Death Penalty for Stone Throwing

Col. Yisrael Shomer shot and killed a stone thrower in the West Bank. If an investigation is ever opened in the incident, it will, of course, quickly be closed.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Palestinian protester throws a stone towards Israeli troops during clashes near Ramallah, May 15, 2015.
Palestinian protester throws a stone towards Israeli troops during clashes near Ramallah, May 15, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Col. Yisrael Shomer says he didn’t know who he had shot on Friday morning in A-Ram, and I doubt it interests him. Still, I want to tell him who it was, but first how it came about. The Binyamin Brigade commander’s jeep was attacked with stones, which smashed its windshield while he was on a road near the West Bank town.

Shomer got out of the jeep and, along with his brave soldiers, opened fire with live ammunition at the stone throwers. The body of the person killed was hit by three bullets – in the head, shoulder and back.

The colonel contended that his life was in danger. The army claimed he followed procedures relating to detaining a suspect (even though all the bullets struck the upper body.)

If an investigation is ever opened in the incident, it will, of course, quickly be closed – either on the grounds that it is not in the public interest to pursue it, or due to absence of guilt. Why? What happened? The commander was simply conveying to his soldiers a message that they have long known: the fate of Palestinian stone throwers is death.

That is the prevailing spirit of the Binyamin Brigade commander, of the Israel Defense Forces and of the people of Israel.

Col. Shomer killed Mohammad Kosba. Thirteen years ago, I wrote his father: “Sami Kosba is now a broken man. As he relates the details of his tragedy ... the expression on his unshaven face is one of great sorrow ... He lost two sons in the space of 40 days ... a bereaved father times two.”

The two brothers each survived about a week, before dying at the same hospital in Ramallah. First Yasser, 10, was killed, shot in the head at close range in a stone-throwing incident in the West Bank, near the Qalandiyah refugee camp where his family was living in poverty. Yasser was shot while running for his life from soldiers. He tripped and fell, and they shot him in the head, according to witnesses, while he was already lying on the ground. The Israel Defense Forces spokesman dared claim at the time that the 10-year-old was the “head instigator.”

Just as the 40-day period of mourning for Yasser was ending, IDF soldiers killed his brother Samer. He had been throwing stones at an Israeli tank near the Muqata headquarters of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. The compound was besieged by Israeli forces at the time, and the protest there was in solidarity with those inside. Samer was 15 at the time of his death. He was shot in the head at close range, just as his brother was 40 days before. “Samer? Again a bullet? Again in the head?” asked the disbelieving father from the Jordanian capital, Amman, where he was at the time of the second incident.

I met Sami, the owner of a ramshackle kiosk near the refugee camp school, a short time later, at his home. Also there were his two remaining sons, the eldest, Thamar, and little Mohammad, who was 3 at the time.

Five years later, Thamer too was seriously injured by IDF gunfire. He was 18 then, and it happened at the supermarket where he worked the night shift. According to witnesses, he was shot in the back for no reason while washing down the supermarket floor with a hose. After the shooting, he was arrested by the soldiers – perhaps to act as cover for the senseless shooting.

Israeli activist Aya Kanyuk visited him at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem a short time later. He told her that after the soldiers shot him, they also beat him. He lay in hospital in serious condition, shackled with the approval of the doctors. His father was not allowed to visit him for a few days, but Thamer was fortunate enough to survive.

And then there was Mohammad who, from the age of three, experienced all of these horrors. Now the soldiers have also killed him. The brigade commander’s life was in danger. Suspect arrest procedures were employed. Stones kill. Terrorism. Israel faces an existential threat. The world is delegitimizing it. The IDF is the most moral army in the world.

Gideon Levy tweets at @levy_haaretz

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