For the Israeli Army, Palestinian Life Is Cheap and the Excuse Is Always the Same

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
The mourning tent set up for Ahmad Manasra, Wadi Fukin in the West Bank, 2019.

Three months’ community service: That’s the punishment in Israel for a soldier who shot to death a Palestinian whose only crime was that he’d come to the aid of another Palestinian, who had himself been mistakenly shot by the same soldier. That’s the plea agreement that will come before the Jaffa Military Court on Monday for approval. Three months’ community service and a demotion for the killing of an innocent person.

The Israel Defense Forces couldn’t be clearer in the message it’s delivering to its soldiers in the territories. Did you shoot a Palestinian for no reason? Not pleasant, but not terrible, either. If we were to judge by the punishment, from the IDF’s perspective this was no more than a tragedy of errors, even though we’re talking about a soldier who shot two people in one day.

The excuse is always the same excuse: “A warning was received shortly before the shooting regarding the possibility of an attack in the area,” the IDF spokesman said. But from the indictment it’s clear that the primary mistake in this awful case was to be born Palestinian in the occupied territories.

In March 2019, Alaa Raayda was driving with his wife and two children when another car hit them near the village of El-Khader in the West Bank. The other car fled the scene.

Raayda stopped his car at a nearby junction and like any person in a similar situation, got out of his car and started to wave his hands at the fleeing vehicle to perhaps get it to stop. But Raayda isn’t like any other person, he’s a Palestinian. According to the indictment, the soldier who saw him waving his hands thought he was throwing stones at passing Israeli vehicles and shot him. Raayda was wounded in the stomach and evacuated from the scene in serious condition. But the story didn’t end there.

Ahmed Manasra, who was in a car with three friends, came upon the scene en route home from a wedding in Bethlehem. The three friends took Raayda to the hospital, while Manasra stayed at the scene with his wife and daughters, trying to help them restart their car. According to the indictment, when Manasra got out of the car he was shot, and then shot again when he tried to flee. The indictment states that the soldier began shooting because “he mistakenly thought that the deceased was the stone-thrower he’d identified previously … even though in fact the deceased hadn’t thrown stones.”

The soldier, incidentally, was charged only with negligent homicide; he was not charged with wounding Raayda.

Such cheapening of Palestinian lives is totally unacceptable. The soldier didn’t shoot because he was in danger or under fire. The shooting was done from a “pillbox,” a reinforced guard post. The security excuse cannot be repeatedly used to justify such injustices. The IDF operates in a civilian environment and it must be especially cautious in distinguishing between attackers and innocents. The punishment meted out completely blurs this distinction, and sends a dangerous message to soldiers in the field. Such plea agreements must not be countenanced.

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

Click the alert icon to follow topics: