Wednesday, May 13. Abir and Mustafa Younis from the village of Arara arrived at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer for tests. Abir was accompanying her 26-year-old son, who has epilepsy and mental health problems. According to reports, an internal investigation by the hospital found that during his examination, Mustafa threatened a doctor with a knife.
On the way out of the hospital the two stopped at a shop. The pictures released seem to show that an argument began between Mustafa and another person, and Mustafa pulled out a knife. Abir thrust herself between them, explaining that her son had a mental illness, and calmed things down. Then at the exit from the parking lot, the Younises were blocked: Armed security guards surrounded their car and one of them pulled Mustafa out.
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It seems an argument developed between the young man and the guards; again he took out his knife, and injured one of them. Within minutes he was on the ground. Ten shots were fired. The guards shot him in front of his mother. Mustafa, prostrate, was fighting for his life.
Not long afterward, about 1 P.M., a report: A suspected terrorist attack at the hospital entrance. After a few minutes, another report: A terrorist stabbing attack and shooting at the entrance – one person lightly injured from the stabbing; the terrorist was shot and incapacitated. A few minutes later – another report, this time from the police: It is likely that the incident at Tel Hashomer was a criminal act, not a terrorist attack.
The story had come to an end, apparently. With a clear beginning, a middle and an end. In less than an hour the incident, investigation, trial and sentencing took place.
As if in a parallel and disconnected world, the Israeli media – obsessed with the game of thrones of the government – were busy with gossip about the negotiations in the corridors of power. Jobs and split ministries and political parties dominated the headlines and pushed the story of Mustafa Younis’ execution to the bottom of the public agenda.
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In the meantime, Arab social media roil in pain and anger. Videos and other images from the field show an excessive and disproportionate use of violence on the part of the hospital security guards. The incident described in Hebrew parlance as a “stabbing incident” is looking more like an execution of a Palestinian Arab citizen.
This was the shooting of a person who – even if he previously constituted a threat and had a knife – no longer represented a threat at the stage where he was caught, shot at some 10 times, and left to bleed on the floor of the parking lot. Then, a “return to routine.”
Since 2000, 57 Arab civilians have been shot to death by police officers. Mustafa Younis was the 58th fatality.
Abir, who accompanied her ill son to the tests at the hospital, from which he would never return, told journalist Furat Nassar: “I said he was ill. Mentally ill. He has epilepsy. I asked for compassion. This is a sick person. And then I heard the shots. They checked his pulse. And that’s it. They treated the security guard. Interrogated him. Three people questioned me. They didn’t let me near my son.
“Why did they shoot him in the chest? Why? Why not in the leg? They wanted to kill him … It’s like I was in some movie. I didn’t see police. I saw a crime,” the mother says.
In the afternoon the next day, Thursday, I drove to console the mourning family, who at the same time had to fight for Mustafa’s good name, for justice in his death – if not in his life. They are hoping to generate noise and headlines so life won’t continue as normal, after the death of their son.
About an hour before Mustafa’s funeral, hundreds gathered in Arara, in Wadi Ara, protesting, shouting and feeling the pain of his killing, which was possible to prevent and should have been stopped.
The light finger on the trigger when it comes to a Palestinian Arab. And the too-light finger on the keyboards of editors, rushing to write headlines that speak on behalf of the establishment, the police and the existing order. The nonviolent protests in Arara were also called “riots.”
The demonstrations, which tried to provide an outlet for the pain, fear and fury, ran into a violent and immediate response. Dozens of armed police officers arrived at the scene, some on horses, ready for battle. Some used violence, yelling, punching and pushing protesters – among them Knesset member Ahmad Tibi (Joint List). The incident ended with dozens in custody; the police continued their arrests into the night.
We lost the Jewish-Hebrew media a long time ago.
I protested alongside Abir. Her cries about how they killed her son in cold blood in front of her eyes were heartbreaking. I joined in her demand to suspend the security guards involved, to conduct an in-depth investigation and to reach full disciplinary-legal justice.
Now, too, days later, the anger, frustration and tears, the bloodshot and puffy eyes from endless crying over the loss of her son – all this remains with me. Also the questions: Until when will our lives be forfeited by soldiers, police officers and security guards? For how long will institutionalized violence allow the murder of our children, our parents, our grandmothers and grandfathers? How long will Jewish society use Arab society as a punching bag?
On Friday, just two days after the death of their son, the family announced that it would honor his wishes and decision to donate his organs, so that his loss would save the lives of others. A humane decision, touching and full of love. Symbolically, that Friday we also marked Nakba Day, commemorating the one in 1948, 72 years ago, as well as the one that still continues here every day.
We are not clinging to the past, we are living it here and now.
Sondos Saleh is a Knesset member from the Joint List.