On Saturday, Hamas committed a shocking crime whose horrifying dimensions are slowly becoming clear. Hundreds of Palestinian militants entered Israeli territory and opened fire indiscriminately, killing hundreds of civilians and injuring thousands. They burned down homes with the occupants inside and kidnapped more than 100 people – including children, women and elderly people – to be used as bargaining chips. Many others are still missing, their fate unknown.
Witness accounts and footage have been pouring in of people locked in their homes for hours, terrified, while militants roam, shooting, outside and even within the house; of people taken hostage; of partygoers fleeing in every direction under gunfire, with hundreds killed; and of families who still do not know what happened to loved ones taken into the Gaza Strip.
Abandoning the basic moral principle that all human beings were created equal (“b’tselem elohim”) is a loss of humanity.
Israel certainly cannot claim the upper moral hand. Israeli government ministers now calling to kill, destroy, crush and even starve the residents of Gaza forget that this is already Israeli policy. The military is currently bombarding Gaza even though it is clear, once again, that many of the victims are civilians – including women, children and the elderly.
Intentional attacks on civilians are prohibited and unacceptable. There is no justification for such crimes, whether they are committed as part of a struggle for freedom from oppression or cited as part of a war against terror.
B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories strives for a future in which human rights, liberty and equality are guaranteed to all people, Palestinian and Jewish alike, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Such a future will only be possible when the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime end. That is the future we are working towards. B’Tselem (in Hebrew literally: in the image of), the name chosen for the organization by the late Member of Knesset Yossi Sarid, is an allusion to Genesis 1:27: “And God created humankind in His image. In the image of God did He create them.” The name expresses the universal and Jewish moral edict to respect and uphold the human rights of all people.