A month before an Israeli border police officer is set to go on trial in Israel for the killing of Palestinian teenager Nadeem Nawara, Minnesota Congressperson Rep. Betty McCollum has requested the State Department to investigate whether the killings of Nawara and a second teen, Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher, both killed during a Nakba Day protest in the occupied West Bank in 2014, constitute a violation of the Leahy Law on aid to human rights violators.
McCollum’s forthright letter on the two killings now known as the Nakba Day killings, asked that a U.S. State Department official be present at the trial “to observe the conduct … to ensure appropriate standards of justice are achieved.” The Leahy Law prohibits the U. S. from providing military assistance “to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” The exception to this prohibition is if “the government of such country is taking effective steps to bring responsible members to justice.”
McCollum, a St.Paul Democrat, references the “brutal system of occupation that devalues and dehumanizes Palestinian children” and characterized Nawara’s death as appearing to be “a blatant example of unlawful killing.” She requested the U.S. impress upon Israeli officials that our government expects a transparent and credible trial; “The person(s) responsible for the murder of this Palestinian youth must be held accountable.”
The Israeli military and their colleagues in the Israeli government have operated in all forms of denial in the face of Palestinian and international outrage over the Nakba Day killings since the day they took place, May 15th, 2014. Although initial medical reports concluded the teens were killed by live fire, the Israeli military denied this, saying that military and border police could not be responsible since only non lethal rubber bullet ammunitions were used that day. When video emerged to confirm live fire, they spun the killings of Nawara and Daher to such an extraordinary extent as to suggest that Palestinians fired the shots, not Israeli soldiers, and claimed the video was “likely forged”.
Israeli military investigators even chose to investigate “the Palestinian side,” based, among other things, on the angle of the fall of one of the boys. Human rights advocates pushed back, questioning the government’s ability to conduct an honest investigation. The US and United Nations called on Israel to investigate after another video emerged further undermining Israel’s version of the story.
A week after the killings former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren went into high gear hasbara mode appearing on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer show and dared to suggest the event had been staged; and perhaps no one had even died that day. This has been one long nightmare of denial.
In cooperation with the families of the deceased, in stepped the groups Defense for Children International-Palestine and Forensic Architecture. Their extensive investigation, including video, weapons, and sound analysis disclosed a preponderance of evidence that a gross violation of human rights had been committed.
In Nakba Day denial, Forensic Architecture researchers stressed that denial has become “a constant and almost instinctual official reaction to any accusation of wrongdoing” amounting to “an offense against truth” which enables the ongoing perpetration of crimes. Their report’s conclusion states that the cases of Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher present a unique opportunity to change the pattern in which innocent Palestinian children are killed and there are no consequence. “Thanks to the wealth of video cameras rolling on site at the time of their shootings, there is an opportunity to hold those responsible accountable for their actions, and to use this case to show the brutal nature of Israel’s domination of Palestinians and their propensity to deny their actions.”
Forensic Architecture concludes:
On November 23, 2014, the Israeli military indicted the border policeman they took into custody earlier that month for the manslaughter of Nadeem Nawara. One of the principal distinctions between manslaughter and murder is whether the killing was premeditated or not. Our report demonstrated that the border policeman involved was conscious of the fact that he was firing live fire when he pulled the trigger and fired the bullet that killed Nadeem Nawara.
The sound analysis connected the killing of Nawara and that of Abu Daher. The same method – firing live rounds through a rubber coated bullet extension was used in both killings. We believe Abu Daher was killed by the same border policeman or one of his colleagues operating in a similar manner.
Given that the defendant is only charged with manslaughter, it begs the question of how accountability, or “appropriate standards of justice”, can even be approached as an outcome of this trial. If Israel is not taking effective steps to bring responsible members to justice, it would therefore nullify the only exception to the Leahy Law.
Speaking of accountability, Brad Parker, an International Advocacy Officer & Attorney for Defense for Children International Palestine states:
Without accountability, Palestinian children like Nadeem and Mohammad will continue to experience systematic and widespread human rights violations as a result of Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians. The status quo of systemic impunity is not sustainable. Rep. McCollum’s letter and leadership is a strong challenge to the impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces, and we hope it will lead to increased pressure from US lawmakers to ensure that Israeli authorities hold perpetrators accountable.