Opinion

The Higher the Rank, the Greater the Immunity for Killing Palestinians

Unlike Elor Azaria and Ben Dery, low-ranking soldiers of Moroccan origin, the officers responsible for the killing of the Abu Dahrouj family in Gaza have not been brought to justice.

Abu Dahrouj
Anne Paq/Activestills.org

Let me guess: As opposed to Elor Azaria and Ben Dery, the soldiers who took the lives of two women and two children of the Abu Dahrouj family are not of Moroccan origin. Nor were they filmed in the act. The military authorities admitted that the killing of the four was a mistake, but the military advocate general decided there would be no criminal investigation. The killers of the Abu Dahrouj family enjoy the anonymity that was denied Azaria and Dery, who killed Nadim Nawara, a teenager who posed no threat to him.

Is being Moroccan a condition for the rare instance in which the authorities prosecute soldiers for killing Palestinians? Let me guess: Its not a condition, but it helps. Among the ruling echelons, the non-Ashkenazi is still the other who its easier to present as the exception and to sacrifice on the altar of the false claim of purity of arms.

Let me guess: In the state comptrollers report on 2014s Operation Protective Edge, which is due to be released this week, there will be no mention of the Abu Dahrouj family, nor of the other 141 families that lost three or more members who were killed by our military with the push of a button or two. A total of 742 people. The primary characteristic of that summer offensive was the bombing of homes with their occupants inside. We wiped out families and we erased this fact from every political, military, ethical, philosophical, media or legal discussion.

In any case, this report was not aimed at asking whether its proportionate to obliterate entire Palestinian families in order to kill Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives. The state comptrollers report was not written to warn our warlords that their behavior invites any military force hostile to Israel to justify in the future the proportionality of bombing entire Israeli neighborhoods, with their elderly and children, on grounds that there are military officers and Shin Bet security service people living there.

Actually there were five people killed: Hayel Abu Dahrouj, 29, his wife Huda, 27, their two sons Hadi, 2, and Abdullah, 3, and an aunt, Hayat. Wounded were the grandfather, Shahdeh, 67, and two nephews, Mohammed, 11, and Abdel Hamid, 9. Neighbors were also wounded. Early last month the human rights groups Al-Mezan in Gaza and Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, submitted to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit an appeal of the military advocate generals decision not to investigate the attack on the Abu Dahrouj home. They are still awaiting a reply.

The Israel Defense Forces attacked the Abu Dahrouj home the first time on July 16, 2014; on that day the family got a phone warning of the pending attack and the family fled within 10 minutes. The upper stories of the home were destroyed, but lacking anywhere else to live, the family returned home and crowded into the ground floor. According to the military prosecutions website, on August 22, before midnight, anonymous IDF soldiers again attacked the house, this time with no warning. According to witnesses, two missiles were fired at the home. Attorneys from Al-Mezan and Adalah, representing the survivors, included this incident in a list of deadly incidents that they asked the IDF to investigate on suspicion that the laws of war had been violated.

In March 2015 the military prosecution issued an update on exceptional events that had occurred during the summer 2014 offensive. The killing of the Abu Dahrouj family was among them. The update said that according to a human rights group (whose name wasnt mentioned), Hayel Abu Dahrouj had been an Islamic Jihad military operative, but he wasnt the target of the attack. (According to Al-Mezan he was an employee of the PA). The General Staffs inquiry staff discovered that the bombing had been aimed at a weapons storehouse that was located in an open area about 100 meters from the familys home.

Apparently, due to an unexpected technical failure, the bomb deviated from its intended course and hit the home of the Abu Dahrouj family, it said, while another bomb hit the storehouse afterward.

family home
Anne Paq/Activestills.org

The IDF expressed regret, said that precautions had been taken (the use of relatively small and precise armaments), and that there had been real-time observation, but that the error indicates nothing about the legality of the action after the fact. The military advocate general refused to allow Adalah and Al-Mezan to examine the investigative material.

In the appeal to Mendelblit, attorney Muna Haddad wrote, The MAGs position indicates an erroneous interpretation of international humanitarian law and improper and mistaken application of the laws of war Its inconceivable that even as the army claims that use was made of relatively small and precise armaments and that precautions were taken, that it was a technical failure that caused a direct hit and the killing of five civilians and heavy damage to the home and its environs ... The Israeli army attacked the home with two missiles from the air, which strengthens the conclusion that the attack was aimed at a civilian target, whether deliberately or recklessly.

She added that under international and Israeli law, an error doesnt provide an exemption from criminal responsibility.

Let me guess: Its not being Moroccan or the presence of cameras. The higher the rank of our purely-armed fighters and the larger the number of Palestinians killed, the more likely the killers will be granted immunity from any questions, suspicions, investigations or public ethical criticism.

Abdullah Abu Dahrouj, 3
Anne Paq/Activestills.org