The concern Israel demonstrates for the fate of one Palestinian boy touches the heart: Again, note what a fuss is being made about the case of the killing of Mohammed al-Dura. Our heart is impervious to the fate of other children who have been killed. Just little Mohammed continues to haunt us. But the question of who killed al-Dura is not important. And maybe he is even alive, as some eccentrics claim. Perhaps he committed suicide, as the strange investigations are liable to suggest.
All of these are tasteless questions designed to divert attention from the truly important issues: According to data collected by human rights group B'Tselem, Israel is responsible for killing more than 850 Palestinian children and teenagers since al-Dura was killed, including 92 in the past year alone. Last October, we killed 31 children in Gaza. This is what should have raised a storm and not the measurements by the former head of the Israel Defense Forces' Southern Command, Yom Tov Samiyeh, aimed at proving that his soldiers did not kill al-Dura, or the "investigations" by the physicist Nahum Shahaf. In an eccentric obsession, Shahaf has devoted the past years to this affair, after previously having also obtained "amazing material" on the murder of Yitzhak Rabin.
Al-Dura refuses to step down from the stage because he has become an icon of the Palestinian struggle and a symbol of Israeli brutality. A thousand Nahum Shahafs will not succeed in blurring the unequivocal fact that a scandalous killing of children is taking place in the territories.
Even if the director of the Government Press Office, Danny Seaman, is right in determining that the film made by the reliable and experienced French journalist Charles Enderlin was "staged," and even if he succeeds in clearing Israel from responsibility for this killing, what will we say about the other children who have been killed? That their killing was also "staged?" That the IDF did not kill them through carelessness and contempt for their lives; by being trigger-happy and even acting with premeditation? If Israel were really interested in improving its "public relations," it would embrace the al-Dura family instead of all the foolish investigations. It would provide compensation to the family and show the world that it is truly and sincerely sorry about the death of one child.
The question of who killed al-Dura is like the question of what Joseph Trumpeldor mumbled before his death. The myth in both cases is already stronger than any investigation. Al-Dura became a symbol because his killing was documented on videotape. All the other hundreds of children were killed without cameras present, so no one is interested in their fate. If there had been a camera in Bushara Barjis' room in the Jenin refugee camp while she was studying for a pre-matriculation test, we would have a film showing an IDF sniper firing a bullet at her head. If there had been a photographer near Jamal Jabaji from the Askar camp, we would see soldiers emerging from an armored jeep and aiming their weapons at the head of a child who threw stones at them. But these children did not become symbols; there are no stamps bearing their portraits, no streets named after them and no songs composed for them as with al-Dura because they were not filmed at the time of their deaths.
Al-Dura became a symbol because every struggle needs a symbol, a shrine for the masses of dead and the anonymous heroes. The assumption that the IDF soldiers firing at Palestinians at the Netzarim junction killed the boy cradled in his father's arms exactly seven years ago is the most reasonable one. As far as we can remember, there has been no other case in which Palestinians fired at the IDF and hit a Palestinian child.
But even if there is some doubt, it is certain that the IDF has killed and is killing children. So this ridiculous focus on who killed al-Dura, a question that will never be resolved, is no more than a tempest in a putrid teapot. There should be a tempest, a great and mighty one, but one focused on an entirely different issue: Why is the IDF continuing to kill children at such a frightening pace, and why doesn't Israel take responsibility for this and compensate the families of those killed? But no one is conducting "investigations" about this.