We Will Gas You Until You Die
In a startling and sinister escalation, Israeli troops stormed the West Bank's Aida refugee camp this week with tear gas blasting and a truck loudspeaker blaring a deadly, evidently unprecedented message to residents: "People of Aida Refugee Camp, we are the Occupation army," it proclaimed in Arabic. "Throw stones and we will hit you with gas until you all die - the youth, the children, the old people...You will all die. We will not leave any of you alive." The IDF forces raided the camp near Bethlehem in the Occupied Territories, the site of many earlier confrontations, after Palestinian youths had allegedly thrown stones at the Apartheid Wall bordering the camp. As the Israeli trucks rolled into camp randomly shooting tear gas and brazenly promising genocide, they were filmed by Yazan Ikhlayel, 17, on his iPhone from a community center above them. The Israelis went on to announce they had arrested "one of your own" - Qassan Abu Aker, 25 - adding, "We will slaughter and kill him while you watch if you do not stop throwing stones. Go home, or we will gas you until you die."
Never mind the eerie echoes of the Holocaust here; such threats, said one human rights official, "merely add words to the deed." In fact, Israeli forces have long undertaken their promised project: Friday, an eight-month-old baby was one of three Palestinians killed by tear gas - which is often U.S.-made - and last week two others died from inhaling gas during clashes. In Aida, Palestinian residents found the threats of killing Palestinian civilians and executing Palestinian prisoners chilling, but unsurprising. "They aren't just saying that," said one. "We saw today and we believe them - they want to kill people here." More shocking to many was the fact that Israeli forces, perhaps for the first time, actually identified themselves as what they are - an occupying army - "loud and in public." As clashes and Palestinian casualties mount, notes one Amnesty official, "Israeli forces appear to have ripped up the rulebook." Above all, the Aida assault showed "what the Israeli 'democracy' is," said Ikhlayel, who filmed it. "This will not stop until the Occupation ends."
"I and the public know/What all schoolchildren learn/Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return." - W.H. Auden in "September 1, 1939"
Israeli forces spray Palestinian journalists in other clashes. Photo by Fadi Arouri