Devastating news today. By now, many of you might’ve heard about the 65-year-old elderly Palestinian man riddled with bullets while sleeping in bed. If not, here’s an excerpt from the New York Times:
HEBRON, West Bank — Israeli soldiers shot and killed an unarmed 65-year-old Palestinian man in his bedroom in this tense city early Friday, in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity.
The man’s wife said he was sleeping and she was praying when soldiers burst into the apartment before dawn, entered the bedroom and immediately opened fire. Afterward they asked her for his identity card. She gave her account a few hours later, standing next to the bed, whose mattress, sheets and pillows were soaked in blood. The headboard, an adjacent wardrobe and the ceiling were also spattered with blood and bits of what appeared to be brain matter.
Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinian, 65, in His Bedroom, New York Times
His name was Omar al-Qawasmeh and he was mistaken for a terrorist. His native tongue was Arabic, he had tan skin, he was Palestinian, and therefore he fit the criteria. But the Israeli army (which goes so far as to title itself the most moral army in the world) was searching for Wael, his nephew who has been involved in previous run-ins with Israeli law as an alleged militant.
The Israeli military expressed regret over the death of this elderly individual and promised an investigation. I try my best to refrain from being a cynic but I question the sincerity of the army’s response. I wonder how long it took for Ehud Barak to finally give in to mounting global and internal pressure before allowing a spokesperson to issue a semi-public apology. I call it “semi-public” because it wasn’t directed at the immediate victims of this tragedy; it was more of an announcement made to appease reporters and news agencies. The real victims continue to mourn Omar’s gruesome death.
I also question any potential investigation. Especially obvious since the Second Intifada, the term “investigation” has been used as an excuse to politely prolong a situation in the hopes that it might fizzle out and be forgotten. If this comes off as too pretentious of a claim, consider the following statistic as reported by Yesh Din, an Israel-based human rights group:
Up until 2010, no more than “six percent of investigations yielded indictments against Israeli soldiers who harmed Palestinians.” (B’Tselem, another Israeli rights group has done extensive research on Israeli soldiers being cleared of having any responsibility in the deaths of unarmed Palestinian civilians. Read their publication Void of Responsibility here.
An investigation is not necessary. This was not collateral damage. This was not a botched operation. This was not the result of a Hamas rocket. This was not an accidental killing or a misfired weapon. This was murder. Omar was killed in cold blood while his eyes were closed, his head turned away, and his wife was praying.
This is the culture of the Israeli military. We’ve seen it before in Deir Yassin in 1948, Sabra and Shatila in 1982, Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, and hundreds of other times all throughout. No, today’s tragedy doesn’t involve as many deaths as in the previously mentioned massacres but the incidents are all comparable in nature. Once again, this really is the culture of the Israeli military. Israel soldiers practice zero discretion, and while people blindly defend them by pointing out that as soldiers, they grow hardened to the sights and sounds of everyday war, no human being can ever be considered righteous in doing what these Israeli soldiers did to Omar. Ignoring emotional sentiment, their actions don’t even correspond to the type of task they were assigned to.
According to the Israeli army, the soldiers were on an arrest mission. I’m sure we can all agree than an arrest generally involves a law-enforcing figure, the arrester, and the target, the arrestee, who is put into the custody of some police authority for a justifiable reason. An arrest, however, is not to be undertaken with guns ablaze nor should it involve anyone other than the intended arrestee.
In today’s case, the soldiers climbed the stairs and instead of announcing their presence or at least explaining what they plan on doing, they fired a barrage of bullets at the man’s upper torso and head, killing him instantly. Only then did they request identification to verify their task. So what necessitates an investigation? What court in the world will find it hard to punish the individual or individuals involved in the murder of a fellow human being? What army will hesitate to put a murderer behind bars, especially if the army is the most moral one in the world?
It is a case of mentality, of crooked, racist, and deliberately-brutal mentality. Ingrained in the minds of Israeli soldiers is the radical idea that brown skin, Arabic names, Palestinian heritage, and dreams of living independent of occupation are all somehow related to a crude Hamas rocket. Being that Omar represented each of these categories, the soldiers must have felt justified in their actions.
If I were facing any Israeli soldier, I would ask him to consider an alternative scenario: Imagine an Israeli citizen sleeping beneath those sheets. Would you have fired so quickly and forcefully? If you were arresting Avi Yagni or Mr. Rosenberg or Ayalah Oren, would you have checked identification before shooting at their heads?
But Omar’s family members must now deal with the holes in their hearts and the holes in their walls. The Israeli army is free to regret all it wants but the soldiers that killed Omar are still walking free. Tomorrow, they might “arrest” someone else, just for old times’ sake. I don’t have faith in any Israeli investigation of the matter because their is no dispute: today, the world witnessed yet another side effect of the world’s longest occupation. As even Israeli soldiers will contend, morality was thrown out the window decades ago; human lives followed soon after, but today sets in stone the army’s standard approach used in the systematic removal of Palestinians from their homelands: just shoot at them.
Omar is survived by his wife, Sobheye. I couldn’t find anything about the remainder of his immediate family but even so, his murder has affected people well beyond Israel’s apartheid wall.
That night, Sobheye finished her prayer, turned to the soldiers after hearing the rounds go off, and asked “What did you do?”
They cuffed her mouth, held a gun to her, told her to shut up, and walked out.
For more pictures, click here.