Israel’s ‘slay-for-play’ practice must be stopped

For many Israelis, killing Palestinians with impunity is a state-sponsored sport.

Sam Bahour


Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers work together to disperse Palestinian protesters demonstrating against the confiscation of Palestinian land near the Israeli settlement of Karmi Tzor, north of the West Bank city of Hebron, August 21 2009. (Photo: Najeh Hashlamoun/APA Images)

If one did not know better, they would believe that the Palestinian government places public ads on social media trying to recruit Palestinians to kill Jews. The sheer sound of that sentence sounds sick, as it should.

The reality, of course, is something entirely different.

In fact, it is Israel which has instilled a culture of “Slay-for-Play” to enable its soldiers and private citizens to shoot first and ask questions — if ever needed to — later. As B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights organization, previously documented, “[Israel’s] open-fire policy — which allows the unjustified use of lethal force — conveys Israel’s deep disregard for the lives of Palestinians and facilitates Israel’s continued violent control over millions of Palestinians.”

Not only are Jewish Israeli settlers on a rampage of pogroms against Palestinian communities, but the Israeli military is engineered and backed up by government policy to undertake the same pogroms, albeit the latter frame it as acting against security threats; a concept that Israel has debunked with their disproportionate and arbitrary use of force.

Case in point

I often wonder about the Israeli sniper who ended Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s life while she was reporting on yet another Israeli military invasion of the Jenin Refugee Camp in May 2022. As this Israeli sharpshooter set their scope on the tiny opening between Shireen’s protective helmet and the collar of the clearly marked bulletproof media vest, were they smiling? Had they just been given a direct order to assassinate Shireen? Or were they acting on their own, quietly sizing up the target so that a single bullet would be all that would be needed? Did the sniper keep looking in his scope after the shot was fired? Did they see blood squirt out of Shireen’s neck as his bullet made an impact? Did the Israeli soldier turn to their comrades and give a high-five for successfully killing Shireen, as their comrades did when they shot out the knees of Palestinians demonstrating in Gaza? Did the soldier tell their partner what they did that day? Did they…