate media fail to expose the two-facedness of such lamentation. Palestinian children have always been killed by Israeli forces, while successive Israeli governments have been able to get away with its ever-expanding settlements and other war crimes.

Netanyahu describes this latest act of primitive violence against a baby as an “act of terror” while it is he who ordered the mass murder of babies and children in Gaza. His government has created a culture of extremism in its constant policy to demonize and brutalize the Palestinian people.

Whipping up racism and hatred during Israel’s election campaign, Netanyahu described Palestinian citizens of Israel as a “demographic threat.” Indeed for an average Israeli the very word Palestinian is synonymous with inferior being.

Netanyahu and his bedfellows who rushed in denouncing the Duma attack as “terrorism” have well-documented background of engaging in incitement against Palestinians. Some have even killed Palestinians themselves and boasted about it.

Netanyahu is the originator of last year’s 51-day attack on Gaza that killed 551 Palestinian children in Gaza. Yet he reacted to the settler attack in Duma with a statement that his government is “united in strong opposition to such deplorable and awful acts.”

This is the same man who, following the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens one year ago, issued a call for blood vengeance, essentially lighting the match that burned alive 16-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Abu Khudair.

Then there is Netanyahu’s education minister Naftali Bennett, who said, “Arson against a house in Duma and the murder of a baby is a disgusting act of terror.”

This is the same Bennett who famously bragged, “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

He rose to prominence after triggering Israel’s April 1996 massacre of more than 100 civilians and UN peacekeepers at a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon, during that year’s Israeli invasion. Over half of those killed in the attack were children.

The same Bennett praised the Israeli massacre of the four Baker boys on the beach in Gaza last summer. Talking to the CNN, he accused Palestinians of “conducting massive self-genocide to make Israel look bad.”

Then you have Netanyahu’s ‘defense’ minister Moshe Yaalon describing the massacre of baby Ali as “horrible terror attacks that we cannot allow” and promising to “pursue the murderers until we bring them to justice.”

It is the same Yaalon who declared that Israel would not hesitate to kill Palestinian and Lebanese civilians including children, if it felt it had to, in any future war between Israel and its neighbors.

During his spell as Israeli army chief of staff, he likened Palestinians to a cancerous threat that can only be eliminated by “applying chemotherapy.”

Such outbursts are common among Israeli figures. After approving a call last June for Palestinian mothers to be slaughtered in their beds to prevent them from giving birth to “little snakes,” Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked was rewarded by being appointed ‘justice’ minister.

Eli Ben-Dahan, the settler rabbi in occupied Jerusalem who decreed that “(Palestinians) are beasts, they are not human,” is Netanyahu’s deputy ‘defense’ minister. He is now in charge of the “civil administration,” the military body that rules Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

It is not surprising that rabbis like Ben-Dahan are mostly silent about the killing of baby Ali. After all, they inspire an extreme messianic version of Judaism that energizes settler violence.

Two of the most infamous rabbis are Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, who in 2009 wrote Torat Hamelech (The King’s Torah), a guidebook on when it is permissible to kill non-Jews.

They claim that Jewish law permits “killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately.”

Shapira and Elitzur run a hardline Jewish religious school in the settlement of Yitzhar, home to some of the most violent settlers, not far from the village of Duma.

Last year, Dov Lior, a leading West Bank settler rabbi who endorsed Torat Hamelech, issued his own ruling that the complete “destruction of Gaza” was permissible.

“At a time of war, the nation under attack is allowed to punish the enemy population with measures it finds suitable, such as blocking supplies or electricity, as well as shelling the entire area … to take crushing deterring steps to exterminate the enemy,” Lior wrote.

The murder of Ali Dawabsheh should thus be regarded within the context of Israeli society where Palestinian babies are routinely called a “demographic threat,” and where many Israelis ecstatically rejoice their slaughter.

Such society cannot claim innocence and cannot be “shocked” when settlers torch to death a Palestinian toddler.

Today, more than ever, it is important for all who care about justice to declare that we are all Palestinians.

Nizar Visram, a free-lance writer and retired lecturer of Development Studies, is Tanzanian citizen, born in Zanzibar and currently in Ottawa. He can be reached at: nizar1941@gmail.com. Read other articles by Nizar.