Do not search for the ethical underpinnings for Israeli soldiers firing on, and killing, unarmed Palestinian protestors in Gaza. They don’t exist.

What does exist, or what’s manifest, is that the Israeli response toward Palestinian aspirations has coarsened. In other words, Israel’s response to Palestinian grievances, deriving from a long-stalemated negotiation, appears more and more to resemble a state of permanent repression, a deliberate — and calculated — violence.

Over the past decade (perhaps even longer), the Israeli government and Israeli society have moved implacably rightward, making it more difficult to find mainstream Israeli voices seeking to recognize and establish Palestinian human and political rights.

Israeli members of parliament appear to regularly, and righteously, silence the voices of dissent amongst themselves and to take actions to diminish the legitimacy of Palestinian political views and struggles.

In daily interaction between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, there is continuous distortion of language and meaning. The Israel government calls acts of Palestinian resistance to the occupation, whether on the West Bank or in Gaza, terrorism. On the other hand, official Israeli responses to such acts — which include systematic beatings, arrests, jailings, killings, and expulsion — are described as self defense.

The occupation itself, which resembles a siege, a massive lockdown, goes by such policy-neutral names as “settlements beyond the Green Line”; actions in Area A, Area B, and Area C; and Judea-Samaria.

The large numbers of Israeli Jews living on the West Bank, close to one half million people by the last reckoning, are not called undocumented or illegal immigrants, or even temporary residents. They are described by Israel as settlers, pioneers.

In the meantime, Israel celebrates (and looks to export) its wall-building activities, which disconnect Palestinian communities, disempower Palestinian peoplehood and make it a severe hardship for Palestinians to move around, go to work, visit family and neighbors and enjoy a modicum of freedom.

In this surreal context, the Israel government orders its military to fire on unarmed Palestinian protestors, with the urgently stated objective that Palestinians in Gaza “must not be allowed to breach” the fence separating them from Israel.

Breaching the Gaza fence can certainly become a problem for the state of Israel, especially as it no longer recognizes Palestinian aspirations to create a homeland, or Palestinian needs to negotiate new supportable boundaries, or Palestinian efforts to challenge Israel’s rigid status quo.

What Israel wants (apparently), what firing on unarmed protestors seems to announce, is that Israel intends to maim, kill, destroy the ability of Palestinians to stand up for themselves. We will bludgeon you into silence and submission, Israeli actions seem to state.

Leslie Kelen

Leslie Kelen, Salt Lake City, is a child of Holocaust survivors and the author/editor of five books, including “This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement.”