Monday, December 17, 2012

Occupied and preoccupied

Some stuff that doesn't appear to be appearing in the US:
Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah of Hebron on his 17th birthday, the last day of his life.
This was December 12th. Muhammad's mother sent him to the bakery to get more cake, but on his way he was stopped at an Israeli army checkpoint. According to the border policewoman who shot him, he pulled a gun from his pocket, grabbed a policeman, and held the gun to his head, so she fired at him, three times. Only on the third shot did he relinquish his hold on the officer and drop the gun to fall to the ground. The gun turned out to be a toy.

None of Muhammad's friends and family had ever seen the toy gun before. Also Muhammad was hard of hearing. I find I can't make the effort to imagine how the official story could be true; it seems more likely that he failed to respond to an order and was killed for that, and that the toy gun came from—somewhere else. Video of the incident exists but has not been released.

My version of the story comes from Noam R. at +972blog. Other sources spell Muhammad's surname Salima. A good roundup of Israeli mainstream press coverage from all political perspectives, including Yedioth Ahronoth (who refers to Muhammad as "the terrorist") is at the Americans for Peace Now NewsNosh website. There we learn that he was the third boy from Hebron to be killed by uniformed Israelis in the past month.

Fears in Israel have been that a Third Intifada may be beginning, although it sounds so far more like a police uprising. Some youths have attempted to storm IDF checkpoints but the Palestinian police have stopped them. Nevertheless, a Hebron group is now distributing (since the 15th) a video claiming that the Third Intifada has already begun, led by a joint command of Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and PFLP members.

The IDF is certainly getting jumpy, in Hebron in particular. Noam Sheizaf reports that the day after Muhammad's murder, Yousri al Jamal and Ma'amoun Wazwaz, Reuters cameramen driving to the same checkpoint, in a vehicle clearly marked "TV" and "PRESS" on their jackets, were stopped by an Israeli foot patrol, forced out of the car and punched and beaten with gun butts, accused of belonging to the human rights group B'Tselem (which is not illegal, much as some might wish it were), and made to strip to their underwear and kneel on the road, hands behind their heads. The patrol then lobbed a tear gas cannister among them and ran away. (Reuters's own report is here.)

One of B'Tselem's biggest achievements in documenting the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories has been equipping Palestinians with their own video cameras. One IDF soldier has been quoted as saying that
the cameras on the ground undermine the forces’ efforts. “A commander or an officer sees a camera and becomes a diplomat, calculating every rubber bullet, every step. It’s intolerable, we’re left utterly exposed. The cameras are our kryptonite.” (Ynet via +972) 
So the story that the patrol mistook these cameramen for B'Tselem volunteers is probably true. Horrible, though.

One more thing that seems to be going on is an unprecedented number of suicides among IDF personnel, with the IDF covering up numbers and details. This was the discovery last spring of the Israeli Facebook blogger Eishton, who has now been picked up and interrogated by Israeli military police, and released with a gag order—he is to say nothing regarding the subject of the interrogations. Thus we don't actually know what he was being interrogated about, but Richard Silverstein gives good reason for thinking it must be about the suicides.

Something that bears further investigation is the question of psychic trauma caused to a person who harms others, as in the case of the severe PTSD suffered by American soldiers who took part in torture in Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm wondering if these excesses, on patrols and at checkpoints in Palestinian territory, aren't doing some terrible damage to the psyche of the young Israeli—the reason for these deaths that the IDF is trying so hard to keep quiet.

Oh, and on the lighter side (by Israel-Palestine standards of what constitutes "light"), from Ami Kaufman:

This went up on the Facebook page of the Israeli embassy in Ireland as a nice little Xmas message. It's been taken down since and the embassy has apologized to "anyone who may have been offended." And by the way, how many lynchings of Jews have there been in Bethlehem over the past—oh, 60 years? Can't find any numbers online, wonder why that is? Maybe Jews are welcome in Bethlehem and Jericho, though Jewish Israeli citizens are not.

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