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Israel's Brutal Storm Troopers Should Have Never Been at Abu Akleh's Funeral

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Clashes erupt between police and mourners during the funeral procession of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, on Friday.
Clashes erupt between police and mourners during the funeral procession of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, on Friday.Credit: AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

No Israeli should have slept well on Friday night. Our police are storm troopers. Palestinians have long known this, but Israelis now have to understand this as well: Israel’s police have shed all restraints.

The blue-uniformed policemen and the green-uniformed Border Policemen have become storm troopers in the deepest and most loaded sense of this term; there is no other way of describing them. In a country that has a police force like this, every citizen should be concerned, even very frightened. It’s long been an issue that is not just for Palestinians to worry about; they have become inured to it and bear scars from it; now Israelis should be filled with anxiety too.

Anyone behaving with such barbarity at the funeral of a popular heroine of this land will behave in the same manner under other circumstances as well. Two days ago at a Palestinian funeral, tomorrow at demonstrations or polling booths in Israel.

It’s true that what drives police storm troopers is imperiousness, racism and the sense that Arabs are not human beings. But this trot down a slippery slope cannot be stopped. When there are no boundaries or anyone putting a stop to it – and there are none – everything will be breached much faster than one imagines. Ethiopians, the ultra-Orthodox and peace activists have already tasted some of this; it will soon spread to clubs, concerts and the home of everyone.

The Israel Police have a minister in charge, but all Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev had to say on the weekend was reprimand Joint List MK Ofer Cassif for an unnecessary blow he delivered to a policeman blocking his way, accompanied by some rude comments as well. If this is a minister for public security and this is his party, the Labor Party, we’re better off having Kahanist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir fill the role. It couldn’t get much worse, and Ben-Gvir will at least evoke some objections. On Friday night, the so-called government of change, incompetent and indifferent, evoked a yearning for its predecessor.

It couldn’t get much worse than the brutal clubbing of people carrying a coffin in which a revered journalist is lying, in the course of a national event. The fact that policemen did this in view of the world’s cameras only illustrates to what extent this is the only language they know, of which they’re not even ashamed. Forget for a moment these police thugs, who are heroes when confronting the weak in their hour of mourning. But what about their commanders? After all, senior officers participated in this revolting club-fest as well. No, this was not an “image disaster,” as some sanctimonious people claimed, it was a mega-disaster, a moral and political one. With such a police force in our capital, we don’t have a democracy.

They shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The minister should have instructed them to that effect, and the commissioner should have executed the order. But Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has returned to being a commander of the Border Police, the sick and violent occupation force, allowing his policemen to strike out as wildly as they saw fit. They came there already with reinforcements, precisely so they could do what they did. Why are reinforcements needed at a funeral? Why have the police there anyway? Bar-Lev should have stopped it in advance, or at least stopped it as it was unfolding. But Bar-Lev is absent and the commissioner opted for this.

Nothing would have happened had the Palestinians been allowed to mourn their heroine in their city, as free people, even if only for a moment. She was someone the IDF had apparently killed, as they’ve killed other journalists in the past. Is there any point in noting that no Israeli journalist was ever killed by Palestinians in the occupied territories?

After this disgraceful funeral, it’s no longer important who shot Shireen. You may have killed her? The least you could do is let her people accompany her on her last journey. But no. As noted by MSNBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, Israel not only doesn’t allow Palestinians to live as Palestinians, it also doesn’t allow them to die as Palestinians. Actually, it doesn’t allow them to die as human beings. It snatches and barters their corpses, and now its policemen knock down coffins from the shoulders of people carrying them. You couldn’t get a more morbid snuff act.

Storm troopers is a derogatory term for cruel occupier forces. This makes Israel’s police force storm troopers. Coming soon to your neighborhood.

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