Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avidgor Lieberman is right when he says the “onslaught” directed at the Kfir Brigade solider who executed Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in Hebron last Thursday after Sharif had already been subdued is hypocrisy. In other words, that the Israel Defense Forces spokesman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others who condemned the soldier’s action are hypocrites.
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It’s clear, after all, that it is only because a camera documented a soldier shooting a “neutralized” Palestinian in the head that the people at the top rushed to disassociate themselves from the act. “That’s not how the IDF operates,” they said, meaning that the IDF is usually not so negligent as to allow the actions of its soldiers to be filmed so we know that it indeed is how armed Israelis conduct themselves – executing Palestinians suspected of carrying out stabbings when they no longer pose a danger.
Here are the contours of this hypocrisy:
* On September 25, 2015, soldiers in Hebron killed Hadeel al-Hashlamoun. She hadn’t stabbed anyone but had only gone through a checkpoint with a knife. Three bullets hit her lower body and seven her upper body while she was already lying “neutralized.” There was a foreign activist there who took still pictures that were sufficient to prove that Hashlamoun was not a threat to the soldiers. A storm of controversy ensued. An investigation was carried out and findings were released about a month after the beginning of the “stabbing wave.” The commanders found that the soldiers could have arrested Hashlamoun without killing her, but decided that they should not be punished. On November 4, I wrote: “Punishing them would have required punishing other soldiers who ‘felt that their lives were in danger’ and easily took a life.” I should have written “felt and will feel.”
* With the typical egoism of an occupier, the current violent escalation is marked by Israelis as beginning on October 1, when a husband and wife, Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, were murdered near the settlement of Itamar. But for Palestinians and particularly the Hebronites among them, the starting point is the date on which Hadeel al-Hashlamoun was executed in cold blood. And there are also those who mark it beginning from July 31, when the members of the Dawabsheh family were murdered in the West Bank village of Duma.
* In an analysis on Friday in Haaretz, Amos Harel defines the shooting execution in cold blood and writes: “The ... soldier [a combat paramedic] shoots the prone terrorist in the head at very close range. No one standing around [soldiers and settlers] seemed particularly alarmed by what they had just seen.” There are several possible reasons for that: 1) That is the spirit of the IDF in their view; 2) They had already been present or participated in very similar incidents or knew that that’s what everyone does, only without a camera and 3) Despite remarks by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, the army is not acting to instill the message among soldiers that killings should not happen when life is not endangered.
* Most of those who have carried out the approximately 105 incidents of stabbing, attempted stabbing or knife-wielding since October 3 have been killed by soldiers, policemen and security guards. In all the cases that were not filmed by Palestinians, did the soldiers, police and security guards really act appropriately and had no choice but to kill? In other words, that the hand of God has decided that only what runs counter to the spirit of the IDF is what will be filmed?
* Cameras actually did document the killing on October 29 of 24-year-old Mahdi al-Muhtaseb. He had fled from a soldier he stabbed, was apparently shot in the leg while on the other side of a checkpoint in Hebron and fell to the ground. While on the ground, a border policeman shot him several times until he stopped moving. Palestinians were shocked and alarmed, but the Israelis reacted as if it was the most normal conduct.
* A security official told Haaretz at the time that when Muhtaseb showed signs that he was going to get up, the border policeman shot again. “That is what is expected of a soldier, because who knows? Maybe the terrorist would blow himself up or take out a gun and shoot,” he said. Blow himself up? In the middle of a Palestinian neighborhood? But that’s precisely the line of defense being put forward by the family of the paramedic who executed Sharif in cold blood.
* A smartphone was used on October 4 to film the execution in cold blood of Fadi Alun from Jerusalem, a stabbing suspect who was already lying on the sidewalk after being shot. Palestinians were shocked and alarmed, but the Israelis reacted as if it was the most normal conduct.
* Imad Abu-Shamsiyeh of Hebron, a former volunteer with the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, was the person who filmed the paramedic executing Sharif. He told Haaretz that the solider had demanded that he move away, but he went onto a roof and took the video footage. He is active in the Hebron-based group Human Rights Defenders, but knew nevertheless that he had to turn the video footage over to B’Tselem so the Israelis could not dismiss the filmed evidence as some kind of Palestinian nonsense.
* On Thursday, senior officials expressed shock that army paramedics had not administered medical care to the injured Palestinian. But many reports from the scene of stabbings or knife-wieldings in recent months have contained repeated accounts of the army failing to care for injured Palestinians who lay bleeding until they died. IDF spokespersons dismissed the claims as a common Palestinian fabrication.
One may conclude that the only time there was a failure to provide medical care to Palestinians is when B’Tselem has had filmed evidence. When B’Tselem does not have such evidence, the soldiers are the Righteous Among the Nations.