A young man, still shaking off the cobwebs of sleep, opens the door of his house; his wife and infant daughter are in the kitchen. The house is surrounded on all sides. It's afternoon. The young man is wearing only a pair of shorts. He is not armed. A minute later he is lying on the ground in front of his house, blood seeping out of him, a bullet in his body. His wife and daughter watch his death throes. Then they are ordered away from their beloved under rifle threat.
This is not a scene from a Mafia movie. According to Palestinian eye-witnesses, it happened in the village of Aanin, in Samaria. What happened in this incident, which took place two weeks ago, is that the Border Police assassinated Mustafa Yassin, whom the Shin Bet said had been involved in the attempted suicide bombing attack in Haifa on July 22.
The spokeswoman of the Border Police said Yassin had tried to escape and had been shot under the "procedure for arresting a suspect." No one claimed that the suspect was armed, and there was no place to escape to - the house is isolated and was surrounded by Border Policemen, according to the account of the Border Police themselves, and it was broad daylight. But this did not bring about a revision of the official version.
There are also serious doubts about the identity of the suspect. Mustafa Yassin was arrested and released by the Acre police the day before he was killed for being in Israel illegally, and the opinion in Aanin is that the wrong Yassin was liquidated.
The poultry dealer Mohammed Yassin is a local activist of Islamic Jihad in the village. He has been hiding ever since the incident, while the mourning posters for the victim Mustafa Yassin, a clothes peddler who works the streets of Arab villages in Israel without a permit, were issued by the Fatah movement.
Here, then, we have a man who was shot to death in front of his house, the signs suggest that he was probably the wrong man, and no one is accountable for act of killing, not to say murder. There's a war on, you know; the battle against terrorism, you understand. The statement issued by the Border Police spokeswoman is enough to exonerate the killers, a statement issued by the prime minister's media adviser in the name of the Shin Bet is enough to exonerate those who did the identifying.
The Shin Bet insists that its hands are clean; its spokesman makes do with stating that "the force reported that the suspected tried to escape," even though it can be assumed that a representative of the organization was at the scene during the liquidation operation. Nor can anyone counter the Shin Bet's contention that "in the recent period, the Shin Bet accumulated unequivocal and reliable information" about the dead man, even though he was arrested the day before for being illegally in Israel and was released, with the authorization of the same Shin Bet (the police do not release "illegally present" Palestinians they have picked up until they get the Shin Bet's okay).
Was Mustafa Yassin killed for no reason? Was he in fact a member of the squad that was going to perpetrate a terrorist attack in Haifa? Was it truly impossible to arrest him? And if he had to be shot, why not in the leg?
These deeply troubling questions will probably never be answered. No one will bother to investigate the matter. Astonishingly, it turns out that the Border Police internal affairs department of the Justice Ministry does not examine killings done by the Border Police in the territories, as though implying that as far as Justice is concerned, everything goes there, and leaves this to the Israel Defense Forces instead. The IDF, for its part, has hardly investigated any acts of killing since the onset of the current Intifada 10 months ago: only six such investigations have been launched in this period. Nearly every case of killing is thus justified by the IDF.
A young Palestinian is killed, leaving a widow and an orphan girl, and a village that was relatively tranquil is now stunned and embittered, but no one investigates. The public pressure, both domestic and mainly external, to investigate the killings over which a heavy cloud of doubt hangs, killings of the sort that in the previous Intifada generated investigations by the Internal Affairs Department and brought some soldiers to court and even to jail cells - that pressure has disappeared. The soldiers of this Intifada no longer need a "lawyer by their side," as people used to day, albeit with some exaggeration, in the Intifada a decade ago. The soldiers know that they can get away with just about everything, nothing bad will happen to them even if they kill and wound Palestinians without good cause.
The public and establishment indifference will exact a steep price, and not only from the point of view of the Palestinian victims. First, the unsupervised killing will not stop on the hills of a village in Samaria. Today the liquidation is perpetrated in Aanin, but tomorrow it could happen inside Israel, in Umm al Fahm say; and in fact, it already happened - last October, when 13 Israeli citizens from the country's Arab population were killed by the police during disturbances. And who will guarantee that it will stop in Umm al Fahm? If, in the name of security, assassination is permitted in Aanin and in Umm al Fahm even in cases where arrests can be made, why not do the same in other places, too?
And this method of operation exacts another, equally steep, price as well. What goes through the mind of a young man who is send to kill someone? Whether the Border Policemen in Aanin were instructed in advance to waste Yassin, or decided on their own to do it, in that fraction of a second as he opened the door of his house - what does the ease with which they kill do to them? What do they take home with them? What will they tell their parents and their friends, and, later, their children? That in this Intifada they were allowed to do whatever they wanted and so they shot and killed and sometimes took the lives of people who were innocent of any wrongdoing? And that no one asked questions or investigated afterward? That in the name of the war on terrorism it's permissible to liquidate a young man at the entrance to his house, or to kill a woman driving her car, as happened in the fields of Beit Dejan? That missiles or shells can be fired by pushing a button and, without seeing or knowing or being accountable, women and children can be hit?
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