International Efforts Return Body Amid Rising Violence In Israel And Palestine

This week in Israel and Palestine, a young Druze man’s body was stolen from a West Bank hospital by Palestinian militants. Citing other sources, The Times of Israel reports, “A large-scale international diplomatic effort took place” to get his body back to his family. A concerted effort between Israel and the IDF, Palestine and the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the UN helped to get the young man’s body back to his family. At the time of writing, no one has claimed responsibility for the theft, but a cooperative — and at times threatening — effort from the officials allowed PIJ to contact the “armed cell” and get them to “release the body immediately.” 

This story comes at the end of a newsworthy week for Israel and Palestine. Tensions have been increasing at variable rates since May 2021 — which you can learn more about here. But this week saw the demolition of a Palestinian school in Masafer Yatta, at least 3 Palestinian men murdered by IDF soldiers, one Israeli death, many more injured in a double bombing in Jerusalem, and more. As the far-right Israeli government ascends to power, there are concerns it will only worsen. Breaking the silence, an organization of IDF veterans exposing the atrocities occurring in Palestine at the hands of Israel, even tweeted, “An overtly Kahanish [Jewish supremacist], racist, homophobic party is now the 3rd largest in Israel’s parliament. Now more than ever, silence is not an option.”

Violence is not unknown to people with relatives or who themselves are living in Israel and Palestine. The Economist estimates that 14,000 people have been killed since 1987. Since 2008, the UN estimates that 6,128 Palestinians and 276 Israelis have died as a result of the violence. Heightened tensions are currently perpetuating more violence and hate. Videos, from as little as 14 hours ago (at the time of writing), on activist Issa Amro’s Twitter feed are proof of some of the aggressions taking place, including one in which an IDF soldier beats an Israeli activist supporting Palestinians. 

Foreign involvement helped provide closure for one family this week by giving a grieving family a body to bury. This signals that greater concerted efforts from outside countries can also make positive impacts — and people are ready for help. Ben Samuels, a reporter covering Israel-Palestine relations and the U.S. for Haaretz writes that over “200 Israeli activists and human-rights organizations” have signed a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides, asking for sanctions to be implemented against influential right-wing Israeli politicians. Samuels continues to explain that right now the U.S. government is deciding how to work with the growing coalition in Israel.

Although there is much debate as to how effective sanctions are, they are still accepted as essential diplomatic tools. Currently, the U.S. has sanctions imposed on Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, “pursuant to the OFAC’s terrorism sanctions program.” Although the U.S. has sanctioned individual people from Israel and Israeli companies for national security reasons, the U.S. has yet to sanction Israel for extremist ideas and human rights abuses as they pertain to Palestine. Right now the U.S. can stand with activists and human rights organizations in condemning the far-right Israeli rhetoric fueling some of the heightened aggression. As the U.S. is a strong ally of Israel and a major power in the international system, more equitable sanctions would demonstrate a strong stance against extreme violence and lead the world in condemning incendiary rhetoric from political leaders.