Israel’s logic of elimination

Israel’s logic of elimination

T-shirts printed by a sharpshooter from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion to mark the end of duty.

Zionist ideologues and politicians have always known that a strategy of elimination was necessary in order to create the state of Israel on Palestinian land, despite the Palestinian people. 

Before and shortly after the Nakba in 1948, when 75-80 percent of the Palestinian population that lived on the land, on which Israel was established, were expelled and hundreds of villages and communities were erased, some thought this would be a brutal enough blow for Palestinians to surrender their rights and leave. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and leader of the Labour party, embraced the theory that time will cure all, and all will be forgotten, and that somehow the Palestinian people would eliminate themselves. 

Since the very beginning, Israel placed focused on ‘eliminating’ Palestinian refugees, their capacity to organize the struggle for their right to return, to delegitimize their claims and disperse them. This effort is ongoing.

Yet, a generation later, Israel’s prime minister Golda Meir had to recognize another fundamental challenge to Israel’s settler-colonial plans, when she famously said that “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”  

It is clearly not Palestinians forcing the Israeli regime to kill their children. Yet, until Israel continues its settler colonial project and its apartheid regime, it will have to target Palestinian children and childhood in general, whether as a systematically planned policy or an inevitable outcome of Israel’s racist ideology.

As Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian puts it, the settler-colonial state permits and actually mandates, “the authorized eviction of children from childhood” and “the use of children as political capital for dispossession in the colony”.

Ze’ev Zabotinsky, founder of the Zionist revisionist movement, which represents the ideological roots of the current government, understood this colonial logic early on, when he wrote in 1923 that “[e]very native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonised. That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope.” 

During the 90s, the period of the Oslo process represented a moment of Israeli hope that Palestinians would be ready to accept a 21st century version of Bantustans, somehow ‘voluntarily’. This illusion was shattered with the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the repeated uprisings following it, and the daily steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the face of Israeli apartheid. 


Almost inevitably, over the last two decades, the genocidal statements and slogans of political leaders as well as street protests promoting the killing of Palestinian children have increased and become commonplace. 

Israel’s former ‘Justice’ Minister Ayalet Shaket infamously posted on facebook that Palestinian mothers “should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.” Crowds in the streets of Tel Aviv chanted during the 2014 massacre in Gaza “There is no school tomorrow, there are no children left there [in Gaza]”. This is the same rationale of the current Israeli Minister of Heritage, who commented on the recent brutal bombing of Gaza, which killed two families and three children in the first night, arguing that “We are people who will not harm a fly, but if the fly bothers him, the fly must be killed and also his children if he hides behind them.”  It shouldn’t surprise that Israeli soldiers print and distribute T-shirts with Palestinian pregnant women in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle and the subtext “1 shot 2 kills” or a Palestinian child in the crosshairs with the subtext “The smaller – the harder”.

The deep rift that has recently opened within Israeli society runs, among other issues, also along the divides as to how to ‘eliminate’ the Palestinians. The Israeli far-right politicians follow this policy based on brutal force and expulsion. 

The current Israeli Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich has developed in his “Decisive Plan” or “One Hope Plan” his vision for Israel’s policy based on Zabotinsky’s analysis: “We can and must put an end to the Arab hope to realize national ambitions in the Land of Israel”. According to his plan, there is only one type of population that can have hope and a future, the rest face the logic of elimination, at any cost. Moshe Feiglin, former deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament, suggested a brutal plan to expel all Palestinians from Gaza and to bomb into extermination those that wouldn’t leave. 

The more ‘liberal’ wing of Israeli policy, including Arnon Sofer, the academic and advisor to several Israeli governments argue that the only way to eliminate the “demographic threat”, to which they reduce the Palestinian people, is ‘separation’, i.e. the walling off of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza behind the apartheid wall and razor wire. This entails giving up part of the territory Israel claims for itself, to create Palestinian ghettos and bantustans. In fact, the construction of Israel’s apartheid wall on Palestinian lands or some sort of territorial ‘separation’ was and is an idea developed by Labour leaders, such as Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, and has always been opposed by the far-right wing of Zionism. 

Yet, as far as Palestinians are concerned, the policy debate is a question of means, not objective. As Yossi Klein in an Ha’aretz op-ed during the latest bombing of Gaza put it: “There’s nothing like killing children for bringing together hearts and minds. For the past 18 weeks, Israelis have been fighting each other, unable to find anything to bring us closer together. Then came the killing of the children in the Gaza Strip and proved that we’re brothers, after all.“ 

Whether liberal or right-wing Zionists, if they want to continue to sustain their apartheid regime over the Palestinian people in the future, they will have to, as Golda Meir understood, continue to kill Palestinian children.  

Generation after generation Palestinians continue to rebel and claim their rights because they know that they and their children will only have a future of freedom, justice and equality, a life worth living, once Israeli oppression is overcome.  

While Palestinians, now in their third generation, continue existing and resisting, Israel is increasingly desperate and violent in its strategies of elimination and intensifies its attacks on Palestinian children and childhood. 

It is time to recognize this and to take action.