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When Israeli Soldiers Moonlight as Armed Robbers

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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An image of the incident in which Abu Aram was shot in the village of al-Rakiz in the southern Hebron Hills, January 1, 2021.
An image of the incident in which Abu Aram was shot in the village of al-Rakiz in the southern Hebron Hills, January 1, 2021.
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

An armed robbery that deteriorated into a murder attempt took place Friday in the remote South Hebron Hills village of Al-Rakiz. The armed robbers, in uniform, tried to steal a generator in broad daylight and in full view. The robbers tried to load the generator onto their vehicle as its rightful owners, three unarmed shepherds, tried to save their property with their bare hands. The generator is a lifeline for these shepherds, whose village is not allowed to connect to the water or electricity supply. That’s why they fought for it with all their meager strength.

The scene continued for a few minutes: the robbers trying to put the generator into their getaway vehicle, the shepherds trying to retrieve it. A few times they wrested it from the robbers, who yanked it back. Each side followed the choreography of an armed robbery, with curses and desperate cries as background music.

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Then came the twist in the plot: As the generator passed from hand to hand and the curses continued, one of the robbers lost patience. Shabbat was coming; he wanted to leave with his plunder. What does an impatient robber do? He shoots, to end the saga.

Two shots were fired; one hit the mark. Harun Abu Aram, 24, who struggled with those trying to steal his property, fell backward. The robber had fired from six feet away, hitting him in the throat. Abu Aram was taken in critical condition to a hospital in Yatta. The robbers left with their loot.

They were, of course, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Their heroic campaign was robbing shepherds of their generator, which the IDF called “a routine operation of confiscation and evacuation of an illegal structure.” When they go on leave, these soldiers will surely recount their feats with pride: armed robbery and attempted murder.

But the IDF never calls a spade a spade. For this it has a spokesperson to cover up, whitewash and lie when necessary. The cover-up this time talked about “a violent disturbance involving 150 Palestinians.” A video of the incident shows three shepherds, with nothing in their hands, facing five armed soldiers and trying to retrieve their generator.

This was called a “disturbance of the peace,” but the true disturbance was the robbery. Followed by: “a violent incident in which a number of Palestinians used force.” What happened to the violence used by the soldiers? The theft of the generator?

And then came the punch line: “The claim that a Palestinian was wounded by live fire during the incident is known.” The claim is recognized. The soldiers standing next to their victim didn’t see that he’d been shot, didn’t see him fall to the ground – the IDF is only “aware of the claim” to that effect. It’s already been determined that there is no culprit, no responsibility, no apology and not even any sadness.

In May, soldiers shot a 17-year-old boy in the face, killing him, as he stood with his sisters, far away, on the roof of their home in the Al-Fawwar refugee camp, watching events in the street below. Zaid Qaisia had dreamed of becoming a singer. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported his criminal killing thus: “After the operation there was a report of a dead Palestinian.“ This time there was no “claim,” only a “report,” but the IDF report was no less cruel, chilling and cold-hearted.

On January 30 of last year, too, the army shot a boy in the head in Kafr Qaddum. Mohammed Shatawi, 14, became a vegetable. What did the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit have to say about the organization whose PR he handles? “A claim about a Palestinian who was wounded by a rubber bullet is known.” Even when the victim is a child. Perhaps he wasn’t shot, perhaps he shot himself. After all, there is only some “claim.”

A shocking crime took place two days ago in al-Rakiz – watch the video, available online. When the IDF Spokesperson covers up for the army this way, it is an accessory to a crime. When the IDF Spokesperson whitewashes this way, soldiers know that nothing terrible happened. They can rely on the collaborators – most of the military reporters – not to make a fuss. After all, nothing happened. Nothing.

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