Opinion

On the Margins of the Murder

Mohammed Musa would not have been shot while giving his sister a ride if it weren’t for the soldiers sent to guard an illegal outpost

The family of Mohammed Musa, who was shot to death by Israeli soldiers, in the village of Dir Ballut, November 9, 2017.
The family of Mohammed Musa, who was shot to death by Israeli soldiers, in the village of Dir Ballut, November 9, 2017. Amira Hass

1.Shortly after the funeral of Mohammed Musa of Deir Ballut, people suspected that Israel had stolen his organs. This suspicion added to the suffering of the family, whose son and daughter, Mohammed and Latifa Musa, were shot by an Israeli soldier on October 31 (“A cheerful car ride, a final selfie,” November 11).

Those who saw the body of the murdered young man while it was still in the Palestinian ambulance were shocked. “Why is he cut and sewn up from head to crotch?” asked one boy. “Why are his eyelids stuck?” asked an adult. “Why didn’t the family receive a medical report?” someone complained. She also wondered why the army transferred the body on November 3 “back to back” to a Palestinian ambulance at the checkpoint at the village entrance, and didn’t allow it to be delivered earlier to a Palestinian hospital. And so everyone reached the mistaken conclusion that organs had been stolen.

The family opposed an autopsy. Attorney Mohammed Mahmoud of the Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Commission, who represented them in a hearing in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, told Haaretz that he personally favored the autopsy, and that the Palestinians of all people should support autopsies of those killed by Israel Defense Forces fire. Mahmoud also rejected the possibility that organs had secretly been taken from the murdered man’s body.

Mahmoud told Haaretz that Judge Shaul Gabay Richter had expressed regret about the family’s opposition, and said that the circumstances must be thoroughly investigated, because Musa was apparently shot in the back. He ruled that the conditions that require an autopsy were present here. In other words, Mahmoud explained, a man possibly died as a result of a crime.

A Palestinian pathologist and a Palestinian lawyer were present at the autopsy, and it was videotaped. And this is how it works, said Mahmoud. The autopsy is from the head downward, and samples must be taken in order to negate the possibility of death from other causes. Because of the tests, the report will be given only after 90 days. Two soldiers were investigated, said Mahmoud, and without an autopsy they cannot be tried.

2. Another aspect that couldn’t be included in the article about the murder of Mohammed Musa, for lack of space: the major robbery of Deir Ballut’s lands. The following data was collected by Dror Etkes, a researcher of the Israeli settlement policy and founder of the Kerem Navot NGO. British Mandate maps show that Deir Ballut’s land area was 14,746 dunams. In 1949, the village lost about 2,775 dunams, which remained on the western side of the Green Line. It kept 11,970 dunams. At an early stage after 1967, the army declared a closed military area for training purposes, No. 203, on over half the remaining land: 6,622 dunams.

There have been no training exercises there for a long time, but the closure order, in other words the non-use of the land, remains in place. Eventually the Civil Administration declared 4,502 dunams of the village land as state land – almost all the land is inside the closed military area. Only 236 dunams that were declared state land are outside it, and have long since been transferred to the settlement Alei Zahav, which allocated them for its new neighborhood Leshem.

Some 1,250 dunams within the closed military area are west of the separation barrier. The negotiations over the interim agreement allocated zero dunams of land in Area A (under Palestinian administrative and policing authority) and 688 dunams in area B (the built-up area and its margins, under Palestinian administration) to the village.

3. And another thing that was only implied in the article for lack of space: The soldiers (or soldier) who shot at Musa’s car are posted there in order to guard another illegal outpost, which is confidently developing into another neighborhood of the illegal settlement Halamish. For that purpose, there is a checkpoint at the entrance to the highway, which is the only direct connection for the village of Nabi Saleh to the village of Beitillu and other villages to the south.

We already reported in August that the road was closed to Palestinians immediately after the murder of the Salomon family in Halamish by a Palestinian from Kobar village, and only Israeli cars are permitted to use it. Meanwhile, the army has opened the iron gate that blocked the exit from Beitillu. Its residents are allowed to go to their orchards. But, they are barred on their way north from traveling on a 1.5-kilometer stretch of the road.

A new military watchtower was built at the end of it. Soldiers in a tent ensure that no Palestinian will travel on it. Palestinians are allowed only to turn left, onto a battered and narrow old road, which leads to the village of Deir Nizam. Soon we will see how the 1.5 kilometers of road west of the new outpost gradually become an internal street of the expanded settlement of Halamish.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians are left with the usual option: an annoying detour of several kilometers, another waste of time and fuel on the roads. Nabi Saleh residents have land and orchards there. They were permitted during thiw year’s olive picking to get to their trees via the Deir Nizam road, in coordination with the army.

We’ll see how they gradually will be prevented from reaching the land, and then gradually the land will turn into another area for hikes and relaxation for nature lovers and proponents of physical and emotional health in the settlement. They have already managed to steal the springs of the villages Nabi Saleh and Deir Nizam, with the IDF’s help.

So in brief: A young man from a Palestinian village, 60 percent of whose land was robbed by Israel, sets out with his sister for Ramallah, happy and cheerful. On the way, they have to pass via a military watchtower guarding an illegal outpost. The soldiers’ job is to safeguard the looting and the emissaries of the looting state.