Opinion

Israeli Army Sharpshooter: A Hero Over a Double Amputee

Israel’s army suspended an officer who stole three apples, but didn’t immediately investigate the death of an unarmed Palestinian protester in a wheelchair

Wheelchair-bound Palestinian demonstrator Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, killed on Friday during clashes with Israeli troops near the Gaza border, December 15, 2017.
Mohammed Salem / Reuters

The logic of the attacks on Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot in the Elor Azaria affair, or the demonstrations against the military judges and the steady incitement campaigns against Breaking the Silence are all consummated into the act of one sharpshooter: a shot to the head of a Palestinian double leg amputee, across the Gaza border fence. A Jewish soldier who harms a Palestinian is always behaving correctly; anyone who thinks otherwise is a traitor. That is the essence of the condemnation and incitement, and their great accomplishment. The dissenters are afraid to dissent, and the sniper knows he’s a hero in the eyes of his own society. In its eyes and in his, shooting a disabled Palestinian, especially a Gazan, in the head, is a worthy, proper, patriotic, Zionist act.

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Israel’s advocacy groups for the disabled didn’t demand an army investigation; law professors and anti-Semitism scholars didn’t ask Eisenkot or President Reuven Rivlin to object and worried parents didn’t ask the army to review the rules of engagement because they don’t want their sons treating a man in a wheelchair like a target in a rifle range. If there were people who were horrified (besides the usual journalists at the usual websites and newspapers) by Ibrahim Abu Thuraya being shot in the head, their voices weren’t heard in public.

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It’s hard to say which is more disturbing: that the abovementioned and others didn’t express public shock out of fear of being ambushed by the new patriotic lobby, their lives made miserable; because they assumed their remarks wouldn’t change anything, or because they were simply not shocked. They belong to the society the sniper is counting on.

The army decided immediately, without thinking twice, that it’s wrong to snitch three apples from a Palestinian fruit seller in Hebron. A commander was suspended and disciplined after being filmed doing so, as was reported in a moralistic, confident tone. Mitigating circumstances were not considered: perhaps the officer was thirsty, or hungry. Thirst and hunger disturb the soldier in his lofty mission of protecting settlers.

Had it not been captured by the rather amused camera of a Palestinian, the apples’ fate would have perturbed no one. It’s doubtful the officer’s subordinates would have reported him. By contrast, the army did not immediately know that shooting to death an unarmed handicapped man is unacceptable, or at the very least should be questioned.

It’s hard to say which is more odious: that the sniper’s commanding officers and Eisenkot’s associates knew they’d be denounced as traitors and fear the wrath of right-wing rapper The Shadow (Yoav Eliasi) and his ilk, and that’s why they aren’t saying in public that shooting a legless man in a wheelchair raises questions, at the very least; or that they no longer feel a need to be hypocritical and to rush to say this is not part of the army’s ethos.

The army, which knows the minute a Palestinian rocket hits a Palestinian house in Beit Hanun, needed video clips in the media in order to learn, by surprise, that its sharpshooter killed an unarmed man, a double leg amputee. Pressured as a result of the videos, the army spokesman was forced to admit that “the circumstances of the shooting” were being examined. He also announced that the shots had been aimed at the main inciters in the crowd.

A society that lovingly accepts the role of prison warden to two million human beings in the Gaza Strip also accepts, naturally and without protest or reservations, the death sentence meted out to those deemed inciters. So really, according to the Israeli army’s logic, which permits killing for the crime of incitement, why should a legless “inciter” get a break, as opposed to someone not in a wheelchair?

In addition to the society and the incitement against human-rights organizations, the sniper knows that he and his loving, supportive parents are surrounded by two other protective envelopes: The army guards his anonymity, as a soldier, and protect him from remarks about “picking on someone weaker,” and the army judges itself and its soldiers. And when the army is the judge, it is the best defense lawyer for itself and its soldiers.