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Settlers execute Palestinian, soldiers destroy video evidence, media parrot the lie (the Azaria legacy)

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Let’s begin with the facts. About two weeks ago, on April 3rd, a Palestinian named Muhammad ‘Abd Al Fatah, a resident of the Hirbat Qais near Silfit, stoned several cars with Israeli registration plates near the Beita village square. A settler named Yehoshua Sherman fired several shots at ‘Abd Al Fatah from within his vehicle; then Sherman left his vehicle, and advanced towards ‘Abd Al Fatah, who was taking cover, and he and another Israeli shot him several times, wounding him; the two, advancing towards the bleeding and unarmed Al Fatah, murdered him as he lay bleeding on the ground.

So far, everything according to SOP, standard operating procedure.

Mohammad Abdul-Mon’em Abdel-Fattah, 23, killed on April 3 at a checkpoint, reportedly by a settler. Photo from IMEMC.

Mohammad Abdul-Mon’em Abdel-Fattah, 23, killed on April 3. Photo from IMEMC.

Immediately afterwards, the IDF Spokesman announced ‘Abd Al Fatah was killed “while carrying out a knife attack.”

There was no knife and no knife attack, but hey, it’s the IDF Spokesman. Lying is what it does.

So far, everything according to SOP.

The Israeli media reported the murder as a thwarted knife attack, just as the IDF Spokesman wanted it to do.

So far, everything according to SOP.

To the best of my knowledge, the Israeli police did not detain the shooters, did not interrogate them, and did not investigate the incident, even though a person was killed. After all, he wasn’t really a person; merely a Palestinian.

So far, everything according to SOP.

The one thing deviating from SOP, at least as we knew it so far, is that soon after the murder, IDF militants raided two businesses in the region, confiscated two security cameras, viewed the content, and then deleted at least the footage of one camera.

This came up as part of a report of B’Tselem on the incident yesterday (Monday), with the human rights NGO once more taking on the job the media, MPCID, the police and the prosecution didn’t bother doing.

The IDF militants did not detain the Israeli shooters, as they were legally supposed to, but that was to be expected. A vast majority of the militants are unaware they have any detention rights vis a vis settlers. On the other hand, they showed unexpected initiative when they confiscated the documentation and wiped out some of it. True esprit de corps.

What happened here? It’s probably not that complicated. I’d be very much surprised if any officer as senior than a platoon commander was involved. No more senior officer would have taken the risk of collaborating with a crime.

The militants merely put into practice the legacy of the Azaria affair: destroy the cameras.

Elor Azaria was the IDF militant who three years ago shot Abdel Fattah Al Sharif, a Palestinian who stabbed an Israeli soldier. Azaria arrived on the scene 11 minutes after the knife attack, and shot the wounded Al Sharif in the head, killing him. Azaria had the misfortune of being filmed by a B’Tselem camera. He was given a laughable punishment, and he may yet translate that misfortune into great fortune: he’s a hot hero on the right. Don’t be surprised if he’ll be in the Likud’s list next elections.

Following the murder – and, as this needs to be repeated, shooting a wounded, unarmed person is murder – the right wing began a campaign whining that now soldiers would hesitate to shoot terrorists. Bennett and Shaked – don’t let the door hit you on your way out, my lovelies – made this grotesque fantasy a mainstay of their election campaign. When he wasn’t terrorizing doves, Bennett went singing, “My commander says: you must charge, my lawyer says: you may regret it.”

The claim that soldiers need lawyers on the battlefield because jurists are tying their hands isn’t new. It surfaced in the Vietnam War, if memory serves as part of the debate after the My Lai Massacre; it’s been used by the Israeli right since the First Intifada (as a participant in that conflict, on the wrong side, I can say with certainty none of us even heard of lawyers); and the claim became an epidemic after the Azaria affair. Bennett and the rabble following him told us soldiers would be afraid to shoot.

Which, of course, didn’t happen. IDF militants were never afraid to shoot. They always knew the command will cover for them, as long as they weren’t filmed in action.

The militants drew the right lesson from the Azaria affair: now they’re removing the cameras.

Why are they removing cameras when it’s the settlers who committed the crime? For two reasons. First, they grew up in a country obsessed with hasbara. Anything that may harm the image of the occupation. And, after all, the settlers are just another arm of the Israeli regime. Yes, the several arms may sometimes quarrel, but everyone knows they’re working towards the same goal. Just as do the journalists who didn’t bother to check the IDF Spokesman’s bulletin: they didn’t need an order. They already knew their role.

The ball is now in the court of the Israeli police: Will it open a murder investigation? I wouldn’t hold my breath. The law is a dead letter in the West Bank, much as it was in 1930s Mississippi. The Judea and Samaria Police District, many of whose officers are settlers, knows there will be no public pressure on it to investigate the case of the murder of Muhammad ‘Abd Al Fatah.

So it goes in the only Jewish military dictatorship in the world.

Yossi Gurvitz

Yossi Gurvitz is a journalist and a blogger, and has covered the occupation extensively.

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6 Responses

  1. eljay on April 17, 2019, 2:01 pm

    – “Jewish State” supremacists colonizing not-Israel deliberately murder a not-Israeli in not-Israel.
    – “Jewish State” Occupation and Oppression Forces do nothing in the way of upholding justice and accountability.
    – The “Jewish State” tacitly condones the murder.

    … What happened here? …


  2. Pippilin on April 17, 2019, 2:17 pm

    My eyes are filled with tears of absolute fury and impotence.

  3. Misterioso on April 18, 2019, 9:06 am

    Opinion: An Apology to Elor Azaria, by Amira Hass, Haaretz, April 15/19

    “Elor Azaria is entitled to protest repeatedly that the army discriminated against him, and army officers are entitled to answer him as follows: Next time you execute an Arab, make sure there are no cameras filming you. Next time, act like that anonymous Israeli policeman who shot and killed a young paramedic, Sajed Mizher, at 6:30 A.M. on March 27, while he was on his way to treat a man with a gunshot wound on the main road of the Deheisha refugee camp.

    “Study the difference, Azaria, the army will tell him. And then it will twist the knife it stuck in his back: Every week we kill a few Arabs, make sure there are no photographs and then report that they were terrorists. Our version of events is holy. Two or three troublesome journalists ask questions, and we provide answers, but they don’t get to the point. The articles are published and our hero sons are protected by their sacred anonymity.

    “With every Palestinian killed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the army reminds us of how empty and hypocritical its statements of revulsion at Azaria were. But the army’s pretenses of morality are no longer necessary to earn the embrace of national leaders. Not when those leaders are Donald Trump and Viktor Orban. Not when demands to rein in Israel’s colonialism are defined as anti-Semitism in France, Britain and Germany.

    “In Israel above all, hypocrisy is unnecessary. All testimony, investigative reports and articles about the ease with which our soldiers kill unarmed Palestinians will in any case vanish here without leaving any impression. Just like reports on the deaths of two young men, Amir Dar Daraj and Yusef Anqawi, disappeared without a trace.

    “Here’s a reminder: On March 4, an armored Israel Defense Forces vehicle got stuck on the road while en route to making a nighttime arrest in Kafr Na’amah, west of Ramallah. The car Amir and Yusef were in crashed into the armored vehicle, which didn’t have its lights on. An officer and a policeman were wounded. Soldiers opened fire at the driver and his companion. It was a car-ramming attack, the army told journalists.

    “Someone actually did photograph this. Granted, it was dark, but the sounds on the video can be heard clearly. Immediately after the collision, a single shot was fired. Four and a half minutes then elapsed before the other nine shots were fired – four and a half minutes. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit didn’t bother responding to questions about why the soldiers shot and killed the two Palestinians four and a half minutes after the crash.

    “Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem sent the dead men’s clothes, which the soldiers stripped off them, for a forensic examination. The complete results are being published here for the first time.

    “It was cold. Yusuf was wearing a shirt with black and white stripes, a beige sweater and a black sweater with red and white triangles. All three garments had three bullet holes in the back, on the left shoulder. Amir was wearing a green warmup jacket and a brown and gray sweater. Both garments had four bullet holes in the back, on the left shoulder.

    “These seven holes are the type of holes that would be created by a high-velocity rifle shooting from a distance, the forensic report said. Amir’s warmup jacket also had six holes in the waist area, and his sweater had five holes in the same area. Some may have been made by ricochets or shrapnel, but they, too, match the type of holes made by a high-velocity rifle.

    “Yet why should that bother the military lawyers? The soldiers confiscated the footage from the security cameras at a nearby carpentry shop; the damaged car was also confiscated and the bodies haven’t been returned to their families, in line with the accepted practice of revenge. And whether a serious military investigation does or doesn’t happen makes no difference: The IDF is defending the soldiers who killed Amir and Yusef. Unlike Azaria, they were killed in darkness. Sunday morning, the IDF took care to send a special military force to remove a sign erected on Saturday in memory of the two who were killed.

    “Altogether, IDF soldiers killed 17 Palestinians in March. An army that covers up the deaths of Amir and Yusef shouldn’t be believed no matter what stories it tells about the deaths of the others.”

  4. Vera Gottlieb on April 18, 2019, 12:09 pm

    Not even animals behave like this. I am utterly ashamed of my Jewish background.

    • Daedalus on April 18, 2019, 1:10 pm


      Please don’t blame either yourself or your Jewish background. Your ‘Jewishness’ plays no part in situations like this.

      What does, however, are those people of ANY religion or of any background that ignore what it happening as Israel expands and tries to reproduce the goal of Hitler, either a racially or ethnically pure State, or a State in which only the ‘pure’ have civil rights.

      Hitler understood the difficulty of attaining of the latter scenario, and also understood the ‘final solution’. Bibi appears to agree.

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