Here’s a wrapup of the coverage of the killings last Thursday of two Palestinian youths during a Nakba Day demonstration in Beitunia in the West Bank. The Israeli government is trying to spin the story to suggest that Palestinians fired the shots, and not Israeli soldiers– in a throwback to the Mohammed al-Durrah spin strategy in the killing of a boy in Gaza in 2000.
Human rights advocates are pushing back, questioning the Israeli government’s ability to conduct an honest investigation.
“The Israeli military’s internal investigations have a shameful record for impunity, and its claim that troops didn’t fire live ammunition on May 15 is contradicted by witness statements, medical records, videos and other evidence,” says Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch, in a statement from the Institute for Middle East Understanding. “The military should be putting its efforts into collecting that evidence, not spinning the story.”
Now let’s turn to the Israeli efforts. The army says a “forgery” is likely in the video that appears to show the Palestinians youths killed by shots from the Israeli side. The Israeli investigators say they believe soldiers who said they only fired rubber bullets. Haaretz’s report:
Israeli military investigators said, however, the shots may have been fired by the Palestinian side, rather than by Israeli troops, and senior Israeli officials said a video of the shootings that has that sparked an outcry was likely forged….
Adding to the video and to the testimony by Palestinians, a medical report by Dr. Salim Saliba, the head of Ramallah Hospital’s trauma department, says both boys were killed by live bullets that entered through their chests….
Border Patrol troops maintain that no live bullets were used to disperse the violent protests. According to what turned up in the military investigation, only crowd dispersing ammunition including rubber bullets was used by Israeli troops.
Israeli military investigators are examining the possibility that the bullets which killed the boys were fired from the Palestinian side, rather than the IDF’s side. Suspicions that soldiers involved in the event were lying when they said no live bullets were fired were examined, and discarded, investigators have said.
The possibility that the bullets were fired from the Palestinian side is based, upon other things, on the angle of the fall of one of the boys.
Former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren sought to explain away the shootings, seemingly suggesting they had been staged, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN yesterday, I am told. “This is getting ugly,” my friend says. “Oren pointed to other cases he indicated were made up or questionable in some way such as the case of Muhammad Al-Durrah and the Gaza beach explosion.” When that video becomes available I’ll update and provide Oren’s precise wording.
Here’s another report on that exchange:
Blitzer: “you don’t know that these two boys are dead?” Oren: “We don’t know anything right now. These photos were taken 4 days ago”
— Gus (@ghassanish) May 22, 2014
Oren: “you see two young people who are supposedly shot.” Supposedly, world. Just like their Gaza massacres, 1,400+ supposedly dead.
— Gus (@ghassanish) May 22, 2014
Oren: “they both fall in the same way. they fall forward, which is inconsistent w/ what we know about combat deaths.” You DEFINITELY know.
— Gus (@ghassanish) May 22, 2014
The man who released the video (above) is pushing back against the Israeli line. Rifat Kassis, the executive director of Defence for Children International – Palestine, gave out this statement to the Institute for Middle East Understanding:
“Defense for Children International Palestine obtained over six hours of security video footage that captured the shootings of two Palestinian teens on May 15, 2014. The video published on YouTube highlights the unlawful killings that occurred on that day, however, the full unedited footage has been shared with a number of news agencies, and others, and they have verified the video as accurately portraying events on that day. “CNN has released footage that captures an Israeli soldier firing at the same moment Nadeem [Nadim] Nawara, 17, was fatally shot in Beitunia, which corroborates the incident captured by the CCTV footage. Several eyewitnesses, including journalists, at the scene confirmed that the video released by DCI-Palestine was authentic. “Rather than cast doubt on the video or lay blame on unknown Palestinian gunmen, Israeli authorities should conduct an impartial and transparent investigation into the killings that occurred on May 15 and hold the perpetrators accountable.
Wolf Blitzer tweeted the excellent report by Ivan Watson on the shootings, saying it’s “disturbing.” That report offers evidence that an Israeli soldier fired a fatal shot and that the ammunition was live fire that wound up in the victim’s backpack after passing through his body. Over at the State Department, spokesperson Jen Psaki said yesterday that she misstated the place of the shootings, when she said Wednesday that they were on Israel’s “soil.”
I would state it differently if I were to state it again today. As we know, the events took place in the West Bank. What I was meaning to convey, which I did several times, is that naturally Israeli – Israel has the lead in any investigation.
Now here’s the latest from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s twitter feed, lest anyone miss the real story:
Here are more statements of international outrage gathered by the Institute for Middle East Understanding:
From Jafar Nowarah, paternal uncle of one of the victims, 17-year-old Nadim Nawara, and longtime resident of Columbus, Ohio:
“I used to see Nadim about every 18 months from when he was born until five years go when he turned 13. He was a basketball fanatic like me, except that he loved the Bulls and I love the Lakers. I bought a Bulls hat that I was planning to give to him when I go to Palestine next month.
“It’s still hard for me to believe that I’ll never see him again. He was a happy kid. He was always smiling. I never thought he’d die this way. The international community must insist that those responsible for pulling the trigger be brought to justice. Too many Palestinian kids die for no reason. This has to stop.”
More from Kassis:
“Mohammad Azzeh, the third teen shot with live ammunition on May 15, told DCI-Palestine in a sworn affidavit that he recalls Israeli soldiers filming or photographing the clashes. Israeli forces should release any footage they may have captured to the public as part of an impartial and transparent investigation into the killings.
“Regardless of whether Israeli forces used live ammunition or so-called non-lethal crowd dispersal weapons, the result remains the same: two dead teenagers.
“If live ammunition was not used, it would seem that Israel’s non-lethal weapons have the same net effect of seriously injuring or killing the targeted victims.”
From Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch:
“The Israeli military’s internal investigations have a shameful record for impunity, and its claim that troops didn’t fire live ammunition on May 15 is contradicted by witness statements, medical records, videos and other evidence. The military should be putting its efforts into collecting that evidence, not spinning the story. If Israel wants to be taken seriously let’s see them conduct a real investigation and hand down more than slaps on wrists for wrongdoers.”
From Edith Garwood, Country Specialist for Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Palestinian Authority, Amnesty International USA:
“Palestinian children have the right to live free of Israeli military violence. Unfortunately, Amnesty International has documented many incidences of excessive use of force by Israeli soldiers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These include apparent willful killings, which would amount to war crimes. It is time for the Israeli military to stop shielding its troops from accountability for their violence against unarmed civilians.”
Thanks to Ilene Cohen.