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Let the People of Israel Remember the Soldier Who Shot a Palestinian in the Back

Gideon Levy
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File photo: Col. Yisrael Shomer.
File photo: Col. Yisrael Shomer.Credit: Reuven Castro/ Walla
Gideon Levy

Not a muscle in his face twitched as he mechanically read the text before him. Yizkor Am Yisrael – let the people of Israel remember. A spotless white shirt, tie and green beret – the Israel Defense Forces’ dress uniform. Not a muscle twitched when he read, “And all who were killed within the country and outside it by murderers.” Nor did a muscle in his face twitch when he read, “And mourn the radiance of their youth and their wonderful heroism.”

Not a muscle twitched in the face of Nahal Brigade commander Col. Yisrael Shomer when he read the Yizkor prayer on Memorial Day eve at the Western Wall plaza. What was going through his head at that moment? Did he think for even a moment about his own victim, whom he executed by shooting him in the back as he fled? Did he think about the “radiance of youth,” and “wonderful heroism” of the teenager he killed for nothing?

Did he think about Mohammad Kosba, a 17-year-old child of refugees, whose two brothers had been killed by IDF soldiers and a third one wounded, and who threw a stone at the brigade commander’s car and then tried to run for his life?

Did Mohammad Kosba’s memory even flit through Shomer’s head, or do Palestinian youths not have “radiance of youth” or “wonderful heroism,” and so he’s totally forgotten the incident, as has the IDF?

It happened on Friday, July 3, 2015. Shomer, then the Binyamin Brigade commander, was in his car with his driver on the road between Qalandiyah and A-Ram. There was heavy traffic, as usual. At a gas station the youth came close to the brigade commander’s car and threw a heavy stone at it from close range.

No one was hurt, but the commander was infuriated and got out of his car to chase the escaping youth. He fired at least three bullets at him at close range, all of which hit him in the upper body, until the teenager fell into a pool of his own blood on the road.

After that, either the commander or his driver approached the dying youth, turned over his body with his foot, got back into the car and sped away. It didn’t even occur to him to call an ambulance. Hit and run. He shot an unarmed teenager in the back, when he no longer posed a threat, then fled. That was the heroism of the Binyamin Brigade commander, or, more accurately, his cowardice. A hero against fleeing teenagers.

The next day I visited the house of mourning in the Qalandiyah refugee camp. I remembered Sami Kosba from his previous period of mourning, when in 2002 he lost two children within 40 days – Yasser, age 10, and Samar, 15, who were killed by Israeli soldiers. Now he had also lost Mohammad. No one was even crying anymore in this house of poverty and bereavement.

What happened next could have been predicted: The military police “investigation,” or caricature of one, passing the case to the military prosecution, and the automatic decision to close the case. Why, did sombody die? Even an appeal to the attorney general didn’t help; the killing had been a “professional mistake,” in the words of the military advocate general. There was a slight delay in his advancement, but now Shomer occupies the prestigious post of Nahal Brigade commander.

But that wasn’t enough for the IDF. For shooting an escaping youth, shooting to kill, not only was there no prosecution, not only was he not booted out of the army with his tail between his legs, not only was his military career not halted, not only was there no denunciation or apology, not only was there no embarassment – on the contrary. The killer was chosen to represent the IDF at the most important ceremony on Memorial Day.

The IDF is proud of Shomer and his actions. It views him as a hero. This is his moral legacy to soldiers: Shoot fleeing teenagers and represent the IDF. Almost no one protested this desecration of the memory of the fallen; no one complained about this moral rot.

At the start of the ceremony Shomer was also given the honor of accompanying the president and chief of general staff as they entered, both wearing medical masks. But even the most hermetically sealed mask couldn’t block the stench and the shame.

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