I really thought there might be some sliver of punishment for this murder. On March 19 of last year Yusuf Shawamreh went to pick Akub, an edible wild-growing plant, on part of his family’s land. He was shot to death by Israeli soldiers. That’s essence of the story. It was a contemptible killing. The youth was just 14 years old.
There was no doubt about what happened. It took place in daytime. Shawamreh wasn’t carrying a gun or even throwing a rock. Soldiers sat in ambush and shot him from several dozen meters away.
Despite some considerable publicity about this war crime, the Israeli state ruled the soldiers had followed orders and there would be no punishment. I underestimated how fascist Israel had become. It would become clearer in the summer with lynch mobs running freely in Jerusalem streets and then the rampage in Gaza. No one was going to punish a soldier for shooting a Palestinian.
The “crime” for which Shawamreh was executed was walking through a hole in a fence. The Separation Barrier (Apartheid Wall) goes through the family property in Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa, a little town near the former Green Line in the southern part of the West Bank. The Separation Barrier there is actually three parts, a wire fence, a “security road” for Israeli jeeps and such, and a barbed wire fence.
The wire fence had a hole in it. The Israeli human rights group B’tselem says the hole was there for two years. The army certainly knew about it. The point of the security road is to make it easy to inspect the fence. In fact just two days earlier they arrested some youths for going through the fence. They really didn’t give a damn about the hole.
On March 19 for some reason something changed. Maybe someone needed to show off the capability of the unit to a higher up or maybe someone was bored. Someone ordered an ambush.
Shawamreh and two friends went through the wire fence and crossed road. Then Yusuf was shot. There were no yelled warnings, no shots in the dirt, just three or four shots into Yusuf.
The incident was so outrageous that a week later the Israeli paper Ha’aretz published an editorial with the headline “Nothing Short of a War Crime”. It called the killing “despicable”. It wrote, “The IDF cannot make do with its spokesman’s attempt to whitewash the incident.” Their journalists Amira Hass and Gideon Levy each wrote powerful articles about the incident.
Yet a whitewash was exactly what happened. The army unit’s spokesperson had said the unit found “three suspicious Palestinians vandalizing the Separation Barrier” and did an arrest procedure, giving a warning, etc. That tale was good enough for the IDF investigators. In July of last year they told B’tselem that the soldiers hadn’t “breached any open-fire regulations” and that they were closing the case. Thus we see it is perfectly within Israeli army “regulations” to shoot down a child whom you’re observing through binoculars and whom you know is no threat to anyone or anything.
Since then … nothing. No one in the Israeli government gave a damn. None of the supposedly leftist Zionist parties said a word. Liberal American newspaper columnists didn’t mention it. Then the summer came and Yusuf’s death was lost among the hundreds and hundreds of children dispatched in Gaza.
Let the facts be recorded and remembered. As some of the murderers of civil rights workers in U.S. South found themselves on trial decades later let us be sure this will also happen to the solider killers and their commanders once the Israeli Apartheid regime is known only in the pages of infamy. As March 16 is remembered for the murder of Rachel Corrie, let the 19th be set aside to mark the war crime that ended the life of Yusuf Shawamreh’s.