Opinion |

If You're an Arab, They Shoot First

Just watching the police throwing Khayr al-Din Hamdan onto the floor of the police car after he was mortally wounded says everything about the value of an Arab's life.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Why bother looking into the circumstances of the killing of Khayr al-Din Hamdan of Kafr Kana? Just watching the police officers throwing him, like a sack of onions, onto the floor of the police car after he was mortally wounded says everything about the value of an Arab’s life. The video shows no hesitation or embarrassment on the part of the ones who took this young man’s life.

I had a bothersome thought a couple of days ago that would not let go: Where did they put the mortally wounded young man in that cramped space? A likely assumption is that they put him on the floor of the car, at the feet of the police officers who had shot him moments before. From the calm demeanor of the police officers, I assumed that if this had happened in a far-flung, remote place, Hamdan’s fate would have been no different from that of Omar Abu Jariban, who was left bleeding at the side of the road. It is a good thing that there are cameras.

I found another question disturbing as well. What were the two police officers talking about as the wounded Hamdan lay, hovering between life and death, at their feet? Did they talk about the fate of a person whose whole life had been ahead of him? About his future plans, which were cut off in a single moment? About his last movements? About his echoing fall? And yes, what were his last words?

The chain of events seems to indicate that the police officers were involved with more practical questions, such as how to spin a story of self-defense. Police officials said that the police officers had fired in the air first and at the young man only afterward, when their lives were in danger. Too bad the camera ruined the cover story.

In the meantime, minister Naftali Bennett praised the police officers — the one who did the shooting and the ones who did the dragging — not forgetting to label Hamdan a terrorist. That is the first confirmation of killing. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the police officers into civilians whose attackers deserve the death penalty — without trial, of course. That is the second confirmation of killing. The prime minister mixed an apocalyptic issue of the destruction of the Jewish state with the issue of the killing of this Arab man. Thus it happens that the incident is equal in severity to the nuclear threat from Iran. And that is the third confirmation of the killing. The nation-state’s senior echelon is girding its loins against the late Khayr al-Din Hamdan and against its Arab citizens in general.

It is just as important to know what the police officers were plotting before they fired at the young man, who is clearly seen turning back the way he came, with his back to them. It seems we will never know. In other places on earth, even in the worst incidents, there were some among those involved whose consciences awoke, and they told what had really taken place. Not in Israel.

We will never know the original plan that preceded the massacre in Kafr Qasem, and we will never know who killed the six Arab citizens on Land Day in 1976. We will also never know the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the 13 Arabs who were killed in the events of October 2000. The Or Commission determined that they were killed without having endangered the police officers’ lives, but the police, backed up by all the who’s who of Israel, refuses to find out the whole truth.

This is the way things are: When the victim is an Arab, an entire country devotedly protects the murderers. Then they wonder why the police officers are trigger-happy. It happens because Arab blood is less valuable. Since October 2000 and the daring report by the Or Commission, which spoke about the police’s hostile treatment of the Arab population, more than 30 young people have been killed by police gunfire. Only in very few cases were files opened against those responsible for the killings. In most of the cases, the incidents went by quietly.

There can be no better time to return to the question Moshe Sharett asked 60 years ago: Is Israel a state of law and order or of robbery? This time, the robbery of life. The final joke is that the justice ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers is going to investigate the incident. To remind you, the investigation department is the one that closed the investigation files of those who were killed in the events of October 2000. Yes, there were 13 people killed, but there are no killers. Arabs are not murdered; Arabs vanish.

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