COMMENTARY: By Yara Hawari
Since the beginning of the genocide in Gaza in October, Israeli soldiers have been posting what can only be described as snuff videos on social media platforms. In the videos, soldiers can be seen — often gleefully — committing war crimes against Palestinians.
In one video, an Israeli soldier dressed in a dinosaur costume loads artillery shells into a tank and dances as the shells are fired in the direction of Gaza.
In another video, a soldier is filmed dedicating an explosion to his two-year-old daughter for her birthday. Seconds later, a Palestinian residential building behind him is blown up.
Israel soldiers mock Palestinians. Video: Al Jazeera
There has been shock and outrage over the videos on social media platforms by Palestinians and their allies with many noting that the videos should be used as evidence in the case against the Israeli regime for genocide before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Indeed, this latest aggression on Gaza has been one of the most visually documented atrocities in history. And genocidal intent has never been so blatantly expressed by both soldiers and political leaders.
Even those who support the Israeli regime seem to be shocked at the brazenness with which Israeli soldiers are sharing these videos.
‘Makes them look callous’
British broadcaster Piers Morgan, for example, asked on X, formerly Twitter: “Why do Israeli soldiers keep filming themselves doing this kind of crass, insensitive thing? Why don’t their commanders stop them?
“Makes them look callous when so many children in Gaza are being killed.” For Morgan, it seems, the problem is not what the soldiers are doing but rather that they are filming themselves doing it.
People less informed on the context might find it strange that these soldiers are implicating themselves in such horrific crimes without a second thought.
But those with deeper knowledge of the Zionist settler colonial project in Palestine know that decades of impunity not only for the Israeli regime but also for Israeli individuals guilty of war crimes has led us to this point.
Indeed, the Israeli regime has yet to face any serious consequences from third states for the crimes it has been committing against the Palestinian people since its inception.
Rather, it enjoys exceptional diplomatic and trade relations with much of the Western world and has been the largest recipient of United States aid.
Rather than being shunned from global institutions and events, it is included and celebrated from Eurovision to the Olympics.
Horrific crimes routinely admitted
And there is another aspect of Israeli impunity that is often overlooked: Israeli soldiers routinely admit to horrific crimes they commit against the Palestinians to clear their conscience and absolve themselves of personal responsibility but never face any accountability.
Israelis themselves describe the practice as “yorim ve bochim”, which translates from Hebrew as “shooting and crying”. A favourite pastime of the Zionist Left, it takes centre stage in dozens of Israeli films and documentaries.
Take the widely celebrated film Tantura, named after a Palestinian fishing village that was subjected to a massacre in 1948. In this film, several Israeli veterans talk with ease about the fact that they killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians.
Others openly admit to participating in ethnic cleansing, yet all are portrayed as complicated individuals who are traumatised by the trauma they inflicted on Palestinians.
“Yorim ve bochim” is also epitomised in the work of the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence. A darling of the liberal West, the organisation of Israeli army veterans tries to expose the reality of the “Occupied Territories” by providing a space to Israeli soldiers to confidentially recount their experiences in the Israeli army and at times admit to taking part in systematic abuse and destruction.
The testimonies on its website make for incredibly difficult reading, particularly in this moment when we are seeing what is happening in Gaza.
And yet nowhere does this organisation call for accountability or address what justice might look like for the Palestinians whom the soldiers they work with have systematically abused over decades.
The reality is that over the last seven and a half decades, there has been complete impunity for brutalising and slaughtering Palestinians. The ongoing genocide in Gaza and the way in which it is being so brazenly shared on social media by the perpetrators is a manifestation of that impunity.
The only way to make sure that it stops and never happens again is to hold not only those who have taken part in the genocide accountable but also those who are complicit.
Yara Hawari is the Palestine Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. This article was first published by Al Jazeera.