First the Army Killed His Son, Then Israel Took His Work Permit

Haaretz Editorial
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Mohammed al-Alami's standing in front of his picture
Mohammed al-Alami's standing in front of his pictureCredit: Emil Salman
Haaretz Editorial

There’s no need for a Military Police investigation to know that the soldiers who killed a child, Mohammed al-Alami, in his home village of Beit Ummar last month violated our most basic ethical expectations for the army’s operations in the heart of a civilian population.

It’s still too early to know whether the soldiers who raced after a pickup truck carrying a man and three children and shot deadly fire at it will receive backing from their commanders, or whether they’ll be punished in some way – and if so, how. Will a punishment be imposed simply to cover military rear ends, or to make the value of a Palestinian child’s life clear to all soldiers? Mohammed dreamed of working for NASA someday, helped his uncle in his pepper garden and would have turned 12 in September.

One thing is already clear. Israel’s defense establishment moved quickly to punish the bereaved father after soldiers killed his son on July 28; it canceled his permit to work in Israel. He found this out from a colleague at work, as he has told Haaretz’s Amira Hass.

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The father wasn’t surprised, because many other people have experienced the same thing. Palestinians who lose a first-degree relative to soldiers’ bullets also automatically lose their work permits in Israel. In the computer system, they’re labeled “denied for security reasons.”

And this isn’t true only for people whose relatives were killed during armed clashes with soldiers or who carried out a terror attack on Israelis. It’s also true for Palestinians whose loved ones were killed by soldiers in a clearly civilian setting, unconnected to any incident that could be defined as combat or even a “disturbance of the peace” (i.e., a demonstration), or whose loved ones had no connection to such an incident.

Mourners attend the funeral of 12-year-old Palestinian boy Mohammad Al AlamiCredit: Mussa Qawasma

Initially, the pain and bereavement dwarf the shock of losing one’s job. But later, the loss of work, thanks to an arbitrary decision that takes no account of the identity of the person being hurt, becomes an inseparable part of the injustice.

The elder al-Alami said he had been denied a work permit in Israel “for security reasons” once before, because in March 2002 soldiers killed his brother Amjad. The rights group B’Tselem looked into that death at the time and concluded that Amjad hadn’t taken part in any fighting.

A few years ago, the security ban on al-Alami was lifted and he began supporting his family by working in Israel. Judging by what he told Haaretz, he was happy with his work (paving roads, often at night) and had good relations with his employer. By telephone Sunday he said his employer tried to renew his work permit but was told that the issue “is in the hands of the Shin Bet Security service.”

The least the defense establishment could do now is to return the work permit to the bereaved father, Muayyad al-Alami.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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