Israeli soldier’s needless killing of Palestinian activist: punishable by death?
An elite unit shot a Palestinian activist at point-blank range dozens of times. He had received a summons and failed to appear. What should be the penalty?
By Amira Hass | 05:39 03.03.14
If the order was to escalate, the takeover of the village of Bir Zeit last Thursday by the Yamam counterterrorism unit and the Nahal infantry brigade was surely a step in the right direction. Israeli forces killed Muataz Washaha, a 24-year-old activist in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. His funeral Friday was boiling, bubbling lava, striving to burst out of a crack.
If the order was to embarrass the Palestinian Authority’s leaders and increase the hostility toward them, the attack – by 200 soldiers, a Shin Bet security service officer named Alon, dozens of jeeps and two bulldozers – was incredibly successful.
Senior PA officials were wise to avoid the mass funeral, where Palestinian security personnel led cries of: “No more traitors,” “no more negotiations,” “no more security cooperation.” These were some of the more polite chants.
Mourners asked: “Where was Palestinian security when the enemy invaded our village and killed Washaha?” And: “How long will Palestinian leaders make excuses for their personal material gains in exchange for preserving the status quo?”
If the anonymous genius behind the attack wanted to prove that the Palestinians – Muslims and Christians, religious and secular – are all one people under the Israeli boot, he succeeded. The Washaha family is one of the six original families of Bir Zeit. It’s one of the two founding Muslim families; the other four are Christian.
At the funeral procession, which passed by mosques and churches, there was no way to tell who was who. The cemetery where Washaha was buried is near the old village center. His family’s old stone house still stands there, evidence of the deep roots and natural attachment to the place.
If the brilliant strategist behind the operation meant to destroy, in five hours, the life’s savings of a Palestinian workers’ family, accumulated over 30 or 40 years, he should be up for a special commendation. When the old village center got overcrowded, families, the Washahas included, built homes on their land surrounding the village.
The light anti-tank rocket fired by the heroic Israeli troops hit the apartment of Tha’er Washaha, Muataz’s brother. It destroyed everything inside. The apartment was on a floor recently added to the small house that the family built decades ago.
An army bulldozer knocked down the walls that the rocket failed to destroy. En route to the house, the bulldozer uprooted a tree. A second bulldozer crawled to the small house next door where the brothers’ parents lived with their other children.
Guarded by armed, brave Israeli soldiers, the bulldozer destroyed the walls for the glory of the State of Israel as the family stood by watching. The new construction pillars on the roof show that Muataz Washaha was engaged to be married and had begun building his home above his parents’ apartment. Then our heroic soldiers shot grenades at the house, which set it ablaze and filled it with smoke.
Begging to talk to Washaha
If our excellent boys wanted to prove that the Israeli media are loyal and obedient, they can check that one off their list, too. Military spokespeople described a “wanted individual who barricaded himself in,” so we’d think he built a fortress and surrounded himself with explosives.
This is very inaccurate. Tha’er Washaha told Haaretz he implored Alon, the Shin Bet officer who had arrested Tha’er in the past for his activism, for permission to go inside and convince his brother to come out. Alon refused. Their mother told reporters she too asked Alon for permission to speak with her son and was denied.
“Troops forcibly entered the building and found his body” – that was the line dictated by the IDF Spokesman’s Office. This is a lie. When the apartment was set on fire, Palestinian firefighters approached the house, defying the soldiers, who tried to block their way. Two firefighters put out the flames from the outside. Then they went inside – as our rifles were pointed at them – to put out the flames they couldn’t reach from the outside.
According to the firefighters, the soldiers threatened to shoot them if three instead of two people came out. Inside the house, the firefighters found Washaha healthy and coherent. He told them he didn’t intend to leave the house no matter what.
The firefighters left and in went the Yamam troops, clad in black, their faces masked. The neighborhood was filled with the sounds of shooting from inside the house.
When the Yamam, Nahal and Shin Bet forces left, family members ran into the house. The neighborhood was now filled with piercing cries. The elite police unit had shot Washaha at point-blank range dozens of times, according to the pieces of brain that covered the room, not to mention his legs, arms and fingers that were nearly severed from his body.
He had received a summons from the Shin Bet and failed to appear. A grave crime punishable by death? Maybe the investigating officer had been insulted? Washaha had planned a terrorist attack, the Israelis claim. According to the Israeli media’s good-conduct manual, everything security sources say about Palestinians is true.
In the unofficial Israeli law code, unproved “terrorist intentions” are enough to be punishable by death. In Hebrew, “terror attack” is a magic phrase that exempts the Israelis from wondering why an arrest needs so many troops and fanfare, and has such a murderous end.