I Thought Israeli Soldiers Weren’t Supposed to Shoot Palestinian Girls Anymore

But the executions – there’s no other way to describe them – of girls and boys, women and men, keep coming.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

To Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Chief of the General Staff,

This is to ask that you watch the video documenting how Israeli soldiers shot Jamila Jabbar on Tuesday at a bus stop near Ariel. Look how she’s approaching the two soldiers slowly, the knife held over her head. She’s a girl of 17, sir.

The soldiers back away from her. They are armed with rifles and are well protected; she’s a slender girl with a kitchen knife, taking hesitant steps. And in the blink of an eye one of the soldiers shoots her in the stomach. She collapses onto the sidewalk.

Is this how soldiers are supposed to act, sir? Are you proud of their behavior? Is the Israel Defense Forces proud of them? Are these soldiers really “professional and ethical” as you described Israeli soldiers in your speech to high schoolers in Bat Yam in February? At the time you said, “I don’t want a soldier to empty a magazine on a girl,” even if she was doing something very serious.

So I’d like to know: Do you really think in this case the teenager threatened the soldiers’ lives? Was shooting her in the stomach the only way to eliminate the threat? Is it possible that two Israeli soldiers can’t subdue such a girl without shooting her? Don’t they know any other way to handle the threat of a girl younger than they, when they are two and she only one?

What do you think they’ll take away from their military service, from this incident? Either that Palestinian lives are cheap, so there’s no problem with shooting them, as you’ve trained them to think, or that they’ll think it’s permitted to shoot any person with such ease.

Maybe they’ll grow up one day, think about what they did, regret it, feel guilty about what they did to a teenage girl when they were standing at the Ariel junction to protect settlers, and be left emotionally scarred. There have been such cases, albeit too few.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot speaking at an event for reserve soldiers at the President's Residence, June 27, 2016.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

In Bat Yam you also said, “If we were to perform immorally, it would pose a threat to the IDF.” Let’s leave aside the question of whether moral behavior is merely a cost-benefit issue for the army. Do you think this was moral behavior? Is the IDF supposed to make the death wish of every suicidal Palestinian girl come true?

Did you think the soldiers who shot and killed Arif Jaradat, a young man with Down syndrome, acted morally? What about those who shot H., a schizophrenic young man who was riding his bike in Awarta? What about the border policemen who last Friday shot Sara al-Hajuj at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a killing that B’Tselem described as an “execution”? And 15-year-old Mahmoud Rafat Badran, whom your soldiers killed “by mistake” after they sprayed a car with bullets for no reason?

Are you satisfied with an army that acts this way? If so, your remarks about ethics and shooting girls carrying scissors were empty words, and the applause for your courage was misplaced. We’ve only met once, sir, a while ago, but I believe that you meant what you said. Still, the only proof lies in your actions.

You head a hierarchical organization where an order is an order. It would be pretty easy to prevent all these incidents. It’s not enough to take the single case of Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot a subdued Palestinian, hold a show trial, and wave it around to demonstrate how moral the IDF is, while the brigade commander who shot and killed a fleeing youngster keeps his job.

If you really believe what you said, give the order and behold: These executions – and there’s no other way to describe them – will stop. Not only will the IDF’s image benefit, so will Israel’s security. It’s in your hands, sir.

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