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Why Are Only Some Murders Horrible?

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Wallah Gheith, Abdallah’s mother, in June 2019.
Wallah Gheith, Abdallah’s mother, in June 2019.Credit: Alex Levac
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Dvir Sorek was a soldier and a settler, who was killed by a Palestinian in the occupied territories. He was reportedly a delightful young man who was loved by everyone who knew him. His father, too, seems to be an impressive man. The Israeli media is filled with the story of Sorek’s killing, it’s hard to find a politician who has not weighed in, in a single voice of course. Israel called on the UN Security Council to issue a denunciation, while the honest broker Jason Greenblatt blamed Hamas. Sorek was killed while returning from Jerusalem, carrying books by David Grossman he had bought there as gifts for his teachers.

Abdullah Gheith did not have Grossman’s books with him when Israeli Border Police officers shot him dead. Gheith probably never heard of Grossman. He was a 15-year-old boy from Hebron who wanted to pray in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on the last Friday of Ramadan, and who had to climb over the separation fence in order to sneak into the city.

>> Read more: Abdallah, 15, dreamed of praying at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque. He was shot dead on his way

It was “Laylat al-Qadr,” or “the Night of Destiny,” when Muslims seek to have their prayers answered, and it became Abdullah’s last night. Border Policemen shot him from a distance, when he posed no threat, in front of his father and his sisters.

Gheith’s killing was barely reported in Israel. No one even considered calling it murder, let alone describing it as horrible.

Greenblatt didn’t hear about it, nor did the Security Council. Presumably he was just as delightful and innocent as Sorek. “You in Israel don’t know the pain we live with,” said his father, as broken as Sorek’s father; he didn’t know just how right he was.

In Israel, not every murder is murder. The killing of a Jew is always murder. The killing of a Palestinian is never murder. When a soldier kills a Palestinian, even if it’s a child, it’s heroic. When a Palestinian kills a Jew, even if it’s a soldier, it is a horrible murder. When a Jew kills, he is a warrior; when a Palestinian kills, he is a murderer. Arab murders Jew: news; Jew murders Arab: not news. But murder is murder; there is no murder that is not horrible.

Not in Israel. Here we reinforce the false narrative that Israel is always right, always the victim, and the Palestinians are always the despicable murderers. The absolute collaboration of the politicians and the media with this lie validates this apartheid-in-death. Not only during their life are the Palestinians inferior, but also in their death; not only are their lives cheaper than those of the Jews, but their killing is not considered a crime. Sorek’s killers will be sentenced to life in prison. Reith’s killers will not even be questioned.

Sorek’s killing touched the hearts of Israelis because he was an Israeli. Nothing is more human than that. But when one death is given so much attention and another is ignored completely, the twisted ethical implications must be considered: Only Jews are permitted to kill. The Palestinians have an inarguable right to resist and to rise up against the occupation. One need not justify acts of killing in order to understand their motivations. The obvious question is whether fence-climbing is a more serious offense than squatting on stolen land in Ofra. Surely neither justifies murder.

But Israel is permitted everything. When Israeli army sharpshooters shot from a distance Abd el-Rahman Shatawi, age 9 — who is still in the hospital, fighting for his life — they committed a horrible crime. But nearly no one in Israel cried over it, certainly not Israel’s mainstream media, which continued to publish with its usual nonsense.

When police officers killed Mohammed Samir Abid in Isawiyah after he threw firecrackers at them, they destroyed his family. But Israel, which went into national mourning over Sorek’s killing, forbid Abid’s family from grieving his death. Jerusalem police officers tried to brutally interrupt funeral arrangements and pulled down a memorial his family erected in the place where he was shot. Palestinians aren’t even allowed to mourn their dead. Pain, grief, mourning and victimhood are reserved for Israelis, who never murder Palestinians.

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