On October 5, Abdulrahman Shadi Obeidallah was shot in the chest with a live round by an Israeli soldier near the main entrance of the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. He died a short while later, still wearing his school uniform. Unfortunately, this was no isolated incident.
Since October 1, Israel has killed 32 Palestinians and injured nearly 2000 more according to conservative estimates. On October 14, as part of the International Day of Action on University Campuses for Palestine, Students for Justice in Palestine decided to commemorate the lives of these latest victims of Israeli state violence. Some, like Abdulrahman, were civilians who have been shot to death when Israel opened fire on unarmed protesters. Others Israel summarily executed without trial, after accusing them of involvement in violent incidents.
Regardless of the circumstances of their deaths, many, if not most, of these deaths are unjustifiable. They are the direct result of an Israeli policy of shooting first and asking questions later. Israel’s loose rules of engagement have garnered widespread criticism, including from Amnesty International, which has stated that there is “no justification for [Israel’s] deliberate attacks on civilians, unlawful killings by Israeli forces, or collective punishment of Palestinians.”
Israel applies these shoot-to-kill policies exclusively to Palestinians. Although there have recently been several stabbing incidents committed by Israeli Jews, Israel has managed to apprehend Jewish perpetrators without the need for summary execution. In the West Bank, the Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem has documented Israeli soldiers accompanying and even aiding violent settlers as they attack Palestinian civilians with stones and burn their property. As with so many aspects of contemporary Israel, here too there is one system of law and policing for Jewish Israelis and another for Palestinians.
In the midst of this violence, the Palestinian Red Crescent has declared a state of emergency, as hospitals and first responders are overwhelmed with the number of patients injured by Israel’s security policies. Compounding the challenges faced by Palestinian medical and human rights groups, Israeli officials have so far been slow to provide updated medical information about Palestinian civilians who have been either detained or treated in Israeli medical facilities, and in some cases Israeli hospitals have even refused to release the bodies of killed Palestinians for autopsy. Needless to say, these flagrant violations of international humanitarian law have contributed to the continued assault on Palestine’s already fragile healthcare infrastructure, from recent IDF raids on Palestinian hospitals to the abduction of an injured patient near Nablus, actions that directly contravene Geneva Convention protocols on the protection of wounded civilians.
As a result, mistaken information about the names of two victims of Israeli violence was widely reported in the media. Students for Justice in Palestine repeated this mistaken information on two of the 18 variations of posters we distributed across campus (“Letter: SJP spreads false information around campus” [10/15/15]). We are heartened to learn that initial reports have since been updated to reflect the fact that these two individuals survived the attack on them by Israeli security forces. We only wish there were more survivors.
While we are relieved to learn that Ahmed Manasra, age 13, and Esraa’ Abed, age 30, survived after being attacked by Israeli security forces in separate incidents, we also reiterate the statement released by Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, condemning Israeli officials for briefing the public “with details of [Manasra’s] condition while his parents are prevented from visiting him and have not been provided medical information on the condition of their son. Furthermore, one can see from the picture that Ahmed is bound to his bed, in violation of juvenile law, which bars [such] constraints on a minor.”
Notwithstanding this relatively minor reporting error, the overall situation that we sought to highlight through our action on Wednesday remains grave. The Israeli government is killing and injuring Palestinians at an alarming rate. And, while the specific rules of engagement may be new, these deaths and injuries are an intensification of a much longer pattern of apartheid, occupation, and systematic discrimination. We hope that our action will cause people to become more aware of the oppressive policies of the Israeli government and join us in seeking to bring about a more just and peaceful resolution, in which the human rights of all people in Palestine/Israel may one day soon be respected.
Shockingly, some members of the University community have taken offense at our simple efforts to acknowledge the humanity of those Israel has summarily executed. Many of our posters were torn down or defaced. On one poster, someone wrote “Am Yisrael Chai” in Hebrew, citing a Zionist slogan that originated in the 1960s but has more recently become a slogan of the violent Israeli street gangs who roam the streets of Jerusalem seeking out Palestinians and violently assaulting them. On another, someone graffitied that the largest Palestinian refugee camp is located in Syria, apparently unaware of the irony that Israeli policies are the only thing standing in the way of Palestinian refugees being allowed to return to their homes.
Regardless of the specific acts of disrespect to the dead, these reactions display a profound lack of concern for our freedom of expression, a core principle of any university community. More worrisome is that they are also evidence that some members of our community seemingly suffer from an inability to see Palestinians as human beings. Like all human beings, Palestinian lives have intrinsic value. Whether on the streets of East Jerusalem or on the sidewalks of Ferguson, no one deserves to be extrajudicially killed or executed by state police forces. No life is expendable, and all life cut tragically short by excessive state violence deserves to be mourned. We are saddened that this simple fact is so hard for some people to recognize.
—Students for Justice in Palestine