The Execution of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun

Israelis mark the killing of Eitam and Naama Henkin as the beginning of the 'wave of riots' of October 2015. For the Palestinians, the killing of Hashlamoun at an army checkpoint in Hebron was the last straw.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Israeli border police check Palestinians' identification cards at a checkpoint as they exit the Arab neighborhood of Issawiyeh in Jerusalem, October 22, 2015.
Moments before the killing of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun at the IDF checkpoint at the entrance to Hebron's old city, September 22, 2015.Credit: AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The parents of the soldiers who killed Hadeel al-Hashlamoun while she was lying wounded are not worried: No military force will break into their homes in the wee hours of the morning, gather at gunpoint the wife and the scared little children into a small room and measure each room in preparation for blowing up the house. They probably continue to have their relaxed Friday night meals at home, perhaps accompanied by Shabbat melodies. Normal life of the ordinary families will continue as usual.

An Israel Defense Forces investigation revealed that the soldiers who killed Hashlamoun on September 22, while she was passing through a checkpoint at the entrance to the old city in Hebron, could have done with only arresting her. Human rights organizations and journalists, not to mention basic logic, reached the same conclusion much earlier. At least two soldiers shot the 18-year-old from a distance of two to four meters. Three bullets hit her legs. Another seven — her upper body. She fell to the ground after the first shots, but our soldiers continued to spray her with bullets.

Israelis mark the killing of Eitam and Naama Henkin as the beginning of the “wave of riots” of October 2015. For the Palestinians, the killing of Hashlamoun was the last straw, added to accumulated, permanent fear and lack of security in the face of thousands of armed Israelis (soldiers and settlers) who are stuck among them and disrupt their lives all the time. That Israelis are ignoring the constant undermining of the Palestinians’ personal security and their civilian dead as an explanation for the escalation is another example of how cheap Palestinian life is in Israeli eyes.

B'Tselem, relying on the testimony of a Palestinian eyewitness who approached her, noted that Hashlamoun (yes, a veiled woman!) was holding a knife. So even the assertion of the learned investigation that there was a knife in the area is not exactly an exciting revelation. But Hashlamoun did not stab any soldier (as opposed to the impression given by the initial reports of her death). She didn’t even get close enough for the knife to graze his rifle. While she was lying on the ground, wounded, she could have been arrested. But the soldiers shot her repeatedly.

There is especially no surprise in the IDF's decision not to take any steps against the soldiers, who, according to the investigation, did not have to kill. It was the first incident in which they were involved, it was reported, and they felt their lives were in danger. For heaven’s sake, what kind of military training do the soldiers receive, when a knife held by a girl at a distance of some meters scares them so much? (Answer: four months of basic training and two months of advanced training, according to the Givati Brigade website.) And how many Palestinians are the soldiers allowed to kill until they get rid of “a sense that their lives are in danger” and begin to internalize their lethal, terrorizing power?

The “first incident” explanation is a weak excuse designed to conceal the fact that in the past month, many other soldiers acted like those of the Tzabar battalion: They killed instead of arresting. Punishing them would have required punishing other soldiers who “felt that their lives were in danger” and easily took a life. Do you remember the yeshiva student Simcha Hodedtov, who was killed by soldiers on October 22 as he got off the bus? Isn’t killing him proof of the victory of solldierly feelings, which we hold more sacred than life?

The fact is that the IDF permits its soldiers to be the prosecutors, witnesses, judges and hangmen of every Palestinian — and to carry out a death sentence on the spot. That’s nothing new. And yes, it’s another explanation for the desperate decision by individual Palestinians to embark on stabbing campaigns against Israeli civilians, including the elderly.

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