Saturday, January 08, 2011

"The culture of the Israeli Army and the Murder of an Elderly Man in His Sleep"


Devastating news today. By now, many of you might’ve heard about the 65-year-old elderly Palestinian man riddled with bullets while sleeping in bed. If not, here’s an excerpt from the New York Times:

HEBRON, West Bank — Israeli soldiers shot and killed an unarmed 65-year-old Palestinian man in his bedroom in this tense city early Friday, in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity.

The man’s wife said he was sleeping and she was praying when soldiers burst into the apartment before dawn, entered the bedroom and immediately opened fire. Afterward they asked her for his identity card. She gave her account a few hours later, standing next to the bed, whose mattress, sheets and pillows were soaked in blood. The headboard, an adjacent wardrobe and the ceiling were also spattered with blood and bits of what appeared to be brain matter.

Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinian, 65, in His Bedroom, New York Times

His name was Omar al-Qawasmeh and he was mistaken for a terrorist. His native tongue was Arabic, he had tan skin, he was Palestinian, and therefore he fit the criteria. But the Israeli army (which goes so far as to title itself the most moral army in the world) was searching for Wael, his nephew who has been involved in previous run-ins with Israeli law as an alleged militant.

The Israeli military expressed regret over the death of this elderly individual and promised an investigation. I try my best to refrain from being a cynic but I question the sincerity of the army’s response. I wonder how long it took for Ehud Barak to finally give in to mounting global and internal pressure before allowing a spokesperson to issue a semi-public apology. I call it "semi-public" because it wasn’t directed at the immediate victims of this tragedy; it was more of an announcement made to appease reporters and news agencies. The real victims continue to mourn Omar’s gruesome death.

I also question any potential investigation. Especially obvious since the Second Intifada, the term "investigation" has been used as an excuse to politely prolong a situation in the hopes that it might fizzle out and be forgotten. If this comes off as too pretentious of a claim, consider the following statistic as reported by Yesh Din, an Israel-based human rights group:

Up until 2010, no more than "six percent of investigations yielded indictments against Israeli soldiers who harmed Palestinians." (B’Tselem, another Israeli rights group has done extensive research on Israeli soldiers being cleared of having any responsibility in the deaths of unarmed Palestinian civilians. Read their publication Void of Responsibility here.

An investigation is not necessary. This was not collateral damage. This was not a botched operation. This was not the result of a Hamas rocket. This was not an accidental killing or a misfired weapon. This was murder. Omar was killed in cold blood while his eyes were closed, his head turned away, and his wife was praying.

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