Opinion

A Young, Daring Palestinian Hoped to Challenge His Smug ‘Masters’. He Erred

The Israeli Army and Shin Bet were quick to hunt down the Palestinian who killed Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger and Staff Sgt. Gal Keidan and declare his guilt. Not so for Israeli killers of Palestinians

The scene of the shooting and stabbing attack in Ariel, West Bank, March 17, 2019.
Moti Milrod

The Palestinian man who carried out the stabbing and shooting attack in the West Bank on Sunday was very daring. It would behoove Israelis to understand where this came from, rather than making do with labeling him a “terrorist.”

His gutsiness fills many Palestinians with wonder, with pride. It somewhat mitigates those many moments of humiliation they all suffer, if only because they are all dependent on permits from the Israeli military for even the most basic human activities. Even though the overwhelming majority of them won’t emulate him, Palestinians identify with what his act expressed: A deep loathing of Israeli soldiers and civilians, the masters and rapists of their land, who have settled in their midst. And yet the question, from their perspective, has to be whether this courage will, or could, lead to any concrete accomplishment in their struggle for freedom.

Haaretz Weekly, Episode 19Haaretz

He couldn’t have guessed that the soldiers at the bus stop would not know how to react to his daring. From his perspective, the most likely scenario was to be shot dead or to be seriously wounded by a soldier, not to jump into a rental car that a frightened tourist abandoned. He couldn’t have known that Gal Keidan, the soldier he stabbed with a knife, was more comfortable with musical instruments than with a loaded rifle. He wasn’t interested in the personal backgrounds of the Israeli civilians — settlers or otherwise — whom he shot at because they were at the junction, in a part of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control. They wandered around, as they wander around there every day, like lords of the estate. That’s what he saw. That’s the view that stings the eyes of every Palestinian, every day.

His disappearance also testifies to his daring and resourcefulness. Unlike those who opted for suicide attacks, or the Gazan youth who approach the border fence expecting to be shot and killed by soldiers, his escape suggests he wasn’t dead-set on dying.

The Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces revealed his supposed identity within hours. We should recall that 50 days have passed since an Israeli civilian killed Hamdi Na’asan in the West Bank Palestinian village of Al-Mughayyir, and we haven’t heard anything from the IDF, the Shin Bet or the police about the suspect’s identity or place of residence. We haven’t heard that he was arrested and that soldiers from the Engineering Corps were sent to survey his family’s home to prepare for its demolition. As a deterrent.

As usual, the Shin Bet and the IDF have already convicted the man they’ve decided carried out the attack. In their wake, Israeli journalists and media outlets don’t use the word “suspect” when speaking about a Palestinian, a second- or third-generation survivor of the arrogant, violent Israeli military occupation. Journalistic ethics go out the window; reporters don’t even keep up the pretense of not convicting someone before his trial. Their obedient keyboards call him a terrorist, whose full name and place of residence must be published immediately as additional proof of the efficiency of the Shin Bet and the IDF.

Even before he’s been captured, the bulldozer blades are being sharpened so they can take revenge on his family and destroy his home. As a deterrent. The Shin Bet and the IDF and their commanders don’t ask whether their collective vengefulness is what draws in additional young Palestinians “without a record” who “have no ties to any organization.”

Young Israeli soldiers are sent to risk life and limb to protect the lordly normality of Jewish settlers on stolen land. This abhorrent normality forces upon the local Palestinians a life without a trace of normality, from cradle to grave.

So a young Palestinian man hoped to stir the masters from their smug satisfaction. He erred. Now the masters, with the covert or overt funding of government ministries and local councils, will establish more unauthorized settlement outposts, whose purpose is to further expand the armed normality of a Land of Israel for Jews only.