First published by the Middle East Monitor on 14/11/2019
elatives of Palestinian Mohammad Sharab, who was killed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza, mourn during his funeral ceremony on 14 November 2019 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency]
Those interested in human rights should remember the name of Omar Haitham Al-Badawi, from Al-Arroub refugee camp near Hebron. He was hit by Israeli gunfire outside his house. An eyewitness said that a gas canister had set fire to an area near his house. He pulled a towel from his house and indicated to an Israeli soldier that he was going to try and put the fire out. That same soldier shot him in the chest. Minutes later he succumbed to his wounds in a Hebron hospital.
Omar Haitham Al-Badawi, 22, was shot dead in front of his house by Israeli forces [Twitter]
The incident did not take place in Israel but in the illegally occupied West Bank. The innocent man posed no threat. He is just a Palestinian, a number, an inconvenience. If he had left his homeland of his own accord, he would not have died. It is his fault for clinging proudly to his land. Even if he had posed a threat, the soldier could have aimed at a part of his body that could have incapacitated him, but why bother? He is just a Palestinian.
“Shocking to see the video [of] today’s killing of Omar Badawi by Israeli security forces,” Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for Middle East peace, tweeted, adding that the Palestinian appeared to have “posed no threat to anyone”. However, nobody expects action to bring the murderer to account.
I do not know if the soldier enjoyed doing this as much as the incident recently reported, dating back to May 2018, involving Karam Qawasmi. Karam tried to enter Jerusalem but an Israeli soldier stopped him and turned him back. As he was walking away, arms above his head, the soldier shot him in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet. Unlike Omar, Karam survived.
After falling from the shot, Karam recalled that he “felt numbness in my body that lasted around five minutes”. “I do not know who exactly shot me, but after I got up, all of the soldiers started to shoot around me, just for laughs,” Qawasmi said. He had already been subjected to hours of humiliation and beatings by the soldiers before he was allowed to leave. “They rammed me [with a jeep], then took me under a bridge and started beating me,” Qawasmi said.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said: “The video is a clear indication of the Israeli occupation forces’ deliberate shooting against Palestinians, sometimes for entertainment and sometimes to show their arrogance and in most cases the shooting is justified under the pretext of security.”
This incident shows the attitude of Israeli soldiers to Palestinians. They are either a “play thing” or their blood is cheap. Other incidents confirm the lack of value placed on Palestinian lives by Israel.
Sara Daoud Ata Tarayra, 27, from Bani Neim town near Hebron, was a pregnant married woman, living in Hebron, and was killed at the entrance of the Ibrahimi Mosque, in Area H2, in the city. Eyewitnesses disputed the Israeli army’s claim that she had attempted to stab the soldier.
Viewers around the world saw Israeli soldier Elor Azaria walk up to 21-year-old Palestinian Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif, who lay injured on the ground after being shot by another soldier, point his gun at the motionless man and shoot him in the head. While he served a token prison sentence for his crime, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for him to be pardoned. He became a folk hero.
That same status was unofficially bestowed on settler terrorist, Baruch Goldstein who in 1994 murdered 29 Palestinians performing morning prayers at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron. His act of terror was rewarded with the division of the mosque into a Jewish and Muslim area.
Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem has documented Palestinian deaths in 2019. The question I pose is, how many of these Palestinians would have been killed in the same manner in a Western style democracy? In countries where there is accountability and where all lives are valued, soldiers and policemen and women know that they must act within the law or face consequences for their actions.
Killings by Israeli snipers of Palestinians marching to the Gaza fence for return to the homes they and their families were expelled from in 1948, have largely gone unpunished. Israel claims that there is no need for external investigations into its crimes because it carries out its own investigations. However, as part of its investigation into the killings of over 200 Palestinians in the now nearly 83-week-old Great March of Return, a soldier who killed a Palestinian minor was sentenced to a one-month community service.
The soldier killed Othman Ramis Helles during a protest near the Karni crossing east of Gaza City on 13 July 2018. The ruling, as quoted by Israeli media, states that the soldier fired his weapon towards the unarmed teenager “disobeying an order leading to a threat to life or health”.
If Israel placed real value on Palestinian lives, such a sentence would never be commensurate with the loss of this young man. Othman’s father, Rami Helles, told the New York Times he was deeply disappointed by the sentence. “I was hoping for financial compensation and jailing him for a longer period,” he said. “This is unjust.”
The recent attack by Israel on Gaza, which started at 4am on 12 November with the extrajudicial killing of Islamic Jihad leader Bahaa Abu Al-Ata in an air raid, deeming him an imminent threat, has left more than 30 dead, amongst them innocent women and children.
The latest were eight members of the Abu Malhous family in Deir El-Balah, killed by Israel and leaving an infant orphaned.
The so called “international community” will not stand up to Israeli crimes or even insist that human rights organisations – which simply document its crimes – must be allowed to do this important work without hindrance. The case of Human Rights Watch Director Omar Shakir who is likely to be deported soon is a case in point.
It is clear from Israel’s murderous history since its creation in Palestine, against the will of the indigenous Palestinians, that Palestinian lives do not matter. Even the notorious Balfour Declaration implied Jews were a people, while the Palestinians were just “communities”. That attitude continues to this day. Britain and Israel’s other allies believe Israel can use violence at will under the pretence of “self-defence” but deny that right to Palestinians.
Palestinian lives matter to Palestinians but it appears not to Israel, the pro-Israel lobby or Israel’s allies. If they are interested in genuine peace then they will find it when to them Palestinian lives matter as much as Jewish lives. Until then, sadly many more Palestinian lives will be extinguished by a brutal and murderous Apartheid regime.