The Blood It’s Acceptable to Shed

The further trials and tribulations of the most moral army in the world (part of an ongoing series, alas).

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Samir Awad's grave.
Samir Awad's grave.Credit: Alex Levac
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Which is worse, accidental pointless manslaughter or premeditated murder?

Which is more heinous, pointless killing as a result of mistaken identity, or pointless murder without mistaken identity?

The Israel Defense Forces has definitive answers to these questions, attesting to its order of principles.

It is not the circumstances of the killing, but rather only the identity of the victims, that determines its character.

If the Israeli army purports to be “principled,” and these are its principles, then it would do better not to have such pretensions in the first place.

Capt. Tal Nahman, Yusef a-Shawamreh and Samir Awad never met, in life or in death.

All three must have had dreams and plans for the future, loving families and supportive friends.

Only their single, terrible fate brought them together, and only for a moment: All three were killed by the IDF, for no reason.

Nahman, 21, from Nes Tziona; Shawamreh, 14, of Deir al-’Asal al-Foqa and Awad, 16, of Budrus, were victims of the IDF’s trigger-happy policy.

Nahman died around two months ago, near the Gaza border fence; Shawamreh died 10 days ago near the West Bank separation fence on Mount Hebron; and Awad died some 15 months ago near the fence at Budrus.

All three were shot in an ambush: Nahman after soldiers noticed suspicious movement and failed to identify him; Shawamreh when he crossed into Israel through a hole in the fence made at least two years before, in order to pick wild plants on his family’s field; and Awad after crossing through a similar gap, on a dare from friends. None of them deserved to die.

The two Palestinians were unarmed and posed no danger to anyone.

Shawamreh was shot from just dozens of meters away and, according to a report by B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, he bled to death, waiting for an ambulance that took about 30 minutes to arrive.

Awad was first shot and wounded, trapped between two fences; when he tried to flee, in the direction of his village, the soldiers shot him twice more, at close range, in his head and shoulder, killing him.

An officer from the IDF Central Command called the event “not good.”

Good or not, let’s look at how the IDF dealt with these three incidents, two of which are suspected war crimes.

Last week, around two months after Nahman’s accidental killing, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz announced the dismissals of a few soldiers and officers who were involved in the incident.

According to an IDF inquiry – which was quickly carried out, of course – there were “failures in the planning and the performance of the operation” that led to Nahman’s tragic killing.

The deaths of the two Palestinian teens were no less tragic, but in these cases “the investigation has not yet been completed,” no “failures” have been announced, and no one has been dismissed or prosecuted. Nahman was eulogized by the chief of staff – “We lost a wonderful person” – but perhaps the Awad and Shawamreh families also lost wonderful people.

Fifteen months after Awad’s death, late last week his father, Ahmad Award, petitioned the High Court of Justice, together with B’Tselem, demanding that Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Danny Efroni make a decision on whether to try the soldiers who shot his son or to close the case.

The IDF claims the investigation is “complex,” the standard excuse for shelving cases. The investigation of Shawamreh’s death will surely meet a similar fate.

What is so complex about investigating the circumstances of Awad’s death?

I visited the scene two days after he was killed, the blood stains on the rocks still fresh. The friends with him at the time showed me his escape route, before he was killed.

Even the officer who said the incident was “not good” must have known what he was talking about. But the case file is gathering dust.

Shawamreh died in similar circumstances, because no one was punished for Awad’s death.

That is the “principled” message to soldiers: It is permissible to shed the blood of Palestinian teenagers, none of you will be dismissed and you might even be promoted – because that’s how it is in the most moral army in the world.

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