Israel mourns the death of three teenagers after their bodies were found yesterday. Photo: Getty.
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“Hamas will pay”: Israel responds to the killing of three teenagers

Israel is preparing to retaliate for the killing of three teenagers, but an increase in violence will hurt both sides.

What is a proportionate response to the killing of three innocent teenagers? There is no easy way to reply to this question, because how can you possibly weigh up one human life against another, or against a set of political goals? Still, it’s a question I can’t help asking.

On 12 June, three Israeli teenagers – Gilad Shaer (16), Naftali Fraenkel (16) and Eyal Yifrah (19) – went missing while hitchhiking south of Jerusalem. After weeks of searching, their bodies were found under a pile of rocks in a field. They had been shot dead, just hours after they went missing. Their story gripped Israel. Their deaths are a tragedy.

But then things get a little bit more complex and political. Israeli intelligence have long maintained the teenagers were kidnapped by Hamas, and they have named two key suspects – Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha – who disappeared from their homes on the night of the kidnapping and have not returned since. Hamas denies responsibility and claims Israel is using the tragedy as an excuse for another offensive in Gaza.

Either way, five Palestinians have been killed in the course of the search operation (according to the Guardian), over 400 Palestinians – mainly Hamas members – have been arrested, 34 locations in Gaza have been hit by airstrikes and Israeli troops have raided over 1,300 sites, sparking riots in some towns. Family members of the dead Palestinians, some of whom were teenagers, have complained that their deaths did not receive the same media coverage, and were not met with the same outrage. That’s an indictment of the political climate in the Middle East: a teenage death is not seen as a tragedy by everyone. Meanwhile, Hamas is fighting back: Israel say at least 26 rockets have hit their territory in the last four days.

The tensions on both sides are only likely to increase, and the violence will escalate. Concerns are mounting of another full-scale invasion by Israel of parts of Gaza and the West Bank. During the 2008-9 Gaza war, 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.  

Would this be a proportionate response? Israel will argue that its armed retaliation is crucial to maintaining national security and combating terrorism. Palestinians will say the move amounts to collective punishment. Both are to some extent true – yet ultimately, an increase in violence will hurt both sides. Palestine will bear the heaviest losses, and Israeli violence will embitter and radicalise populations in Gaza and the West Bank.

“Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay,” the Israeli prime minister has said. But it will not only be Hamas that pays the price. There is no proportionate response to the killing of children, but a violent retaliation will ultimately be a counter-productive one.  

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

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The US election is now a referendum on the role of women

Melania Trump's recent defence of her husband's indefensible comments, shows why a Cinton victory is vital.

Maybe one day, when this brutal presidential election is over, Hillary Clinton will view Melania Trump with sympathy. The prospective Republican First Lady’s experience sometimes seems like an anxiety dream rerun of Clinton’s own time stumping for job of wife-in-chief back in 1992. Even before Bill Clinton had the Democratic nomination, rumours about his infidelities were being kicked up, and in a bid to outflank them, the Clintons appeared in a joint interview on the CBS current affairs show 60 Minutes. “I'm not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” she said, the extreme humiliation of her situation registering as perhaps the tiniest flicker across her perfectly composed face. “I'm sitting here because I love him and I respect him.”

Another decade, another TV interview, another consort to a nominee called on to defend her husband’s honour. After the release of Donald Trump’s grotesque “grab her by the pussy” comments from 2005, Melania headed out to do her wifely duty. But where the Clintons in 1992 had the benefit of uncertainty – the allegations against Bill were unproven – Melania is going up against the implacable fact of recorded evidence, and going up alone. Even leaving aside the boasts about sexual assault, which she’s at pains to discount, this still leave her talking about a tape of her husband declaring that he “tried to fuck” another woman when he was only newly married.

What Melania has to say in the circumstances sounds strained. How did she feel when she heard the recordings? “I was surprised, because [...] I don't know that person that would talk that way, and that he would say that kind of stuff in private,” she tells CNN's Anderson Cooper, giving the extraordinary impression that she’s never heard her husband sparring with shock-jock Howard Stern on the latter’s radio show, where he said this kind of thing all the time.

She minimises the comments as “boys talk” that he was “egged on” to make, then tries to dismiss women’s allegations that Trump behaves precisely as he claims to by ascribing their revelations to conspiracy – “This was all organized from the opposition.” (Shades here of Clinton’s now-regretted claim of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her own husband during the Lewinsky scandal.) “I believe my husband. I believe my husband,” she says, though this is a strangely contorted thing to say when her whole purpose in the interview is to convince the public that he shouldn’t be believed when he says he grabs pussies and kisses women without even waiting because when you’re a celebrity you can do that.

Melania’s speech to the Republican convention bore more than a passing resemblance to elements of Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention in 2008, but in fact Melania is working to a much, much older script for political wives: the one that says you will eat platefuls of your husband’s shit and smile about it if that’s what it takes to get him in power. It’s the role that Hillary had to take, the one that she bridled against so agonisingly through the cookie-competitions and the office affairs and, even in this election cycle, Trump’s gutter-level dig that “If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

Clinton soldiered through all that, in the process both remaking the office of First Lady and making her own career: “a lawyer, a law professor, first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, a US senator, secretary of state. And she has been successful in every role, gaining more experience and exposure to the presidency than any candidate in our lifetime – more than Barack, more than Bill,” as Michelle Obama said in a speech last week. It was a speech that made it stirringly clear that the job of a First Lady is no longer to eat shit, as Obama launched into an eloquent and furious denunciation of Donald Trump.

A Trump win, said Obama, would “[send] a clear message to our kids that everything they’re seeing and hearing is perfectly OK. We are validating it. We are endorsing it. We’re telling our sons that it’s OK to humiliate women. We’re telling our daughters that this is how they deserve to be treated.” She’s right. From the moment Clinton was a contender for this election, this wasn’t merely a vote on who should lead the United States: it became a referendum on the role of women. From the measly insistences of Bernie Sanders voters that they’d love a woman president, just not the highly qualified woman actually on offer, to commentators’ meticulous fault-finding that reminds us a woman’s place is always in the wrong, she has had to constantly prove not only that she can do the job but that she has the right even to be considered for it.

Think back to her on that 60 Minutes sofa in 1992 saying she’s “not some little woman standing by her man.” Whatever else the Clinton marriage has been, it’s always been an alliance of two ambitious politicians. Melania Trump makes herself sound more like a nursemaid charged with a truculent child when she tells Cooper “sometimes say I have two boys at home, I have my young son and I have my husband.” Clinton has always worked for a world where being a woman doesn’t mean being part-nanny, part-grabbable pussy. Melania says she doesn’t want pity, but she will receive it in abundance. Her tragic apologetics belong to the past: the Clinton future is the one Michelle Obama showed us.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.