Saturday, November 28, 2020

New Israeli Gun Law: Security issue or justification for killing Palestinians?

By Marc Henry - September 03, 2018
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [settler violence] [Israeli law]

Palestinian lives are at stake as Israel plans to ease the gun law allowing up to 600,000 citizens to apply for a gun permit.

The Israeli people need to be able to protect themselves from the attacks of Palestinians. That is the message from Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan who has been aiming to ease the gun legislation since a run of so-called “lone wolf”-attacks on Israelis in 2015 and 2016.
“Skilled civilians are carrying a gun in public contribute to a sense of security, act as an important line of defence against lone-wolf terror attacks and … thus increase public security, the Public Minister stated.
However, Israeli Knesset member for the Joint List Haneen Zoabi is not buying Erdans argument. According to her, the new gun law is not about security but a justification to attack and kill Palestinians.
“This is a political message. This is not a society where you use the gun only if really necessary, this is a society where you use the gun against the enemy; Palestinians,” Zoabi told the Palestine Monitor.
“You cannot give a gun to someone who is full of hatred, because they will kill.”   
Increase of violence
It is well known that settlers in the West Bank have used firearms to kill and injure Palestinians throughout time. And the new gun law is not going to help the settlers in their conquest to take over even more of the West Bank, according to Zoabi.
“This is about arming the settlers, giving them more power and more legitimacy to maximise the control of the settlements. You are privatising violence. It is unbelievable,” she said.
The statement is being supported by the Palestinian Human Rights group Al-Haq. Despite not having looked at the new gun law in depth, Legal Researcher and Advocacy Officer Maha Abdallah fears the outcomes.
“If you have fewer restrictions on acquiring and having guns, then you may be facing an escalation of settler violence,” she told Palestine Monitor.
“As an organisation, we have already documented cases where settlers have shot and injured Palestinians, as well as a few cases where settlers have actually killed Palestinians. This is not something that is uncommon, it happens.”
The Killing of Motaz
One of the Palestinians who has had settler’s gun violence close to him is Hilal Bani Shamsah. In May 2017 his younger brother Motaz was killed by a settler after a protest on the main street of their home village Betah near Nablus.
Along with his brother and father, Motaz was part of a protest showing support for the Palestinians inmates in a nearby prison by blocking the main road. According to Hilal Bani Shamsah, the protesters agreed with the soldiers of the Israeli Defence Forces [IDF] to carry out the protest peacefully without throwing rocks or causing any damage. However, the peaceful protest soon turned violent.
“When the road was reopened a settler took his car and ran directly into us. The soldiers told him to go home, but he drove right into us and hit three people. We got so angry,” Hilal Bani Shamsah told Palestine Monitor.
While the Palestinian protesters attacked the car by kicking and throwing rocks, the settler pulled a handgun making the Palestinians move away from the vehicle allowing him to pass with help from the IDF. However, after the IDF had led the car to safety, shots were fired from the settler.
“One bullet hit a journalist in his hand.  My brother was behind the journalist going back home when he was struck behind his right ear,” Hilal said.
“He is a coward killing my brother from the back.”
While Motaz Bani Shamsah was treated by medics, he passed away while on the way to the local hospital. According to Hilal, the bullet was still in stuck in his head when he died.
The passing of his 21-year-old, younger brother has been hard for the family and especially his father, Hilal said.
“He saw his son as a flower that he has been taking care of, and then someone came and took his most precious flower away. It is gone forever, and he will never see the flower again.”
No need for protection
The killing of Motaz Bani Shamsah is just one of many within the last couple of years. One of the significant issues regarding settlers killing Palestinians is that they often can do it without punishment according to Al-Haq’s Maha Abdallah.
“Unlike Palestinians, settlers are free to get away. It is very rare that you hear about a settler being detained or arrested for physical violence or violence against Palestinians.”
And the human rights activist is not buying the claim that Israelis and especially the settlers need more protection.
“If you go to any settlement, whether it is homes, industrial or agriculture it is a gated community, and they have either private security forces or the Israeli military forces to guard them. Most of them are very well protected,” she said.
“I don’t know if it will create more protection to the Israelis and the settlers or just create a cause to shoot at Palestinians for any reason.”
According to Knesset member Haneen Zoabi it is the settlers that are putting themselves in danger by invading land that is not rightful theirs.
“You cannot expect to be safe while you are invading and abusing the land of the Palestinians. You are giving people hell and expect to be protected. They should even be allowed to have the guns in the first place. You are giving guns to invaders,” she told Palestine Monitor.
Despite losing his brother by the gun of a settler, Hilal Bani Shamsah has no fear of the occupiers.
“I will not let them shoot me from behind, I will take it up front,” he said.
“The settlers are like cancer. This cancer just keeps growing and killing everyone. It is impossible to get rid of.“

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