Opinion

Killing a Palestinian and Investigating

When Israeli settlers kill a Palestinian, the story isn’t the murder, but the investigation. We put on a good show, say ‘there is no basis for prosecution,’ and get it over with

Israeli soldiers detain a local Palestinian cameraman during clashes with Palestinians in the village of Tuqu near Bethlehem, West Bank, January 25, 2019.
\ MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/ REUTERS

Someone killed a Palestinian, and suddenly the country is amazed and in an uproar. Who in the world could have killed this Palestinian? (And who even remembers his name? After all, it happened a long time ago, four days ago.) Settlers? The settlement’s volunteer armed security team? Maybe the army?

The undisputed fact is that the Palestinian “met” his death. That’s how it is with the Palestinians. They seek and meet their death. It’s the same custom that got Aisha al-Rabi killed by a stone thrown at her a few months ago.

But the pure Jewish souls can find no rest. We have to investigate, they say, we have to discover the truth, find the murderers, punish them; the same law applies to everyone, Jews and Palestinians.

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Suddenly it turns out that the story isn’t the murder, but the investigation. If only the police didn’t just hold a friendly discussion with the settlers of the Adei Ad outpost but questioned them as people who might be charged with a crime. If only they’d do a ballistics test on the guns, whose barrels have probably already been replaced, if only they’d leave someone in detention for two whole days, we could wash our hands of all this.

Because it’s allowed to commit the most terrible and despicable acts, to kill a disabled Palestinian when his back is turned to the shooter, to demolish a home inhabited by innocent civilians, to prevent entry to a wheat field or an olive grove, to keep 2 million people closed up in a pen, to cause the deaths of sick people unable to get to a hospital – on condition that everything is done according to the regulations, the instructions and the norms.

Order must be maintained. If Palestinians start getting killed against the regulations, we’ll lose control, all the more so if they continue to seek their deaths at the hands of settlers.

According to the legitimate division of labor, only the army is allowed to kill, to close areas, to prevent passage, to demolish homes or detain civilians. The army is the only entity covered by that thick protective layer known as “reasons of security.”

Palestinians mourn during the funeral of Hamdi Nassan, 38, in the village of Mughayir in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on January 27, 2019.
AFP

And when a settler kills a Palestinian, the serious offense isn’t the killing, it’s undermining the army’s monopoly on the use of violence. Ignoring such an important deviation, which is reflected in neglecting to investigate, indifference toward the crime or turning a blind eye, means agreeing to widen the right to kill from those who are authorized “by law” to those who want to kill.

Such a step might confuse the Palestinians, who have gotten used to the fact that a criminal investigation isn’t part of the agreements and consensus between them and the occupier.

So please, investigate quickly and find some guilty party before the system crashes. Because without an investigation, someone might wonder whether the norms and procedures themselves are legal, whether the settlers’ use of firearms is legal. They might even think the settlers' living in the territories isn’t exactly based on the law.

Every self-respecting mafia organization has arbitrators who decide whether the murder of a rival was “legal,” whether the bomb placed under the car was done based on the rules for settling accounts. The arbitrators’ job is to find out the truth, because a mafia that doesn’t operate according to the rules loses control over its members and is likely to collapse.

The police must play the game, maybe even involve the Shin Bet security service, because they have to demonstrate seriousness, fill out forms and examine the evidence, if only to let them stand there with a sad expression and say “there is no basis for prosecution.” They must investigate because that’s the only way to grant the settlers the right to kill. Without it they remain unlicensed hit men.

After all, an investigation is also allowed to reach a convenient dead end, or render the crime kosher. Without it the settlers will turn into people who take the illegal law into their hands, and they will lose their status as the writers of the laws. Put on a good show, and let’s get this over with. Incidentally, the name of the man who was killed is Hamdi Talib Naasan.