Yitzhak Rabin’s ‘break their bones’ doctrine continues to haunt Gaza’s disabled





Burak Elmali



Disabling Palestinians in Gaza is a tactic and consequence of Israel’s war machine, rooted in Yitzhak Rabin’s “break their bones” directive from the First Intifada in 1988.

Thirty-six years later, and six months into Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza, Israel continues to find new ways to cripple Gaza’s resolve.

From the reported use of the R9X Hellfire missile on the Al Shifa Hospital courtyard — which shreds its victims — to the abuse of white phosphorus, Israel liberally employs new forms of sadism, leaving Gazans mourning the consequences.

The statistics are harrowing. Every day in Gaza more than 10 children lose a limb. Of the 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza currently displaced, 15% have a disability. Before October 7, a fifth of households in Gaza had at least one family member with a disability.

Yet few realise how much former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin influenced this culture of violence and how his doctrine has since evolved.

Yitzhak Rabin, the bone-breaker
Far removed from the myth of a peacemaker, Yitzhak Rabin’s response to the non-violent Intifada was to institute a policy of “force, might, and beatings” towards Palestinians, demanding that soldiers “break their bones”.

The then-Defense Minister made maiming Palestinians part of the “accepted norm in that period,” confessed Israeli colonel Yehuda Mair at trial.

This led a UN Human Rights Commission to conclude Israel’s policies during the First Intifada constituted grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, declaring Israel’s actions to be “war crimes” and an “affront to humanity”.

Then as now, the Western order seems to be addicted to rewarding those who violate its own principles.

Israel remains the main beneficiary of this cognitive dissonance; its signature on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012 a mockery of international law.

Rather than taking “all the necessary measures to protect persons with disabilities in armed conflict,” persons with mobility issues in Gaza have fled on the backs of family members, leaving their wheelchairs behind. Those with developmental disabilities are prone to seizures — a population is left traumatised with no shelter and unable to shield themselves from attack.

How Israel finds new ways to disable Gaza
The only thing that has changed since the days of Rabin is more sophisticated weaponry; rifles and batons have been replaced with AI ‘kill zones’ and airstrikes. But the method and aim remain the same: to crush the hope (and bones) of Palestinians.

Look back at the 2018 Great March of Return to see Rabin’s legacy in action.

Once again, a peaceful protest was set upon by the Israeli army resulting in 5972 documented injuries, 493 aimed at upper limbs and 4903 at lower limbs, according to the UN Independent Commission Report. 940 children were left permanently disabled.

Rabin’s “break their bones” tactic evolved into ‘shoot to maim’. Literal generations of Palestinians have been left impaired as a result.

Today in Gaza it’s not enough to survive the airstrike, the battle to live is ongoing.

80,000 Gazans have been injured thus far. Without a ceasefire, projections estimate the number could rise to up to 170,329, with approximately 68,545 going onto succumb to their injuries, either due to untreated wounds or unexploded ordnance.

Every minute that Israel’s war on Gaza continues, the risk for persons with disabilities increases. Post-traumatic stress disorder is endemic in Gaza, fueling a downward spiral into death as psychological trauma begets physical injury.

In a war where Israel targets civilians at will and humanitarian aid trickles in at a spiteful speed, Israel’s tactic of targeting disabled individuals is further proof of genocide, rendering international conventions null and void.

But despite the West whitewashing his image and giving him the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts, we remember him for who he was and what he did: Yitzhak Rabin was the architect of a vicious strategy that inflicted as much suffering on the Palestinian people as possible — no cloak of peace can ever hide that.




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