I never met him, but I think of him a lot since last Saturday, the last Saturday of his life. I can only imagine the life and death of Antar Shibli al-Aqraa, the Palestinian youngster from the village Qablan, who was about to be married in two weeks and snuck into Israel to try to find work.
He came to make a living, like thousands of young Palestinians who have no other way to bring bread to their families’ table. Here he was called an illegal alien, as though he were a (suspicious) object.
Nor have I ever met the Border Police volunteer, another strange title, who shot Aqraa to death on the outskirts of Yarkon Cemetery. The knife Aqraa allegedly threatened him with was never found, but the volunteer shot him to death, just to be safe.
Saturday morning was a beautiful day. One must be very bored and lead a very empty life if he has nothing to volunteer for but the Border Police – as though we don’t have enough of those brutal forces without him and as though there aren’t better places in which to volunteer.
He went to the Yarkon. The cemetery, not far from the river bank, was where Aqraa and his friends spent the night, where they found shelter from their hunters, the Border Police volunteers.
The city of the dead is where the illegal Palestinian workers hide on Saturday.
The manhunters burst forth, Aqraa tried to flee, perhaps he was afraid to be arrested on the eve of his wedding. It is highly unlikely that he endangered anyone. For a moment he stopped and bent down. The volunteer decided the Palestinian was going to pick up a knife, and he shot him dead.
This heinous killing took place in the cemetery on a beautiful Saturday morning. Aqraa’s life was gone, the wedding was gone and all that remained was the family’s pain and bereavement. Who else cares?
The police internal investigations department is investigating, but everyone already knows how most of these inquiries end. In 2007 two other Border Police volunteers, Itai Arazi and Shai Sulam, took four illegal aliens to a remote forest on a cold winter’s day, stripped them of their coats and shoes and threw rocks at them to drive them away like animals.
They were never convicted. After a trial that lasted five years (!) they were sentenced to 200 hours of community service.
The police internal investigations department appealed the verdict but one doesn’t have to wait for the appeal’s result to know that the life and dignity of a Palestinian staying in Israel illegally are the cheapest on the Israeli food chain, even cheaper than the life and dignity of the African “infiltrator.”
They roam among us like shadows, hiding in construction sites and landfills, cemeteries and industrial areas. They are illegal aliens in a part of their country, which is also ours. Occasionally they can be seen thrown on the ground near one of the roadblocks, bound and humiliated, after a night in detention.
They have no chance of finding work anywhere but Israel. The vast majority of them come here only to make a living. Sneaking into Israel they make a mockery of the separation fence and stay here for weeks on end, far from their homes and families.
Their lives are in danger every moment. Even if they’re here illegally, the way we treat them is not much more legal, it’s certainly not human or moral.
I think of Aqraa because he didn’t deserve to die. He didn’t deserve that miserable life, hiding for a living in cemeteries, and he didn’t deserve that death, being shot like a rabid dog.
Is it needless to write that he too was a human being? That shooting a man dead must be the last resort, not the first? That he too would most certainly have wanted a different kind of Saturday, on which he could stroll to the Yarkon on a beautiful day, sail a boat on the river or walk down to the end of the road and back?