Opinion |

Two Shootings in Israel and Palestine, Equally Criminal

Israel is shaken up by gunfire at settlers at the entrance to their illegal settlement but ignores the shooting of helpless Palestinians

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Israeli soldiers fatally shoot Mohammad Khossam Khabali, Tul Karm, December 4, 2018.
Israeli soldiers fatally shoot Mohammad Khabali, Tul Karm, December 4, 2018. Credit: B'Tselem
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Mohammed Khabali was killed by IDF soldiers who shot him in the back of his head. Shira Ish-Ran was seriously wounded when she was shot in the abdomen from a passing car. Khabali was a young, mentally ill man whom soldiers shot for no apparent reason from 80 meters away on his city’s main street. Ish-Ran was seven months pregnant when she was shot at the entrance to the settlement of Ofra.

A mentally ill man and a pregnant woman, both helpless. Both shootings were equally criminal, there is almost no moral difference between them. The only difference is that the gunmen at Ofra had a clear motive – their violent struggle against the occupation and the settlements. The soldiers’ motive for killing Khabali is not clear, and it’s doubtful they even had one. They were in no danger from the young man with a broomstick in his hand who was walking away from them at a time when some stone-throwing that had been going on had already stopped.

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Khabali died. Ish-Ran is recovering but her baby died on Wednesday evening. From here the unbelievable gap between the two events starts to open. How can one compare the harm done to a pure, innocent settler to the killing of a young Palestinian, even if he is mentally ill, from an poor family, whose brother is also mentally ill and whose father is disabled. Compassion? Humanity? There’s nothing to talk about.

Through its profiteering media, Israel closely followed Ish-Ran’s recovery – watch as she opens her eyes and sheds a tear in the top headlines – but almost totally ignored the killing of a son of refugees in Tul Karm. He never existed and he was never killed. The shock at the shooting of Ish-Ran is humane and understandable. The attention, concern and identification with one of your own are also understandable. But to totally ignore the other act, which was committed by one of your own, is disgraceful.

It wasn’t just the media, of course; all the politicians were shocked by the shooting at the settler and ignored the shooting of the Palestinian that was carried out on their behalf. U.S and settlement ambassador David Friedman tweeted that the Ofra shooting was “Another vile act of Palestinian terrorism.” Presidential adviser Jason Greenblatt slammed the attack as “absolutely disgusting.” When has Ambassador Friedman ever condemned a killing by IDF soldiers? Ever? As for the adviser to the peace talks – only the shooting of settlers disgusts him? The shooting of a mentally ill man doesn’t disgust the American man of peace? Oh, right, we’re not talking about Jewish blood, which is redder than everyone else’s.

The search continues for those who shot Ish-Ran and they will surely be caught in the end. They will be prosecuted in military court and get at least 10 years’ imprisonment. Their families’ homes will be demolished. They’re terrorists.

There’s no need to search for the soldiers who shot Khabali. Their identities are known; their faces are visible on the video showing them walking slowly on the quiet street and shooting to kill. No one is thinking of arresting them – why, who died? – the Military Police investigation will go on forever and in the end they might be tried for some minor violation whose punishment is a small demotion. But it’s doubtful even that will happen; experience shows that in a few years the case will be closed.

The Khabali case was closed on the night the poor young man, nicknamed “Za’atar,” was shot. Israel is shaken up by gunfire at settlers at the entrance to their illegal settlement and ignores the shooting of helpless Palestinians. In fact, it supports these criminal perpetrators. After all, they are IDF soldiers, the nation’s beloved ones, who are above any suspicion.

The Khabali case was closed because his life never interested anyone in Israel, so neither does his death. Because Israel considers the killing of a Palestinian to be far less serious than the killing of a stray dog. Because there’s nothing cheaper in Israel than a Palestinian life. The soldiers who shot Khabali knew this. That’s why they shot to kill him, for no reason at all.

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