Friday, September 25, 2020

Fighting the culture of impunity in Israeli army murders

By Jessica Purkiss - December 15, 2012
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [IDF] [Israeli law]

On Monday 3rd December 2012, 37 year old Palestinian worker Hatem Shadid was shot dead by members of the Israeli internal security service, Shin Bet, after a road collision.

According to Israeli officials, Shadid’s car rammed into the Israeli jeep, carrying two intelligence officers, causing it to crash. He then got out and attacked the officers with an axe.

Shadid’s family refutes such claims.  In their words, he left for a usual Monday at work in construction. On returning from work he gave some colleagues a lift home, and became involved in the collision with the Israeli jeep on his way back to Tulkarem, a town near his home village of Ilar.

According to the Shadid family, after the collision, he proceeded to get out of the car to see what had happened. It is then that he was shot by the soldiers. A Shin Bet official, speaking on the incident, told Reuters that the “first indications are that this was a terrorist attack.”

Gershon Masika, head of the Samaria regional council, commented on the death. “The government should learn from the security agents’ determination in combating terror. A terrorist tried to attack Jews and the only action required is to destroy him,” he said.

Following the Israeli authorities official story, it is difficult to ascertain what possible motive Shadid would have had on that particular morning to plan such an attack. Speaking to his grieving wife in their family home, she said, “We have 5 children, this is his house, a father for a family. When you look at the way he’s living—he was a father to a new born baby— he did not commit the incident.”

A pattern in killing Palestinians involved in car accidents with Israeli army

Hatem’s death cannot help but ring similarities to the tragic death of Ziad Jilani, in 2010, who, after colliding with an Israeli military jeep in Jerusalem was also fatally shot by Israeli soldiers.

Ziad’s murderer, Maxim Venogrodov who shot him in the head from point blank range, stated during a re-enactment of the incident: “I approached the terrorist while he was lying on his stomach on the ground, in order to ascertain that he was no longer dangerous and didn’t have a bomb.”

Shadid’s wife Dalia told the Palestine Monitor more about her recently deceased husband.

“My husband was a quiet man,” she said. “He is not a nervous man. He keeps his praying either at home, or at the mosque.”

But in the eyes of the Israeli authorities, all too often by virtue of their identity as Palestinian men, they are viewed as terrorists.

It is in exactly the same language of terrorism that the Israeli authorities justified their responsibility for Julani’s death, which at the time Israeli officials defined as a 'hit-and-run terror attack.’

After Monday’s incident, it has been reported that Israeli soldiers sealed the area, preventing even medics from entering who may have prevented the injured Hatem from dying by giving him lifesaving treatment.

It is still unknown whether he died immediately from his wounds. The family hope to learn more from the Israeli authority’s autopsy report which they expect to receive 60 days after the death.

When signing the permission form for the autopsy it was stated that they would at least learn the cause of death and the time of death, hopefully indicating whether emergency services could have administered any treatment.

This is again reminiscent of Ziad’s tragic murder; after he was wounded, medics were refused access to the injured father of three. Instead, the soldier responsible for his death, according to eye witnesses, walked up to his body, placed his boot on the victims neck before shooting him three times in the head, at point blank range.

At about 11 pm, after the family had been informed of Shadid’s death, Israeli soldiers arrived at the Shadid family home. They interrogated the relatives, after, taking his three brothers and one cousin for further questioning, which lasted a few hours.

Shadid’s family is convinced that if the Israeli soldiers believed he was responsible for Monday’s incident, the consequences would have been far greater for them.

Hatem’s sister said, “If they felt that he was planning an incident, they would have demolished the house and arrested people. But they did not. All the soldiers’ behaviour and reactions show he is not the one responsible.”

No consequences for murdering Palestinian lives

All too often in the vocabulary of Israeli soldiers, as evidenced by their actions and lack of accountability charges, the words “Palestinian” and “terrorist” are synonymous. Since the beginning of the Second Intifada, 6, 502 Palestinians have lost their lives to the Israeli security forces. 1,335 of these have been minors (B’Tselem).

The soldier murdered her once and the court has murdered her again

Not once has an Israeli soldier been brought to justice, cultivating a culture of impunity that teaches soldiers that there are no consequences for killing a Palestinian.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the controversial case of 13 year old school girl Iman Al-Hams, who had an entire magazine pumped into her body and head back in 2004.

This was after the guilty officer  had been informed by a fellow soldier in a nearby watchtower that she was, in the words of the radio conversation transcript,  a “a girl about 10, she’s behind the embankment, scared to death’’.

The officer responsible was found not guilty.

“This was the cold-blooded murder of a girl,” Iman’s father had said. “The soldier murdered her once and the court has murdered her again. What is the message? They are telling their soldiers to kill Palestinian children.”

Hatem Shadid’s sister, speaking of the incident, said, “If this happened in Israel, they wouldn’t shoot a man getting out of his car to see what happened; it is because he is Palestinian [that they did so].”

'We are demanding that those who shot him go to jail,” she continued. “There should be an investigation. What we are demanding is that there should be an investigation; there should be a court. My brother did not commit the incident, nor had any bad intentions when he went out to look at what had happened.”

Absence of impartial investigations

Earlier this year the Israeli state prosecutor decided to uphold his previous decision to close the case of Ziad Jilani, citing 'lack of evidence.’ This is in the face of damning eye witness accounts and testimony in support of a guilty conviction.

Time and time again the Israeli authorities allow impunity to rule when it comes to the murder of innocent Palestinian civilians.

In order to establish justice for the families and children of the Palestinians killed, the Israeli authorities must reverse its decision in the case of Ziad Jilani, and pursue a fair and neutral investigation into Hatem Shadid’s death.

Until then Ziad and Hatem’s stories will keep becoming the stories of countless Palestinian families.

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