How the Third Intifada Will Start

Senseless killing like the shooting of 15-year-old Wajih al-Ramahi are only likely to be repeated.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The third intifada will be started by the soldier who kills another child, the military prosecutor who once again decides that the killing was by the book, the bureaucrat who signs the order to demolish a house, the brigade commander who continues to watch how settlers beat down shepherds, the judge who extends the remand of another protester, the settler who kicks a young woman. One of these – a loyal representative of Israeli society and its government – will once again be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. One of these violent actions that they and tens of thousands of other Israelis commit every day as a matter of routine, between making the sandwich for the child, the post on Facebook or the prayer in the synagogue, will light the fire.

Children in the Jalazun refugee camp were not telling the truth when they first told journalists and B’Tselem and Red Cross researchers that there had been no stone throwing before the soldiers shot their friend Wajih al-Ramahi. That’s how they protect themselves from the widespread, dominant, vindictive lie that they are the violent ones. The adults wonder deep in their hearts whether their children should gamble with their lives in order to remind the armed invader that he is not a guest; whether it is the children’s task to remind those who travel in official cars in Ramallah that they are not the governors of an independent country.

Rahami, who in January 2014 would have been 16, may have taken part in stone-throwing on Saturday afternoon, or he may have been watching. The stone-throwing children were at least 150 meters from a military lookout and firing position and from soldiers on foot, and maybe 200 meters from the nearest houses in Beit-El. The soldiers were in no danger at that distance, and neither were the settlers. The deadly bullet fired by an IDF soldier hit Wajih in the back. The name of the soldier will be kept well hidden in the military justice system and by Israeli journalistic conventions, which dictate that the name of any Palestinian anywhere be quickly exposed, while the identity of soldiers remains protected.

The soldier fired when the child (labeled in Israel a “youth” because he’s Palestinian) was running away, because the soldiers had already started shooting. They didn’t even bother to use tear gas.

The most important thing that we know is that the stone-throwing began after the soldiers appeared, and this is according to military sources. They said that “a squad from the Tzabar Battalion of the Givati Brigade was deployed on ambush to apprehend stone-throwers. During the activity [the Palestinians] began throwing stones at the squad and toward Israelis in the area. According to the report the squad commander began the procedure for arresting a suspect and shooting was only in the air.”

How typical. For 47 years that is what IDF soldiers have been doing, and they haven’t had enough: They fire bullets in the air that kill children and play at boredom-relieving provocations, showing up near a civilian neighborhood in their uniforms with their arrogant guns and jeeps, calling that security. Then they go back to the bosom of the prosperous, embracing settlement. The mother of all provocations.

The soldier who fired could not have known that Wajih’s family has been fighting Israeli violence for years. Their sons are Fatah activists who before “Oslo” spent years in Israeli jails, and as punishment two of their homes were demolished and two were sealed. In the past decade two of their sons (ages 14 and 21) have been killed by IDF fire. Three of their sons, including one of Wajih’s brothers, are now incarcerated in Israel.

The soldier could not have known, either, and obviously is not interested in knowing, that the Al-Ramahi family is originally from the village of Muzayri'ah near Lydd, one of 36 villages destroyed by Israel after the 1948 war whose refugees now live in Jalazun. In 1994 Wajih’s family supported the Oslo Accords and “peace” and became part of the backbone of the Palestinian Authority.

The blank, tearless faces of the Al-Ramahi family told that they knew full well that with such soldiers and such a government taming them, more tragedies, oppression and struggle await.

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