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‘Whitewash’: Israel closes investigations into three Palestinians killed in 2018

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The Israeli military has closed the case files of three Palestinians who were killed by its forces in 2018, prompting backlash from rights groups like B’Tselem who initially investigated the killings.

The Military Advocate General’s Corps (MAG Corps) closed the cases of three Palestinians who were killed in the occupied West Bank, which B’Tselem described as “unjustified.”

“Nevertheless, and even though the incidents should not have had fatal consequences – not even by the standards of military regulations – the very fact that investigations were undertaken has once again created an illusion of a functioning accountability apparatus,” B’Tselem said in a press release on Monday.

“At the end of the day, these belated so-called investigations, too, ended in whitewashing,” the group continued.

The cases in question were those of 17-year-old Ali Qinu from Iraq Burin (Nablus), 16-year-old Layth Abu Naim from al-Mughayyir (Ramallah) and 35-year-old Yassin al-Saradih from Jericho.

17-year-old Ali Qinu was shot in the head with live ammunition by soldiers who were sitting inside a military jeep (Photo: B’Tselem)

All three Palestinians were shot during January and February 2018. Qinu was shot in the head by Israeli forces from inside their jeep while Qinu and a group of young men threw stones at the vehicle.

B’Tselem emphasized that Israel’s open-fire regulations state that “shooting to kill is permitted only when the lives of security forces or other persons are in danger,” and that Qinu’s killing was “a far cry from meeting these criteria.”

16-year-old Layth Abu Naim was shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet. (Photo: B’Tselem)

Abu Naim was shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet from a distance of around 20 meters, critically injuring him. According to B’Tselem’s investigation, the Israeli soldiers responsible “left the scene without providing him any medical assistance.”

“Firing a rubber-coated metal bullet from a range of around 20 meters at the upper body could be lethal and is therefore expressly prohibited by the open-fire regulations,” the group noted.

In the case of al-Saradih, who was shot when he attempted to attack a group of soldiers with an iron bar, B’Tselem highlighted the fact that video evidence showed soldiers kicking and beating an injured al-Saradih as he lay injured on the ground.

The soldiers then dragged the man to a nearby alleyway and refused him medical assistance for over half an hour. “Withholding medical assistance and assaulting an injured person are illegal and violate basic moral norms,” the group said.

35-year-old Yassin al-Saradih was beaten and kicked by soldiers as he lay on the ground after being shot (Photo:B’Tselem)

“It is no accident that all three case files were closed,” B’Tselem said, saying the three cases were only a few of the hundreds that have been “whitewashed” over the years.

Qinu, Abu Naim, and al-Saradih were just three of 290 Palestinians killed by Israel in 2018, most of whom were “victims of a reckless open-fire policy,” B’Tselem reported at the time.

“The system does not truly seek to uncover the facts and promote justice for the victims,” the group continued. “Rather, it is primarily aimed at defending the perpetrators, while creating the illusion of a functioning system so as to deflect criticism.”

“It is the standard conduct of the military law enforcement system, based on the understanding that condoning – even implicitly – soldiers’ blatant breach of orders without holding anyone accountable is what allows the continued use of lethal force.”

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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  1. just on October 29, 2019, 9:13 pm

    RIP to these 3 Palestinians. No justice is ever forthcoming from Israel~ ever. Not even a simple apology. Thank goodness for B’Tselem.

    Today is the 57th anniversary of a gruesome Israeli massacre of Palestinian civilians:

    “We’ll never forget October 1956 massacre, say Palestinians in Israel

    On 29 October 1956, Israeli border police carried out a massacre in the Palestinian village of Kafr Qassem, situated in the central district of present-day Israel.

    The massacre took place on the eve of the Suez crisis — in which Israel invaded Egypt with the backing of France and Britain. It followed the announcement of a curfew by Israel in the middle of that day.

    Although most Palestinians who were outside their villages were doing agricultural work in the fields and had no way of knowing about the curfew, Israeli border police were ordered by the military to shoot anyone who returned after 5pm.

    Many Israeli officers did not comply. Yet in Kafr Qassem, the order was carried out. Forty-eight men, women and children were slain — 23 of the victims were children between eight and 17 years old. One of those killed was a pregnant woman.

    “You won’t find any mention of the massacre in any Israeli schoolbook sealed by the ministry of education,” Lina Badr, a 19-year-old from Kafr Qassem, said in an interview with The Electronic Intifada.

    “So Arab schools around the country make sure to dedicate the week before the anniversary each year for educational events, school trips to the [Kafr Qassem massacre] museum, and distributing literature about the full story of what happened during the massacre.

    “Plus, each year for over half a century we hold a huge demonstration on 29 October to make sure it is clear: there will be no forgetting.”

    Residents from Kafr Qasim said that they plan to march from the village’s mosque to the site of the killings to commemorate the massacre on Tuesday.

    Although 57 years have passed, most of the few remaining survivors are still too scared to speak publicly. …

    … “Respect our dead”
    The museum volunteer Rami Amr, on the other hand, stated that “we don’t want [Peres’] personal apology. We’re still waiting for a confession. That’s the justice we want — just this small thing for the children of our martyrs. It’s about respecting our dead.”

    As he spoke, Amr gestured to a wall covered with the photographs of those who were killed in the massacre — among them were elderly, women and children, as well as a handful of blank picture frames for the bodies that were too badly disfigured to be identified.

    “We don’t call for revenge, but we want to send a message to the extremist Israeli government,” Amr said. “We haven’t forgotten our massacre after 57 years, and do not deny that it happened.”

    The Kafr Qassem massacre is just one from a long list of assaults on the Palestinian minority in present-day Israel.

    “All of the massacres we’ve experienced as Palestinians inside [Israel] are tied together and have their roots in the Nakba. There is a straight line tying the Kafr Qassem massacre to the Prawer Plan today,” said Amr, referring to the ongoing dispossession of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab (Negev) region.

    In 1976, Israeli police killed six Palestinian citizens during demonstrations against the state’s confiscation of thousands of dunums of land (one dunum is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters). The event came to be known as Land Day and is commemorated annually.

    At the onset of the second intifada in October 2000, 13 unarmed protesters — all Palestinian citizens of Israel — were shot and killed by Israeli police during demonstrations across the country. Despite a commission that found that police had “illegally used rubber-coated bullets, live ammunition and snipers,” justice has yet to be delivered for their deaths.

    On 4 August 2005, Israeli soldier Eden Natan Zada killed four Palestinian citizens and injured another 23 when he boarded a public bus in the town of Shefa Amr and opened fire on the passengers. Four of those who killed him in self-defense were found guilty of attempted manslaughter in July, and another seven were convicted of charges related to aggravated assault on police officers.

    “Obviously it would be better for the Israelis if with time … we would forget that the Kafr Qassem massacre ever happened,” Lina Badr said.

    “But it’s important to us as Palestinians living in this country that even after a hundred years, our children still feel that pain, the suffering of our grandparents and great grandparents, knowing always that the Jewish majority is scared that the Arab minority continues to grow bigger and stronger.””

    More @ the link to article by Patrick O. Strickland @ EI.

    • jon s on October 30, 2019, 4:43 am

      Regarding the Kafr Qassem massacre, it’s not true that it’s not mentioned in Israeli schoolbooks. It certainly is mentioned and discussed in approved textbooks as a prime example of a blatantly illegal and immoral order which soldiers are not to obey.
      Another inaccuracy: the border police were not ordered to shoot anyone who returned after 5 pm. They were ordered to enforce a curfew (which in itself was illegal, as it turned out at the trial). One officer, in one village , gave the order to shoot the civilians returning from work. In all the other villages on that day the officers did not understand their orders in that way.
      The ensuing trial established an important principle and precedent. Soldiers can’t claim “I was obeying orders” to justify murder (like some Nazi criminals did).

      • Misterioso on October 30, 2019, 11:13 am

        @ jon s

        The Kafr Qasem massacre:

        On October 29, 1956, at 4:30 P.M. (just over one hour after Israel began its invasion of Egypt), a unit of Israeli Border Police (or Frontier Police) led by Major Shmuel Melinki announced that a curfew would be imposed on Arab villages in the “Little Triangle” (near the armistice line with Jordan) from 5:00 P.M. until 6 A.M. the next morning. (Hirst, The Gun And The Olive Branch, p. 185) The order for the curfew (which was to come in effect one hour earlier than previous ones) was given by Israel Defence Force battalion commander, Brigadier Yshishkar Shadmi after being approved by the Commander of the Central Area, Major General Zvi Tsur, who had emphasized to his officers that “…the safeguarding of the operation in the South [the Suez campaign] required that the area coterminous with Jordan be kept absolutely quiet.” (Issa Nakhleh, Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem, 1991 (EOTPP) p. 278)

        One of the villages to be put under curfew was Kafr Qasem (or Kfar Kassem) which had a population of about 2000. The mukhtar (headman) protested to the Israeli Border Police that many of the villagers did not know about the curfew as they were working in the fields or elsewhere when it was declared.

        Ignoring the mukhtar’s appeal, the Border Police set up road blocks and waited. “After 5 P.M. they stopped all villagers returning to Kfar Kassem, lined them up along the road and shot them. Men, women and children were cut down. Of sixteen olive pickers returning in one truck, only a sixteen-year-old girl survived; all but two of them were women, one of them eight months pregnant. When it was over, by 6 P.M. [just one hour after the curfew came into effect], forty-seven men, women and children had been slaughtered.” (Donald Neff, Warriors at Suez, p. 368)

        On 19 December 1956, the Israeli daily, Kol Haam provided a gruesome account of the slaughter at Kafr Qasem and how the bodies were disposed of: “[During the final stage of the massacre], the soldiers moved around finishing off whoever still had a pulse beating in him. Later on, the examination of these bodies showed that the soldiers had mutilated them, smashing the heads and cutting open the abdomens of some of the wounded women to finish them off. The only survivors were those who for some time lay buried under the corpses of their comrades…. The soldiers looted whatever they could find, apparently while going round the bodies doing their finishing-off job…. [On 31 October,] a curfew was imposed on the village of Kafr Kassem, and during that time, the Israeli police brought over some of the villagers from neighboring Galgoulia and ordered them to bury the corpses, which included fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.” (Kol Haam, 19 December 1956, Issa Nakhleh, EOTPP, pp. 276-277)

        The Israeli government attempted to cover up the Kafr Qasem massacre, but the public soon learned of it, thanks to certain Jews who hoped news of the massacre would frighten more Arabs into fleeing to Jordan. However, pressure mounted by other Israelis who were ashamed at what had happened resulted in the government appointing a three-member committee which recommended ten days after the event that eleven officers and soldiers of the Border Police be put on trial before a military court for “carrying out illegal orders.” (Nakhleh, EOTPP, p. 280)

        Unfortunately, what ultimately transpired was a mockery of justice and further proof of how little Israel valued Arab lives. During the trial it was learned that Brigadier Major Yshishkar Shadmi had told Major Melinki “that the curfew must be extremely strict and that strong measures must be taken to enforce it. It would not be enough to arrest those who broke it – they must be shot. In explanation he said ‘A dead man’ (or according to other evidence, ‘a few dead men’) is better than complications of detention. When Melinki asked [Shadmi] what was to happen to a man returning from his work outside the village, without knowing about the curfew, who might well meet the Frontier Guard units at the entrance to the village, Shadmi replied: `I don’t want any sentimentality’ and ‘That’s just too bad for him’.” (Quoted by Nakhleh, EOTPP, p. 278)

        Under the heading “Method,” the written orders Major Melinki gave to his men shortly before the curfew began declared: “No inhabitant shall be allowed to leave his home during the curfew. Anyone leaving his home shall be shot; there shall be no arrests.” (ibid) In spoken instructions Melinki told his troops that “anyone found outside his home (or according to other witnesses, anyone leaving his home or anyone breaking the curfew) should be shot dead. He added that there were to be no arrests and that if a number of people were killed in the night (according to other witnesses: it was desirable that a number of people be killed) this would facilitate the imposition of the curfew during succeeding nights.” (Ibid)

        It soon became evident during the trial that the military authorities fully supported the accused. On 11 April 1957, the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz reported that “The eleven officers and soldiers who are on trial for the massacre at Kfar Kassem have all received a 50 percent increase in their salaries. A special messenger was sent to Jerusalem to bring the checks to the accused in time for Passover. A number of the accused had been given a vacation for the holiday…. [In court] the accused mingle freely with the spectators; the officers smile at them and pat them on the back; some of them shake hands with them. It is obvious that these people, whether they will be found innocent or guilty, are not treated as criminals, but as heroes.” (Quoted by Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, (BH) p. 156)

        The Jewish Newsletter (July 8, 1958) reported that Private David Goldfield resigned from the Israeli Border Police in protest against the holding of the trial. While appearing as a witness, he testified: “I feel that the Arabs are the enemies of our state…. When I went to Kafr Qasem, I felt that I went against the enemy and I made no distinction between the Arabs in Israel and those outside its frontiers.” ( Hadawi, BH, p. 156)

        When the judge asked Goldfield what he would do if he had encountered an Arab woman during the curfew who wanted to get home and posed no threat to Israel, he replied: “I would shoot her down, I would harbour no sentiments, because I received an order and I had to carry it out.” (Hirst, TGATOB, p. 187)

        The trial went on for nearly two years and judgment was delivered on 16 October 1958. The evidence against the accused soldiers was overwhelming and as a result, Lieutenant Gavriel Dahan (the officer on the spot), his superior Major Shmuel Melinki, Sergeant Shalom Ofer (who carried out most of the murders) were found guilty and sentenced to terms ranging from fifteen to seventeen years. A corporal and four privates were also convicted and given eight years while three other accused were acquitted.

        All the sentences, however, were steadily reduced by first the Supreme Military Court, then the president of Israel and finally, the Committee for the Release of Prisoners. The net result was that all the convicted men were freed by the beginning of 1960, about three and one-half years after the massacre. Two of the murderers fared very well after their release. Lieutenant Dahan was appointed officer responsible for Arab affairs in the cleansed Palestinian town of Ramleh and Major Melinki, “through his influential connections in the army [secured] a coveted permit, sought after by many an entrepreneur, to set up a tourist centre in southern Israel.” (Hirst, TGATOB, p. 187)

        Although he was not facing prosecution at the time, the military court found Brigadier Shadmi
        to be undeniably more responsible than any of the others for the massacre at Kfar Qasem. It was determined that he had “…initiated and ordered, in a manner that could not be disobeyed, the enforcement of the illegal instructions; it was he who ordered the shooting of the citizens as a way of enforcing the curfew, and Melinki, in submitting to the orders of his commander, was only transmitting these instructions to his subordinates.” (Quoted by Nakhleh, EOTPP, p. 281)

        The Israeli military leadership found itself in an awkward position. If Shadmi was charged and put on trial he would reveal the instructions given to him by his immediate superiors, including Major General Zvi Tsur, commander of the Central Area and General Moshe Dayan, army chief of staff, thereby implicating them in the massacre. But a solution was found. Shadmi was hurried into a reconstituted military court and found guilty of a technical error. On 26 February 1959, he was sentenced to “a token fine of two cents for exceeding his authority by imposing an absolute curfew on an Arab village in Israel in 1956.” (New York Herald Tribune, February 27, 1959, Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, p. 157)

  2. Ossinev on October 30, 2019, 8:38 am

    @Jon S
    “Regarding the Kafr Qassem massacre, it’s not true that it’s not mentioned in Israeli schoolbooks. It certainly is mentioned and discussed in approved textbooks as a prime example of a blatantly illegal and immoral order which soldiers are not to obey”

    References please ie titles of Israeli “approved” textbooks , chapters , sentences etc.

    • gamal on October 30, 2019, 12:14 pm

      “References please”

      when asked by wj for a good book on the Nakba jons recommended one by one Yoav Gelber whose Amazon blurb said he debunked phony massacres promulgated for political reasons …

      Ilan Pappe recalls his intervention in his article Denying the Nakba

      “Then came the telephone calls – anonymous of course, and poisonous. Delivering public lectures became a second career for me, with every encounter with the public resembling a rugby match more than an academic occasion, but verbal violence very rarely turned into anything physical. I should have been aware of things to come when a well-publicised conference on the ‘new history’ at my own institution, the University of Haifa, in 1994 turned into real abuse. In a response to my own contribution, the leading local historian at the university, Professor Yoav Gelber, announced that adopting the Palestinian narrative was tantamount to treason in the battlefield.”

      Terror in Galilee : British-Jewish Collaboration in the Special Night Squads During the Arab Revolt, 1938-9. Is an interesting if somewhat blood spattered narrative

    • Mooser on October 30, 2019, 4:11 pm

      “References please ie titles of Israeli “approved” textbooks , chapters , sentences etc.”

      You want ‘references’, chapter and verse? Okay here you go:

      Deuteronomy 30:1-5, Nehemiah 1:8-9, and Psalms
      105:6-11, to start with ! And if those aren’t convincing, he’s got 67 more…

      Here’s one: Isaiah 49:14-20
      “The place is too crowded for me; make room for me in Seattle.”

  3. jon s on October 31, 2019, 3:42 am

    A standard Civics textbook, currently in use is “להיות אזרחים בישראל” (Being Citizens in Israel) published by the Min. of Ed. itself, 2016. The Kafr Qassem massacre is described and discussed p.242-243.
    I also checked an earlier version, published in 2001. The massacre appears p.217-218.
    The History textbook used in my school is “הלאומיות בישראל ובעמים-בונים מדינה במזה”ת” (Nationalism in Israel and among the Nations- Building a State in the Middle East), published by Reches ,2009, and approved by the Min.of Ed. The massacre is on p.213.

    • eljay on October 31, 2019, 7:50 am

      || jon s: … A standard Civics textbook, currently in use is “להיות אזרחים בישראל” (Being Citizens in Israel) published by the Min. of Ed. itself, 2016. … ||

      Israel’s contentious new civics textbook illuminates country’s divisions:

      The textbook, “Being a Citizen in Israel,” marginalizes Israel’s Arab community and its secular public, mentions the settlements and Palestinians only in passing, and offers “more Judaism, less democracy,” charged several critical reviews and an editorial in the Haaretz daily.

      Imagine that.

  4. jon s on October 31, 2019, 3:55 am

    As I recall (I can’t access my archive) I mentioned or recommended Benny Morris’ book . After which wj asked me if there’s any other book I would also suggest. That’s when I recommended Prof.Gelber, for a different approach. I certainly don’t agree with his right wing political views, but that doesn’t mean that his historical research has no value.

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