Palestinians mourn Sameer Awad during a funeral in Budrus, Tuesday, 15 January 2013. (Photo: Allison Deger/Mondoweiss)
The final act of every Palestinian funeral is a military incursion into the deceased’s village, at least since the 2012 Palestinian bid for non-member observer status with the United Nations.
In the case of Sameer Awad, the 16-year-old killed by the Israeli army in occupied Budrus after taking his exams last Tuesday, the military began firing tear gas into the village while Awad’s peers were still mourning over his grave.
Similarly two months ago, Rushdi Tamimi, 31, from Nabi Saleh was killed by Israeli-fire during a protest over the bombardment of Gaza– and then Tamimi’s loved ones were hanging over his headstone as the Israeli military walled in the village with tear gas. And then an epilogue: within five minutes of the last funeral speech the distinct crack of live-fire bullets was heard. Anyone from outside of Nabi Salah who traveled to pay respects was trapped for the next few hours.
The renewed suppression of Palestinians organizing burials recalls a commonplace tactic during both the first and second Intifada. Just the other night a Palestinian friend told me about the funeral of her cousin during the second Intifada where she and her family were assaulted with tear gas before reaching the grave site. Now Israeli government officials decrying a third Intifada—which Palestinian leaders have yet to call for—and their labeling of a time of troubles coincides with flourishing crackdowns on any Palestinian organizing with even the slightest political tenor.
The circumstances around Awad’s death showcase this ramped up military response to relatively inconsequential and nominal acts of resistance. The day of Awad’s death he and his classmates had just finished the first day of final exams. It was 10 am; the students left their school, which happens to be adjacent to the village cemetery, and headed toward the seam line. Sometimes a concrete wall, sometimes a fence, in Budrus the separation barrier is a metal chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, and an unpaved military road. Beyond the fence is a thick forest.
“Every day there is a problem between the children and the soldiers,” said Ayed Morror, 50, who told me he witnessed Awad’s death. Habitually after school the youth go to the only open plot of land in the village and throw stones at the fence, or soldiers. On the day of Awad’s murder the students pelted the fence. According to Morror, “the children didn’t see any soldiers because they were hidden in the trees” and even moments before Awad was shot there were “no clashes at all.” His narrative of the events leading up to Awad’s death differs from both the official statement by the IDF, and a press release by Palestinian sources from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.
After the first bullet hit Awad’s leg, he and the other youths sprinted uphill to the cover of Budrus’s stone houses, said Morror. Then shots two, three and four entered Awad’s leg, back and head, respectively.
“I think this is the last string. It’s the highest pressure to get the children to not go to the fence,” said Morror, who indicated that the evening prior the military had raided the village. Their purpose? Morror said they did not come to arrest anyone; rather they spoke to parents admonishing them for allowing their children to be in the Western part of Budrus closest to the separation fence.
All photographs are by the author.