There has been a spike in attacks by Israelis against Palestinians in recent weeks — raids, arrests, home demolitions and violence by Jewish settlers and soldiers. So far this year, Israeli soldiers have killed 14 Palestinians in the West Bank and wounded 955, according to the United Nations. It is uncertain whether this is another brief flare-up in the conflict or the beginning of a larger conflagration. What is clear is that Israeli soldiers are once again acting with impunity as attested by the death of one more victim who was shot in the back despite posing no lethal threat.
Mohamed Al-Kasbah, 17, threw a stone at an Israeli army vehicle near the main military checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah, breaking the front windshield. A senior Israeli army commander got out of his jeep and fatally shot the teen. The Israeli military said the officer feared for his life; Palestinians say the teen was fleeing when he was gunned down. Col. Israel Shomer said he fired because he felt his life was in danger. But a video released by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem shows the teenager running away after attacking the vehicle. B’Tselem also said medical evidence suggested that Al-Kasbah was shot in the back and the side of the head.
Shomer’s superior officer declared the shooting proper and Shomer remains on duty. The Israeli army has opened an investigation into the killing but as is well known, it is rare for an Israeli soldier, especially one of high rank, to be prosecuted for shooting a Palestinian, with just a handful of trials in recent years.
The shattering of the jeep’s front window with a stone might have endangered Shomer when it happened. However, Al-Kasbah was shot in the back after the fact, when he was already running away and posing no mortal threat. Simply feeling a sense of danger is not enough to pull the trigger. The rights group also noted that the video contradicted the IDF’s claim that Shomer had carried out “suspect-arrest procedure”. Military open-fire regulations permit shooting at the legs of a suspect in order to facilitate his arrest. They do not permit killing him by firing three shots at his upper body. It is thus clear from the video that Shomer wanted to kill Al-Kasbah, making him the third son in his family to die in clashes with Israeli soldiers.
Those who think that shooting a rock thrower in the back is acceptable would be all right with the police in Baltimore shooting young rock throwers in the back. Hundreds in Baltimore should have been killed during the riots there if this is so. In the US, the South Charleston police officer who shot an unarmed man who was running away from him eight times in the back was not only sacked but has been formally indicted on a murder charge and faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted. In Israel, the killer is given a pat on the back for a job well done. He might even be promoted for his efforts.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon alleges that Palestinians spend the day watching anti-Israel programming on TV and then head out to kill civilians. But that oversimplified view distorts history. Nearly 50 years of oppressive occupation reaps what it sows. Throwing rocks can be dangerous but Israel has created a far more dangerous situation where a unitary apartheid state is being set up as rampant violence is being committed by Israel on a daily basis with no rule of law during a long and illegal occupation.