Today is the first year’s anniversary of Bassem Abu Rahmeh’s Death. I didn’t know Bassem, but I watched him die. It was only a few months after the Gaza massacre. Nobody cared for a dead Palestinian. Two weeks later I started going to Bil’in. I’ve been going every week ever since. I’ve met people I’ve come to care about. I’ve met Bassem’s friends, who welcome me in their home with a smile and embrace. His family, who have been shot and jailed. His fiance- a beautiful Israeli activist- whom I’ve come to love like a sister. I care about their life and I see them hurt.
Burying Bassem Abu Rahmeh
A couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon an article in the Ha’aretz website, that unsurprisingly never showed up in the English version (I’ve written before about Ha’aretz double standards, when it comes to its international audience). It was titled “The Military Attorney Won’t Investigate the Death of a Demonstrator of IDF Fire in Bil’in a Year Ago”.
The event was documented by three different cameras. The family, with the help of B’tselem and the only lawyers in Israel who take cases like this, sent the footage to ballistics experts. Everything pointed to direct aim, which is an illegal way to use this weapon (that’s that problematic law-speak, which makes it OK to aim an oversized bullet full of chemical gas in my direction, but not directly at me). The family demanded the army investigate. The army dragged it for a couple weeks under a year, then came up with the following excuses [limited by my translation]:
… After examining the received materials, we opine that no evidence has been found to back up the claim that deliberate firing with direct aim was carried out in the direction of Bassem Abu Rahmeh. It appears, from the inquiry, that there are two possible explanations for the impact. (a) The killed was standing in a high place, on a stone stair [it’s strange terminology in Hebrew, too], and that’s why a unification between him and the firing line. (b) The ammunition that was fired hit the top barbed wire above the netted fence, and changed the ammunition’s course.
Emily Schaeffer, one of the lawyers representing Bassem’s case in criminal court, told me her team is already in process of building a case for an appeal with ballistics experts.
Update: Michael Sfard, head attorny on this case added [limited by my translation]:
The decision not to investigate Bassem Abu Rahmeh’s killing, may he rest in peace, to my dismay proves again, that the Goldstone committe was right when it determined that it isn’t possible to trust the Israeli law enforcement bodies when there’s suspicion of soldiers’ violations against Palestinians. The decision not to investigate the death of a demonstrator in a nonviolent event sends a message of complete contempt for human life and creates a feeling that the army has something to hide.
Don’t Forget Ussayed and Mohammed Qaddous and Salleh and Mohammed Qawariq
The Israeli mainstream media called them “pitchfork terrorists”, then they called them “hoe terrorists”, then they called them “glass bottle terrorists”, then “syringe terrorists”. The articles claim the commander of the troop felt threatened, at the time, but that the incident could have ended differently. The “incident”, on the 21st of March, ended with the death of two young men, cousins of 19 years.
Not even 24 hours before, in yet another anti-occupation demonstration, where small children were involved (as they always are), live fire was shot and killed 16 year old Mohammed Qaddous– a bullet to the back. That night, between the afternoon of the 20th of March and the 21st, Ussayed Qaddous, 19, died of his injuries, sustained at the same protest- a bullet to the head.
The army claims it was a rubber bullet. This is what a rubber (or rubber-covered) bullet looks like in Israel:
This is Ussayed Qaddous’ X-ray:
Rubber bullets don’t make exit wounds. This is Mohammed Qaddous’ body:
These 4 murders within 24 hours didn’t garner too much media attention, Israeli or international (click to get the little media it did get). Maybe in two-weeks-under-a-year, we’ll get word that the case was closed. As far as I know other than military operational inquiry, neither will there be an army misconduct inquiry, and neither will the civil courts get involved. So I repeat their names again, lest we forget:
Ussayed Qaddous (19)
Mohammed Qaddous (16)
Salleh Qawariq (19)
Mohammed Qawariq (19)
Watch Your Back
One look at Ussayed Qaddous’ back and you come to the realization that your life could end within the flick of a finger and the army will call you a “pitchfork terrorist” and say the commander felt threatened. A week ago, the army chose once again to communicate with us via the media:
"These demonstrations should be non-violent. They can protest quietly. We cannot accept a situation whereby throwing stones and Molotov cocktails is legitimate," a senior IDF officer told Ynet. "The Palestinians claim the protest is non-violent, but we claim otherwise and refuse to let this situation go on. People are allowed to wave signs and sing, but we will not allow violence. A stone can be deadly," he said.
Indeed, a stone can be deadly, and so can a tear gas canister flying directly at my chest or head, or a rubber bullet to my head, or live ammunition, for that matter. The occupation army thinks it will set the terms for these demonstrations. It thinks that it can call us terrorists while firing and using chemical warfare on unarmed civilians. It thinks it can brand this Intifada the “Fayyad Intifada”, so it can do to Fayyad what it did to Arafat and call it a "war". But this is the people’s intifada. This is Bassem Abu Rahmeh’s Intifada.