His Life Was Not Worth More Because He Was One of 'Ours'

A Palestinian and an Israeli were needlessly killed, yet the government and the media only seek justice for the latter.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Funeral of Chief Superintended Baruch Mizrahi in Jerusalem, April 16 2014.
Funeral of Chief Superintended Baruch Mizrahi in Jerusalem, April 16 2014.Credit: Reuters
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Both were victims of terror, innocents who were ambushed and shot. One was a Palestinian teenager out picking wild greens to earn some money for his family, the other a senior police officer who was driving his family to a Passover seder in a West Bank settlement.

The teen was killed because, according to his killers, he tried to sabotage the separation barrier that divided his village from land owned by his family. The officer was killed because his killers viewed him as an occupier, traveling in occupied territory as if it were his. Neither claim justifies these killings in the slightest.

The teen was shot in the head by an army sniper, although he was a danger to no one. The officer’s killers shot in all directions, endangering the lives of all his passengers, although they were a danger to no one. Both of them, the teen and the officer, left behind grieving family members, in pain and in shock. They died within a few kilometers of each other, in the South Hebron Hills, within a few weeks of each other.

Commander Baruch Mizrahi was killed by a Palestinian terrorist and Youssef Shawamra was killed by an Israeli soldier. Both killings were equally criminal.

Mizrahi’s death was followed by an intensive manhunt that included placing an entire town on lockdown and conducting house-to-house searches. It can be assumed that the killer and those who sent him, if he was sent by others, will be apprehended and sentenced to life in prison.

There is no need to hold a manhunt to find Shawamra’s killers: They are Israel Defense Forces soldiers and the identities of their commanders in the 77th Armored Battalion are well known. No one thinks to prosecute them for their actions.

The death of Shawamra, at the age of 14, received scant coverage in the Israeli media. The death of Mizrahi, at the age of 47, received an enormous amount of media attention. One must pause for a moment to understand the brainwashing mechanism in Israel that distinguishes between victims in this manner.

To spell it out: An Israeli victim must be given broader and more sympathetic coverage in the Israeli media than a Palestinian victim. That is the way of the world and of the media, especially when they are built on fanning fears, feelings and instincts and on keeping the “tribal campfire” burning.

But it is difficult to keep silent in the face of the over-the-top coverage of Mizrahi’s terrible death and the almost nonexistent coverage of Shawamra’s no-less-terrible death.

Mizrahi’s death led news programs, of course, the anchors wearing their automatic masks of melancholy, and coverage of his state funeral filled the front pages of the newspapers. What hasn’t been said about, written about, Mizrahi? “Where’s Daddy, is he in heaven?” blared the lead headline of Yedioth Ahronoth. “Only eight-years-old, and reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish over his father,” was the front-page headline in Israel Hayom.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting murder. A group of Knesset members that met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the time of the funeral was accused of something close to treason. Abbas was accused of denouncing the murder “only behind closed doors.”

And what about Shawamra? At his funeral, too, there were crying children, people whose hearts were broken; he too was the love of someone’s life — his mother’s — and his father, like Mizrahi’s son, wants to see his loved one’s killers caught and brought to justice. No one, not even the Palestinians, even considered suspending the peace talks over his death, and Abbas did not dare, for some reason, to accuse Netanyahu of incitement that led to Shawamra’s death.

Netanyahu? He did not denounce the boy’s killing, not even “behind closed doors.” No one demanded that he do so; after all, he is the prime minister of the chosen people and the commander-in-chief of the ethical army.

Rest in peace, Baruch Mizrahi and Youssef Shawamra, of blessed memory (or should we say, may God avenge them). You were both similar - needless victims of a vicious terror that shoots to death innocent people.

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