Dec 13, 2012

The Israeli Occupation: Killing Palestinians and Their Dreams

Mohammad celebrates his birthday with classmates
 hours before being killed
A young Palestinian, Mohammad Salayma, was shot and killed by Israeli forces in Al-Khalil (Hebron) yesterday.

What we know is the following, at some time in the early evening yesterday, reportedly around 6:30pm, Mohammad was shot and killed by Israeli forces near the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old City.

Here is what has been reported about the events: At first, the Israeli media quickly announced that the border police occupation soldiers (the closest international border to that location is 35 miles away) foiled a "terrorist attack". The Israeli story later evolved to explain that Mohammad, 17, "pounced" on an occupation soldier and pulled out a gun which later was found to be a toy. Mohammad's father, who tried to administer aid to his dying son, said he saw no fake gun.

Mohammad (Bottom Center) with child circus group
Here is what we know about Mohammad: He was shot and killed by Israeli forces on his birthday. He was a Palestinian citizen of Al-Khalil. Earlier, on the day he was killed, he celebrated his birthday with his classmates. He was a member of a Palestinian circus group. His older brother, Awad, was imprisoned by Israel in 1993, before Mohammad was born, and released recently as part of the prisoner swap last year. Awad wasn't released to his family in Al-Khalil, however,  but rather banished to Gaza. Mohammad only met his brother in prison and never met him in any other context.

A TV channel arranged a video conference between Awad and his family and during this exchange he speaks with Mohammad. In the video, which is in Arabic, Mohammad expresses his profound joy for the day he is able to speak to his freed brother.

Mohammad was an active and successful in sports
They express mutual hopes of seeing each other get married one day, although Mohammad concedes he isn't in a rush to get married as he is still too young. Mohammed tells his brother, "God willing, we will see you soon, and I am going to hug you and sit next to you and sleep next to you and eat with you, our whole family together, and be together soon and we'll never part again". Awad responded: "Do you remember that time you came to visit me in prison and we told the prison guard that you were my son just so that they would let us take a picture together? They eventually found out you were my brother not my son but we were able to get our picture."

Along with mutual hopes, they shared laughter. Those hopes and laughs are shattered now and replaced instead with mourning following Mohammad's funeral.

The Israelis want you to believe they acted in self-defense. Their story is hard to believe. Why would a young Palestinian, all too familiar with the Israeli occupation and its brutality, pounce on an Israeli "border policeman" and pull out a toy gun. Lest you be confused by the euphemism, here is an image on the right of Israeli "border police" in Al-Khalil. Would anyone believe that teenager with a toy gun would "pounce" on these henchmen of occupation, armed with assault weapons? This amounts to a suicide operation without the capacity to carry out the operation, in other words, just suicide. This hardly matches the mindset we see expressed in the hopes and dreams Mohammad spoke of in the video or even the celebration of his life marked hours earlier with birthday cake.

What track record do these "border police" have? A video released just this summer shows Israeli "border police" nabbing a Palestinian child in the middle of the street and kicking him. Another shows further brutality. Keep in mind, these henchmen are there primarily to protect a minuscule number of Israeli colonists living illegally deep inside occupied Palestinian territory among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Al-Khalil Area.

So what likely happened? The Israeli soldiers brutally killed Mohammad by shooting him multiple times. This could have happened in the context of a confrontation after the soldiers demanded identification in what is always a demeaning manor. Given what we know about Israel's occupation forces and the brutality with which they deal with Palestinians, and given what we know about the young Mohammad, it is far more plausible to believe trigger happy Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian boy, (a crime for which appropriate punishment is almost never adjudicated) than it is to believe a boy like Mohammad chose to essentially throw his life away.

There might be some video evidence that could help explain what really happened. Multiple cameramen were in the area including a Reuters photographer. It would be great to see what is on the film but the Israeli occupation forces have confiscated their cameras because they want to look at the evidence first.

This is the fundamentally unjust nature of an Israeli occupation where the military is the judge, jury and executioner.

Mohammad Salayma and his dreams for the future are just the most recent victims of it.


This from Maan News Agency on the funeral:
Al-Salaymeh's family said Israeli forces prevented them from burying Muahmmad in the al-Raas cemetery next to their home as it is close to an Israeli settlement, Kiryat Arba. The funeral procession instead headed from al-Ansar mosque before laying him to rest in a cemetery in Limboa in the north of the city.
Even after his death, the Israeli occupation obstructed Mohammad's path to a final resting place.

***UPDATE II****

It seems the Israeli story on this is evolving. Yesterday immediately after the killing it was called an "attack". Haaretz said Mohammad "pounced" on the soldier holding the gun to his head. Another Israeli news source said Mohammad "began to beat him with his fists, knocked him down and pulled out a gun." Today it seems all mention of a physical attack is disappearing  This seemed strange to me to begin with because even if we accept for the sake of argument that a teenage boy with a toy gun thought it prudent to jump an Israeli soldier, how could another soldier cleanly shoot him in his chest and abdomen?

Here is one Israeli newspapers reporting:
While inside, she continued, she looked out and saw that the Palestinian had charged the soldier and drawn what appeared to be a pistol. “With one hand,” she related, “he grabbed the soldier’s neck and pressed against him, and with the other he put the pistol to the soldier’s temple. In that situation, the soldier couldn’t break free or react.” The female officer, who was only a few meters away, cocked her weapon. “I was looking for an angle from which to fire without hurting the soldier,” she said, and it was only after she ascertained that his life was in danger that she pulled the trigger. “After the first shot, he continued to hold the pistol to the soldier’s temple, so I fired two more bullets,” she said, at which point the Palestinian fell to the ground, and she quickly kicked the gun away.
Now the Israeli solder that shot and killed Mohammad states something different. In this video interview she says that a soldier at the checkpoint asked Mohammad for his ID and then Mohammad pulled out the gun. No mention of any physical attack, let alone knocking him down to the ground and beating him. The choreography of this account is more consistent with the bullet wounds but why did it only come out after all the reporting about a physical attack?

There is little doubt that somewhere this entire incident exists on video. As we've seen recently during the Israeli attacks on Gaza, if the Israelis have video of that corroborates their narrative of events, they release it almost immediately. It took them 3 hours in between assassinating Ahmad Jaabari and releasing video of the strike. Now, more than 24 hours later, we've yet to see any video evidence of Salayma's killing. Let's just hope it doesn't end up getting mysteriously deleted.


Another question to ask is why were Israeli soldiers hunting down journalists and cameramen after the shooting? This is from Reuters who had two of their camera men assaulted right after Salayma was killed:

Israeli soldiers punched two Reuters cameramen and forced them to strip in the street, before letting off a tear gas canister in front of them, leaving one of them needing hospital treatment....  
The soldiers forced them to leave the vehicle and punched them, striking them with the butts of their guns.  
They accused them of working for an Israeli NGO, B'Tselem, which documents human rights violations in the occupied West Bank, the Reuters cameramen said. Locals say B'Tselem has given a number of Palestinians video cameras so they can film soldiers and settlers who live in this divided city. The NGO was not immediately available for comment.....
Looking at all the above, it increasingly seems like the Israeli story doesn't hold water and they know it. That's why they are trying to control all information about the event in an attempt to cover up whatever really happened.

It's not working.


Now a Maan News reports provides some more information regarding the fake gun story:

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Ma'an on Thursday that he had nothing to add to initial findings immediately after the shooting that Muhammad pointed a fake gun at forces at a checkpoint in the southern West Bank city.  
An investigation by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights found that Muhammad was on his way home from buying a birthday cake when he arrived at the checkpoint. PCHR found that another child, who had a plastic pistol, was being detained by troops.  
When Muhammad reached the checkpoint he was shot by a border guard at close range, killing him immediately, PCHR said. The teen's uncle, also named Muhammad Salaymeh, said the Israeli police's version of events did not ring true.  
"We live in a place which is like a military base for Israeli forces; dozens of soldiers are spread out over the area, checkpoints and cameras are everywhere to watch our movements," he told Ma'an.  
"Every resident knows exactly the difficulties anyone will have for just carrying a black plastic bag, we're being searched and watched constantly … Muhammad lived in this area and was aware that any unusual movement will put him in trouble."
The story that Mohammad attacked or pulled a toy gun on an armed Israeli soldier never made sense for the reasons noted above by his uncle. 

10 comments: on "The Israeli Occupation: Killing Palestinians and Their Dreams"

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