In early January 2007, ten-year-old Abir Aramin held her sister’s hand and began her routine walk to school before a rubber bullet penetrated the back of her skull. She died in a nearby hospital shortly thereafter. Three and a half years later, in mid-2010, the Israeli-run Jerusalem District Court ruled that the State of Israel was indeed responsible for her death. On September 25, 2011, almost five years after the murder of an innocent young Palestinian girl, the Jerusalem District Court determined that Israel must pay NIS 1.6 million, or $430,000 USD, as compensation to the Aramin family. The two Israeli Border Guard officers involved in the shooting were never tried in court, but so goes the justice system from the seat of a Palestinian.
This entire situation — the murder, the investigation, the trial, and the subsequent rulings — exemplifies the hypocrisy and the exceptionalism so heavily defended in the court of law. Immediately after Abir’s death, her family hired a physician to perform an autopsy. According to the report, Abir had indeed been killed by a rubber bullet that caused both immediate and severe brain damage. Meanwhile, Israel’s police force dismissed the conclusion and argued that Abir was hit by a stray rock by a Palestinian rioter. With the help of Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the Aramin family published the autopsy report to dispel any doubt that she was killed by the bullet of an Israeli Border Guard officer.
The publication of this autopsy report made it virtually impossible for Israel to set aside and ignore the investigation into Abir’s death. Four officers were questioned although each claimed absolutely no shots were fired. The officers also defended the theory that Abir’s death was a result of a stone thrown by Palestinian rioters. According to the police’s self-investigation, the Border Guard officers on duty at the time were dispersing “severe riots“. Eyewitness accounts contradicted these alibis, all of which saying that the officers were in fact following Abir as she approached her school. B’Tselem conducted its own investigation of the scene of the murder and concluded that no riots took place on that day.
After much deliberation and even more waiting, the court confirmed in 2010 that Abir’s death was due to negligence in the form of a bullet fired in violation of orders. A compensation was yet to determined and the involved officers received nothing more than informal reprimands.
Thirteen months later, the court decided on an adequate compensation determined by “the customary sum of compensation awarded in similar cases”, according to Ynet. Two of the four investigated officers were fined NIS 10,000, or almost $2,688 USD — the price of a used 1995 Toyota Camry.
What is most disturbing about the court’s ruling is not the fact that Israel’s apology comes only in the form of a check but rather, the unenthusiastic, lackadaisical, and irresponsible way the Israeli justice system handled the case. The court’s decision took over four and a half years to make although the evidence and testimonies was collected and verified only days after Abir’s death. The Border Guard officers lied under oath, telling investigators that they never fired a single bullet even though the evidence collected in the back of Abir’s head said otherwise. They were never charged with perjury.
And as a matter of fact, they were never charged with anything really. A petition made its way to Israel’s High Court demanding two Border Guard officers be tried in court for their involvement in the shooting of the ten-year-old child. The petition was rejected in July.
There have been many Abir Aramins in the past, and this entire case is only proof that any future cases like this one will be dealt with in the most inexcusable and carefree way possible. Clearly, doing justice for murdered Palestinians, even young schoolchildren barely as tall as their school desks, is not as urgent as one would expect.
The life of a child cannot be bought. It cannot be brought back either, but the check meant to appease the Aramin family is nothing more than dirty money. It comes from an establishment that refuses to practice complete responsibility of its actions. A child was left for dead while the individuals responsible for putting her in that condition skated away with measly fines that had more to do with their poor cooperation in the investigation than with their actual actions. Had the scenario been reversed, had an Israeli child been killed under jurisdiction of a Palestinian court, Israel would not have rested until justice was served complete with fines, jail time, and an assortment of other maximum punishments.
Tragically, Abir Aramin was Palestinian, and so the rule of justice grounded on equality never included her.