It is rare for a state to lose its mind, to lose the ability to discern right from wrong, good from bad, righteousness from wickedness, but that condition appears to have taken hold across large parts of Israel’s national psyche.

Palestinians are being subjected to nonstop atrocities. In Ghazzah, a trapped and starving population is bombed and shelled by the murderous Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) armed with western-supplied munitions. In the West Bank, IOF snipers and snatch squads and roaming militia inflict terror and death at will. Much of the butchery is caught on film and shared, and yet the State’s collective consciousness remains unmoved. On January 26th the International Court of Justice concluded it was ‘plausible’ to assume a genocide was unfolding in Ghazzah. The reaction of Israel’s 10 million population – with few exceptions – indifference.

One is left wondering how the State’s fractured moral compass will ever be recalibrated, and how its citizens will ever be able to trust in each other again once this orgy of violence is over. Your electrician will have murdered children, your plumber attacked hospitals, your child’s teacher blown up schools – you will be surrounded by killers.

Any notion of atonement appears to be remote; collective morality is receding, and ominously the pain and suffering and death of Palestinians is now becoming entertainment. 

Starving the Hungry

Ghazzahans are starving. Since October 7th the IOF has cut off most food supplies, forcing some of the local population to eat animal feed and drink ditch water. But there is no remorse from the State of Israel. On the contrary, the IOF has busied itself uploading videos showing them destroying food storage facilities, setting fire to water supplies, shelling UNRWA convoys and firing on Palestinians waiting for food aid.  

Unsatisfied with the level of suffering and starvation wreaked on Ghazzah by the IOF, Israeli civilians have recently formed a volunteer ‘movement’ whose sole purpose is to tighten the noose even further. More accurately named a death squad, Tzav 9 (in reference to Order 9, the Israel Occupation Force’s order used to call up reservists) consists of religious fundamentalists, aging Zionists – and worryingly young adults. This new generation of hard-line settler colonialists, who sustain Israel’s apartheid regime and support its continual defiance of international law, suggests little change will come from within the State itself in the foreseeable future. 

Tzav 9 are popular and their calls to mobilise result in large turnouts. They have repeatedly blocked border crossings stopping much-needed food aid and medicines for Ghazzans, whilst at the same time entertaining themselves with cookouts and raves. All this happens within sight of a genocide – a border fence is the only thing separating death and debauchery. It is truly psychotic behaviour, which one day will need to be reconciled with whatever moral code is left amongst a group that incite starvation.     

There have been no counter demonstrations or protests challenging Tzav 9. The only news outlet to question the morality of their actions was Haaretz, in an article titled A New Low: The Israelis Advocating to Starve the People of Gaza. Other media were openly supportive or silent. Since Tzav 9’s launch in January more Palestinians have died.

Re-living Al-Shifa

Two minutes to disguise yourselves as Palestinians, fifty-eight minutes to get to Al-Shifa Hospital (Ghazzah’s largest medical complex which was illegally besieged and shelled by the IOF in November), enter its tunnel network and disarm a chemical bomb before it is moved and detonated in Israel. These instructions are provided by Arik Turkenich, owner of escape room Fauda Explosive Lab. Fauda is a popular Israeli television show which mythologises and misleadingly glorifies the settler state’s use of violent force, and the lab is where civilians get to recreate key moments of death, killing, and now genocide.

In early January, as the International Court of Justice opened its hearing on an alleged genocide committed by Israel against Palestinians, the Fauda Explosive Lab added a Ghazzah themed space complete with a mock-up of Al Shifa’s emergency room. While most would be repulsed by Turkenich’s gamification of genocide, in Israel there are eager participants: “Most are choosing the Ghazzah scenario rather than other rooms” Turkenich told local news outlet Forward earlier this week.

He continued: “They’re [his customers] wanting to kick some Arabs’ ass.” Turkenich’s perspective of the IOF attacks on Ghazzah is a wildly dishonest oversimplification of what is being perpetrated. And his comments are highly disturbing – here is an individual who delights in genocide, who treats it as a leisure pastime. Worryingly he is not alone.

Turkenich charges £25 a head to play the Al-Shifa escape room. Instructions on the booking page include arriving 15 minutes before the ‘game’ starts, teenagers below 16 must arrive with an adult, and children under 10 pay a discounted £15. 

When the IOF’s siege of Al-Shifa Hospital was lifted in late November, its Director Mohammad Abu Salmiyah confirmed at least 179 patients, including children, were buried in a mass grave at the hospital’s premises. He added seven babies, and twenty-nine intensive care patients were among the dead.  

Twitter: Mohammed Awad

Torture as Entertainment

Source: Twitter (unknown)

The use of torture by the IOF is well documented, with Palestinian detainees regularly subjected to beatings, electric shocks, cigarette burns, sleep, water and food deprivation, denial of access to bathrooms forcing detainees to defecate on themselves, being tied and cuffed for extended periods, and being spat at – including directly into the detainees’ mouths. The torture is as much about humiliation as it is about pain.

Testimonies tell of Palestinian detainees being held at military bases in clusters of about 100. They are blindfolded and handcuffed, apart from one who is selected by the IOF and called Shawish (a slang term for a servant or subordinate).  Sleep is only permitted for five hours, and no movement is allowed despite overcrowding. The IOF use green laser pointers to identify detainees who move, and the Shawish brings the detainees to the cell door where they are taken away by the IOF guards and beaten. On other occasions the laser pointer is used to mark out those wanted for interrogation.

This happened five times while I was being held. The first time was in Barkasat Zikim, where we were blindfolded. The other four incidents took place in the Negev detention facility. I was arrested at the checkpoint set up near the Kuwait roundabout, which separates Gaza City from the central region, as part of the Israeli random arrest campaigns. I was subjected to all types of torture and abuse for approximately fifty-two days. The IOF brought a number of Israeli civilians into our detention centres while beating us …  the Israeli civilians were filming us being beaten, abused, and tortured while making fun of us.”

On February 12th Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor published this shocking testimony from 43-year-old Palestinian Omar Abu Mudallala. They told me their network of forty-two field researchers has collected a series of witness statements from released detainees. Mentioned repeatedly is the IOF inviting groups of between ten to twenty civilians to watch and film interrogation sessions during which Palestinian detainees were stripped to their underwear and subjected to verbal and physical abuse, including beating them with metal batons, electric sticks, and pouring hot water on their heads.

A second released detainee, known as DH, testified the Israeli civilians “sometimes brought their dogs with them to bark on us.”

Some of what was filmed can be found on social media. We have chosen not to provide links to the material but instead share links highlighting the conduct of the IOF.

Something has gripped the national psyche of Israel, and it’s not Hamas or the Palestinians. The State is discarding decency and abandoning morality to such an extent that it is losing itself in the process. We come from one family, one shared lineage, and we have a mutual obligation to hold each other to account.   

If we don’t, morality will continue to fade, and atonement will remain out of reach. The genocide will continue, and more Palestinians will die.

— ©2024 Sul Nowroz – staff writer —