Two photographs tell the whole story, of about 2,000 words. In the first you see the Israeli commando soldier, armed and protected from head to toe, his face hidden, standing above a hooded mass. The obscure sight is Palestinian teen Osama Hajajeh from Tuqu village, 15 and a half years old, who was arrested a short while beforehand by Israeli soldiers in an ambush. The teen’s hands are tied behind his back, his eyes are covered with a piece of flannel, he is kneeling under orders on the ground, his face down, his back bent over as a soldier from an elite unit of the Israeli Defense Forces points a sophisticated sniper’s rifle at him.
This is the grotesque face of military action. All the training, all the equipment, all the prestige of a commando unit lead to a school boy, blindfolded and bound. A commando soldier facing a punk from Tuqu. That’s the booty. The Israeli military’s daily picture of victory.
The suspicion: the youth from Tuqu threw stones at passing vehicles. If he were a settler teen, he would be chasing the soldiers away, throwing stones and cursing at them. The story would be over. But Hajajeh is a Palestinian teen. The main street leading to his village has been blocked lately, and not long ago a woman from his village was killed in a hit and run by an Israeli vehicle. His village decided to protest. The stone is his protest. The occupier is his enemy.
The second photograph is much more grotesque than the first. The youth whose hands are tied behind his back, his eyes covered, somehow succeeds in getting up and fleeing from the Israeli commando forces. At least four armed soldiers surround him. They stand at point blank range, stretch out their arms to grab him, or catch him, if that was their intention. But IDF soldiers know to speak only one language. There is none other. The language of gunfire. Live gunfire, to be precise. Whether it’s a suicide bomber or a high school student throwing stones, only their gun can speak. Without it, there’s no other language. That’s how they were taught. That’s how they were trained. They no longer have the ability to discern right from wrong, war from antics. To grab a tied up teen with their hands and arrest him? That’s for the weak. And why should they even break a sweat? So they shoot the tied-up youth, whose eyes are covered, from point blank range, with live fire, straight at his crotch. The teen falls down, bleeding. The IDF has won.
This picture can only raise much deeper questions: Who’s the blind one here? The teen whose eyes are covered by a rag or the soldiers whose eyes are open? And more than that, who’s the brave one and who’s a coward? The blindfolded and bound teen who tried to flee facing the ready rifles of commando troops, or the soldiers who shot him? It’s not hard to guess who the cowards are in this picture.
And then comes a surprising turn of events, unexpected and unusual. A voice of reason awakens in the soldiers’ minds. They let the angry residents who gather around to take the wounded, bleeding teen to the hospital, to save his life. In one moment the soldiers rescue their nearly-lost honor. They treat the teen the same way as the officer from the Ahed Tamimi case did, wiser than the chain of command both above and below: He exercised restraint after Tamimi’s slap and showed strength and wisdom. Now it’s the commando troops’ turn to show restraint. The right-wing will of course scream and shout, “you’re not letting the IDF win,” but at least this farce ended almost okay. Good job, IDF.