by Richard Silverstein on June 16, 2015
|Yusef a-Shawamreh at Separation Barrier near where he was later murdered by IDF (Abed Al-Hashlamoun, EPA)|
In March 2014, the IDF murdered a 14 year-old boy , Yusuf a-Shawamreh, who crossed the Separation Barrier near Hebron to forage for edible plants his family could sell at the market. His family owned farmland that the Barrier had made inaccessible to them. He was crossing to harvest plants from his family-owned plot. This is one of the many portions of the West Bank in which the Wall in effect confiscates private Palestinian land and annexes it to Israel.
After the murder, the IDF announced an investigation and as almost always happened, it closed the file without taking any action. The army claimed that the boys had cut through the fence and thus endangered Israeli security. In fact, they did not do so. There already was a break in the fence, as I noted above. The TV news segment (video displayed) below notes that the IDF soldiers lying in ambush were there because there was a break in the fence. If this break indeed posed a security threat to Israel then it should’ve been repaired, but wasn’t. Not to mention, how does a 14-year-old boy picking flowers from his family’s plot of land endanger state security?
B’Tselem responded by demanding the army turn over all documentation concerning the crime so that it might make a determination whether to file an appeal with the civil authorities. As a result, it received the video displayed above which shows two boys crossing the barrier and three IDF soldiers lying in ambush. Once they cross, the soldiers open fire on them (though conveniently for the IDF, you can’t see the actual murder itself due to the terrain and location of the surveillance camera).
The army justifies the killing by saying that it first fired in the air and shouted warnings for the boys to stop. Only when they refused and continued on their way did a solider fire at them. As you’ll see below, the army knew these children well. It was their normal routine to harvest these edible plants. It knew where they were going. It knew they posed no danger. Yet it fired on them anyway. This is cold-blooded murder.
B’Tselem responded to the army’s whitewash thus:
By justifying the use of lethal fire in broad daylight at youths who posed no danger to any other persons, the [IDF] conveys a cynical lack of concern for the life of a Palestinian teenager. Israel’s security forces in the area are well aware that, for the past two years, Palestinians have been crossing the Separation Barrier at the breach at that particular point at this very season to pick gundelia on their own farmland. In his testimony to B’Tselem, a-Dardun stated that police officers had detained him and three of his friends at the very same spot two days before this incident. He said that, before letting them go, the police officers beat all four of them and confiscated the plants they had picked.
The decision to mount an armed ambush at a point in the barrier known to be crossed by youths, who pose no danger whatsoever to anyone, for the purpose of harvesting plants is highly questionable. It also indicates, at the very least, extremely faulty discretion on the part of the commanders. Moreover B’Tselem’s findings are markedly different from the description given by the IDF Spokesperson: the youths made no attempt at vandalism; they were crossing through a long-existing breach, and the soldiers did not carry out suspect arrest procedure, shooing at a-Shawamreh with no advance warning.
The military’s open-fire regulations around the Separation Barrier prohibit opening live fire at Palestinians crossing the Barrier, if they are identified as posing no risk to security forces. However, as revealed in a previous publication concerning shooting near the barrier, the regulations present the prohibition as an exception to the rule. This is compounded by public and media rhetoric considering every Palestinian who crosses the barrier as a potential terrorist. In reality, security forces are well aware of the fact that hundreds and even thousands of Palestinian workers regularly cross through breaches in the Separation Barrier to reach places of employment in Israel.
There are literally thousands of such cases of IDF murder of Palestinian children. All of them are heartbreaking. But in this case, Raviv Drucker, one of Israel’s foremost investigative journalists, decided to produce a segment on the killing for his TV news program, HaMakor. This video segment brings Shawamreh, his life and death into the homes of the Israeli viewing public. Not that it will change anything. Children will continue dying (500 were killed last summer during Operation Protective Edge). But at least we can say they knew. Israelis knew what their soldiers were doing in their name. They chose to ignore it. But they were told. If this reminds you of a colloquy heard in Europe in the days following the end of World War II, then you have a good memory.
Raviv Drucker closes the segment by noting the military prosecutor found no criminal liability in this incident. To which Drucker replies, if there was no criminality here then I don’t know what criminality is.
Perhaps the worst irony is that last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, under enormous pressure from Israel (and perhaps the U.S.) ignored the recommendation of his own staff investigator and refused to list Israel as a nation which endangers the lives of children in conflict zones (Hamas was also removed from the list). Watch these videos and then tell me Israel doesn’t debase the value not only of the adult Palestinian lives it takes, but especially those of the children. What can we say of a nation which kills children with such impunity? And then forgives itself without shedding a tear?
It is a moral obscenity that Israel managed to squirm its way out of designation on the List of Shame.