FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Israeli Law and Order

Imagine the following scenario. A Palestinian gunman boards a bus inside Israel and rides it to the city of Netanya. Close to the end of the line, he walks over to the driver, levels his automatic rifle against the man’s head and pumps him with bullets. He turns and empties the rest of the magazine — one of 14 in his backpack — into the passenger behind the driver and two young women sitting across the gangway.

As bystanders in the street outside look on in horror, our gunman then reloads his weapon and sprays the bus with yet more fire, injuring 20 people. He approaches a woman huddled beneath a seat, trying to hide from him, lowers the gun to her head and pulls the trigger. The magazine is empty. As he tries to load a third clip, she grabs the burning barrel of the gun while other passengers rush him.

Seeing their chance, the onlookers storm the bus and fuelled by a mixture of passions — fury, indignation and fear of further attack — they beat the gunman to death.

As the news breaks, Israeli TV prefers to continue its coverage of a local football match rather report the killings. Later, when the channels do cover the deaths, they start by showing the picture of the gunman with the caption “God bless his soul” — in the same manner as they would normally relate to the victim of a terror attack.

Despite the Prime Minister denouncing the gunman as a terrorist to the world, domestically the media and police concentrate instead on the “lynch mob” who killed the gunman. The police launch a secretive investigation which after 10 months leads to the arrests of seven men on charges of murdering him, and the promise of more arrests to come. A police spokesman describes the men’s act against the gunman as one of “cold-blooded murder”.

Fanciful? Ridiculous? Well, exactly these events have unfolded in Israel over the past year — except that the location was not the Jewish city of Nentanya but the Arab town of Shafa’amr in the Galilee; the gunman was not a Palestinian but an Israeli soldier using his army-issue M-16; and the victims were not Israeli Jews but Israeli Arabs.

See how it now starts to make sense.

The killing of four Palestian citzens of Israel by the 19-year-old soldier Eden Natan Zada on 4 August last year, shortly before the disengagement from Gaza, has been quietly forgotten by the world. After the Arab victims were buried, the only question that concerned Israelis was who killed Zada. Yesterday they appeared to get their answer: seven men from Shafa’amr were rounded up by Israeli police to stand trial for his “cold-blooded” murder.

No one was interested in the official neglect of the families of Shafa’amr’s dead, all of whom were denied the large compensation payments given to Israeli victims of Palestinian terror. A ministerial committee ruled that, because Zada was a serving soldier, his attack could not be considered a terrorist incident. Apparently only Arabs can be terrorists. To this day the state has not given the families a penny of the compensation automatically awarded to Jewish families.

There was no investigation of why Zada, well-known for his extremist views, had been allowed to go AWOL for weeks from his unit without attempts to trace him. Or how his family’s repeated warnings that he had threatened to do something “terrible” to stop the disengagement had been ignored by the authorities. No one questioned why, a few days before his attack, the police had sent Zada away after he tried to hand in his gun.

Even more disturbingly, no one discussed why Zada, who openly belonged to a racist and outlawed movement, Kach, which demands the expulsion, if not eradication, of Arabs from the Holy Land, had been allowed to serve in the army. How had he and thousands of other Kach supporters been left in peace to promote their obscene ideas? Why were these Kach activists, mostly young Israelis, demonstrating openly against the Gaza disengagement, assaulting policemen and soldiers, when the group was supposedly underground?

And why did the authorities not round up and question Zada’s Kach friends in his West Bank settlement of Tapuah after the attack? Why was their possible involvement in its planning never considered, nor their role in inciting him to his deed?

The point was that the Israeli authorities wanted Zada to be dismissed as a lone, crazy gunman — like Baruch Goldstein before him, the army doctor who in 1994 opened fire in the Palestinian city of Hebron, killing 29 Muslim worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and wounding 125 others.

Although Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister then, denounced Goldstein as an “errant weed”, a shrine and park was built for him nearby, in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, venerating him as a “saint” and “a righteous and holy man”. Far from being isolated, his shrine regularly attracts thousands of Israeli Jews who congregate deep in Palestinian territority to honour him.

Instead of seeking out and eradicating this growing strain of Jewish fundamentalism in the wake of the Shafa’amr terror attack, Israel claimed that finding and punishing the men who killed Zada was the priority. It was a matter of law and order, said Dan Ronen, the police force’s northern commander. He told the Hebrew media: “In a country with law and order, despite the sensitivity, people can’t do whatever they see fit. I hope the Arab sector will display maturity and responsibility.”

This sounds like an outrageous double standard to the citizens of Shafa’amr, and to the country’s more than one million Palestinian citizens. Enforcing the law has never been a major consideration when the offenders are Jewish and the victims are Arabs, even when the killings occur inside Israel.

Arab citizens have not forgotten the massacre of 49 men, women and children by a unit of soldiers who enforced a last-minute curfew on the Israeli village of Kfar Qassem in 1956, executing the villagers — Arabs, of course — at the checkpoint one by one as they innocently returned home from a day’s work in the fields.

During their trial, the Haaretz newspaper reported that the soldiers received a 50 per cent pay increase and that it was obvious the men were “not treated as criminals but as heroes”. Found guilty of an “administrative error”, the commander was given a one penny fine.

Nor was anyone held to account when six unarmed Arab citizens were shot dead by the security services in the Galilean town of Sakhnin in 1976 as they protested against another wave of land confiscations that deprived rural Arab communities of their farm land. The prime minister of the day, Rabin again, refused even to launch an investigation.

Some 25 years later, an inquiry was held into the killing by the police of 13 unarmed Arabs in the Galilee in October 2000 as they protested the deaths of Palestinians at the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem — the trigger for the intifada. Six years on, however, not a single policeman has been charged over the deaths inside Israel. Even the commanders who illegally authorised the use of an anti-terror sniper unit against demonstrators armed only with stones have not been punished.

Israel’s Arab citizens are also more than familiar with the story of the “Bus 300 affair” of 1984, when two Palestinian gunmen from the occupied territories were captured after hijacking a bus inside Israel. Led away in handcuffs by the Shin Bet security service, the two men were later reported dead.

No one was ever charged over the killings, even though it was widely known at the time who had killed the men and later one senior Shin Bet operative, Ehud Yatom, admitted breaking the men’s skulls with a rock. In 1986, to forestall the threat of any indictments, the president of the day, Chaim Herzog, gave all the Shin Bet agents involved an amnesty from prosecution.

If it is shown in court that Zada was in fact beaten to death after the crowd knew he had been restrained, then this history — of the state’s repeated denial of justice to the Arab victims of its violence — must be taken into account. No one can reasonably have expected the onlookers to stay calm knowing that Zada, like other Jewish emissaries of the state before him, would receive either no punishment or a few years of jail and a pardon because he killed Arabs rather than Jews.

Israel has shown time and again that it selectively enforces law and order, depending on the ethnicity of killer and victim.

Commander Ronen observed at a press conference after the Shafa’amr arrests: “Since October 2000 we have come a long way in our relations with the Arab sector.” If that is true, which is doubtful, the authorites have again made every effort to tear apart what little is left of that trust.

JONATHAN COOK is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State” published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is www.jkcook.net

 

 

 

More articles by:

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jonathan-cook.net/

December 19, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russophobia and the Specter of War
Jonathan Cook
American Public’s Backing for One-State Solution Falls on Deaf Ears
Daniel Warner
1968: The Year That Will Not Go Away
Arshad Khan
Developing Country Issues at COP24 … and a Bit of Good News for Solar Power and Carbon Capture
Kenneth Surin
Trump’s African Pivot: Another Swipe at China
Patrick Bond
South Africa Searches for a Financial Parachute, Now That a $170 Billion Foreign Debt Cliff Looms
Tom Clifford
Trade for Hostages? Trump’s New Approach to China
Binoy Kampmark
May Days in Britain
John Feffer
Globalists Really Are Ruining Your Life
John O'Kane
Drops and the Dropped: Diversity and the Midterm Elections
December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail