. Adding insult to injury: Israel’s ‘Roof Knocking’ is colonial propaganda | Ceasefire Magazine

Comment | Adding insult to injury: Israel’s ‘Roof Knocking’ is colonial propaganda

Israel routinely claims it 'humanely' warns Palestinians before it bombs their homes. For us Palestinians from Gaza, the PR spin around this ‘roof knocking’ hides a much uglier reality, write Malaka Shwaikh and Shaymaa Ziara.

Editor's Desk, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 9:52 - 0 Comments

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What remains of the Abu Safia family home in Gaza after Israeli missiles struck it on Thursday. “Our home was completely destroyed… We survived somehow and are ok, thank God.” (Credit: Yazeed Abu Safia)

Some people have wondered how Palestinians and media organizations manage to document Israeli aerial attacks on homes and residential buildings in the Gaza Strip as they happen. The Israeli occupation sometimes provides a prior warning to the residents of a building before attacking it. The Israeli official narrative calls this “roof knocking” or “knocks on the roof”. This is the practice of dropping drone missiles on the roof of targeted civilian homes, which Israel claims is to warn them of imminent bombing so they can evacuate. The residents are often allowed between three and twenty minutes to leave their house. We have seen this practice, and experienced it first-hand, when it was used during the 2008-2009 and 2012 aggressions on Gaza. It was also used during the 2014 Israeli assault, and is being used today in 2021.

In this article, we share our personal experiences of what it means to live in Gaza and experience this policy first-hand. The policy has for far too long been used to present Israeli occupation forces as if they were caring about our lives. But the reality on the ground shows something else. The harmless warning suggested by the word ‘knock’ is rather an actual drone missile. As such, we argue this is nothing short of a policy to kill.

According to Amnesty International and Human rights groups in Gaza, there is no way that firing a missile, however small, at a civilian home can constitute a ‘warning’. Amnesty International has documented cases of civilians being killed or injured by such drone missiles in previous Israeli military aggressions on Gaza. To give one example, in 2018, “roof-knocking’ missiles killed two Palestinian kids who were playing on the roof of their home. We also need to consider the psychological impact and immense trauma such attacks inflict, not only on those Palestinians they strike but on entire neighbourhoods.

Importantly, this policy is only used occasionally. We do not have to look very far to see that the majority of Palestinians whose houses were targeted do not in fact get any warning, not even these “smaller” missiles. Instead, their houses are directly destroyed by larger missiles and collapse on them. Only last Friday night, on the 14 May 2021, 43 Palestinians were killed, mostly women and children. They received no warning. They were long buried under thousands of pounds of concrete and metal before the rescue team could reach them. The night before, Israeli airstrikes hit a house in the densely-populated al-Shati refugee camp, killing ten residents, 8 children and 2 women. In an investigation by Amnesty International on May 17 2021, the organization documented four Israeli deadly attacks that were launched on residential homes in Gaza without prior warning. As the investigation found, “By carrying out these brazen deadly attacks on family homes without warning Israel has demonstrated a callous disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians who are already suffering the collective punishment of Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza since 2007.”

The fact that the Israeli colonial forces label missiles as a “warning” intended for civilians directly implies their knowledge that the house or building they are targeting is a civilian structure, which refutes the narrative that their attacks only target Hamas leaders. It certainly shatters their self-serving self-image of being “the most moral army in the world”.

In fact, in their recent attack on the Al Jalaa Tower in the heart of Gaza city, which housed the offices of international media organizations like AP and Aljazeera, the Israeli colonial forces claimed the tower “contained military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of the Hamas terror organization”. Yet the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that he had not seen any Israeli evidence of Hamas operating in the office building. In addition, AP President and CEO, Gary Pruitt, declared in an official statement, “We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building. This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

As such, the claim that the Israeli occupation forces attack civilian buildings because Hamas uses them for military purposes is baseless, and Israeli officials have yet to provide any evidence for it. In reality, such claims are just another propaganda tool Israel uses to escape accountability and responsibility for what are clearly war crimes according to International Law.

Not to mention that the framing of these missiles as a merciful effort by a colonial army to spare civilian lives also omits other consequences the colonial forces inflict through these attacks. To give some context, over the past decades, the Gaza Strip has witnessed repeated Israeli aggressions that have changed the landscape of its cities and caused the destruction of countless civilian homes and residential towers, commercial infrastructure, farmlands, and factories, as well as the displacement of thousands of Palestinian families. The Strip has also been under Israeli blockade for over 13 years — a blockade that restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement in and out of Gaza, limits the entry of basic materials needed for daily life, and has dealt a devastating blow to the Palestinian economy in Gaza. 

With that in mind, to present the destruction of houses Palestinians have spent years, and all their life savings, building as a ‘merciful’ or ‘benevolent’ act simply because they were given “a knock on the roof” a few minutes beforehand is simply to further excuse the illegal destruction of civilian homes. It also amounts to turning a blind eye to the Israeli occupation’s responsibility for keeping the Strip in dire economic circumstances, pushing many Palestinians below poverty line. This claim is made especially callous when we consider the fact the Israeli occupation has blocked entry of construction materials into the Strip, preventing Palestinians from rebuilding what Israel had already destroyed in previous years. Adding insult to injury, many of these materials are donated by other countries, when it should be the occupying Israelis who should be paying for their criminal destruction of Palestinian homes and civilian infrastructure.

Our Palestinian struggle is for justice and liberation. At the heart of this struggle, we fight to reclaim our language and narrative. It is important to call Israel’s drone missiles for what they really are. Giving a short ‘prior warning’ before committing a war crime does not negate the fact it is a war crime. If anything, it is an admission of a clear intention to commit such a crime. The drone missiles are used by the Israeli colonial forces to absolve themselves of their responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. It is our moral responsibility to challenge this narrative and to repeat: No missile on a Palestinian home, however small or less destructive, is ever justified.

(Credit: Getty images)

Malaka Shwaikh

Malaka Shwaikh is a Palestinian from Gaza, currently working as an associate lecturer in peace and conflict studies at the University of St Andrews in the UK. She's on Twitter @MalakaShwaikh.

Shaima Ziara

Shaima Ziara is a Palestinian from Gaza who currently works as a Content Specialist at Qatar Foundation. She holds a Master’s Degree in Translation Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Language and Literature. She's on Twitter @shaimaziara.

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