Israel Must Return the Bodies of the Palestinians Killed at Qalandiyah

Israel's refusal to return the bodies of killed assailants is another depressing stage in the methodical dehumanization of the Palestinians, aimed at continuing the control over them.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Maram Abu Ismayil, 23, and brother Ibrahim Salah Tahah, 16, shot after attempted stabbing at Qalandia checkpoint in West Bank. April 28, 2016
Maram Abu Ismayil, 23, and brother Ibrahim Salah Tahah, 16, shot after attempted stabbing at Qalandia checkpoint in West Bank. April 28, 2016Credit: Reuters, Mohamad Torokman
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Fatmah and Salah Taha lost two children last week. Maram and Ibrahim were shot dead at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in another execution of suspected stabbers. Salah, a taxi driver from Qatannah, who for years drove ritual slaughterers and kashrut inspectors from Bnei Brak, was made a doubly bereaved father.

But for Israel this grief doesn’t suffice. The government is determined to maltreat him further. His suffering and that of his wife isn’t enough to satisfy its lust for abuse. There is no explanation for its stubborn refusal to return the bodies of their children to these poor parents, other than pure evil. There’s no other explanation for this nauseating necrophilia apart from the desire of a few cynical politicians to satisfy their voters’ desire for revenge.

The competition between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is being conducted on the bodies of Palestinians, and it has reached a macabre stage. Erdan, in the name of the police, patriotism and his supporters in Likud, refuses to return bodies. Ya’alon, in the name of a semblance of humanity, will return them, while Netanyahu instructs his ministers not to return them, but this week restored their authority over the morgue refrigerators.

The body of the ramming attacker near Dolev was returned on Tuesday; he was lucky that soldiers killed him and not policemen. MK Oren Hazan has already protested.

Where does this wickedness come from? Why this demonic attitude toward bereaved families whose whole world has been destroyed? At times their loved ones were killed as if they were stray animals; they weren’t given medical attention and were left strewn on the road. And then officials can’t even restore to the families their last vestige of dignity and comfort by returning the bodies so they can have a grave to visit.

Hamas also does this and it’s equally vile, but it does it to try to get its prisoners released. Israel does it with the excuse that it doesn’t want mass funerals and the dead to be glorified; not only does it appropriate the right to decide who lives and who dies, it also gets to decide who will be a hero. As if having their houses demolished and work permits cancelled isn’t enough, family members must also cope with this.

Meanwhile, the bodies are piling up. They are laid out in refrigerator drawer after refrigerator drawer. Bodies of stabbers and rammers along with those who were only suspected of being such; many were executed for no reason. They were women, men and teenagers who decided to oppose the occupation in the most desperate and pathetic fashion. Confiscating their bodies – lest we say snatching them – doesn’t only increase the families’ pain, it intensifies the anger, frustration and desire for revenge in the territories. The posters are already hanging in the city streets: Give us back the bodies.

This is another depressing stage in the methodical dehumanization of the Palestinians, aimed at continuing the control over them. Before their lives were worth nothing; now their bodies aren’t, either. Their lives belong to us and now their bodies do as well.

People without rights, who were born to kill, have no feelings either. They can be abused during their lifetimes, in their deaths and afterward as well. They aren’t worthy of the title “bereaved parents.” What do they know of bereavement? Only we can be bereaved parents, only we can feel grief, alongside the pain and the rights. A society in which not a day goes by without fawning over and wallowing in the memory of its dead is not ashamed to show contempt for the feelings of its victims.

In the house of mourning in Qatannah, an uncle of the dead told me this week, “They killed them, they killed them, but at least give us the bodies. We can’t go on without a grave.” When he sought to find out what would happen to the bodies of his niece and nephew from the Civil Administration headquarters in Beit El, he was thrown out. What are you even doing here, they asked, before they removed him.

Indeed, what was he even doing there?

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