US Government Complicit in Israel’s Videotaped Murder of Palestinian Boys

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Electronic Intifada

US Government Complicit in Israel’s Videotaped Murder of Palestinian Boys

Mohammad Abu Thaher and Nadim Nuwara [AFP/Getty Images]

A United States government call on Israel to investigate the cold-blooded videotaped killing of two Palestinian boys falls far short of a real demand for accountability and amounts to complicity in covering up the crime.

The boys, 17-year-old Nadim Siam Nuwara and 16-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu al-Thahir, were killed at a Nakba Day protest near the Ofer military prison in the occupied West Bank village of Beitunia on 15 May.

The video evidence indicates that Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon was simply lying when he claimed that “it was a life-threatening situation, so the officers acted accordingly."

The videos confirm that the boys were shot dead at long distance like hunted animals and were not engaged in any activity that could plausibly be described as threatening to anyone. Muhammad was shot while he had his back to the source of the gunfire that fatally wounded him.

The first of the videos, taken by security cameras on a nearby store, were released by Defence for Children International - Palestine Section on 19 May.

Additional footage taken from another angle was released by Israeli rights group B’Tselem yesterday.

A third boy, Muhammad Abdullah Hussein al-Azzeh, 15, not seen in the videos, sustained a gunshot wound in the back and left lung during the same demonstration. The fourth victim, a 23-year-old who B’Tselem said wished to remain unnamed, was lightly injured.

Israel told to investigate itself

“We are closely following this incident in the video,” US State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki told journalists at the daily briefing on 20 May.

“We look to the Government of Israel to conduct a prompt and transparent investigation to determine the facts surrounding this incident, including whether or not the use of force was proportional to the threat posed by the demonstrators. We express, of course, our condolences to the families of those deceased and urge all parties to exercise restraint.”

Asked if based on the video the State Department thought the Israeli “response proportional to the threat,” Psaki replied, “We’re not going to make an evaluation on that from here. We are encouraging the government of Israel to conduct their own investigation.”

Impunity

Given Israel’s total failure to properly investigate virtually any killings of Palestinians and the systematic impunity afforded to killers, the US call for Israel to investigate itself is tantamount to complicity in covering up the killings.

Since 2000, Israeli forces and settlers have killed more than 1,400 children.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch documented a number of cases in which Israeli soldiers hiding near schools had deliberately killed Palestinian children.

According to Amnesty International, “trigger-happy” Israeli occupation forces have engaged in a pattern of “war crimes” against Palestinians. Yet, according to Israeli legal advocacy group Yesh Din, “Most cases of violent crimes against Palestinians not only go unpunished – but often are completely ignored by the authorities.”

Yesh Din says that 94 percent of criminal investigations launched by Israeli occupation authorities against soldiers suspected of criminal violent activity against Palestinians and their property are closed without any indictments.

In December 2012, an Israeli occupation soldier shot dead Palestinian teenager Muhammad al-Salaymeh on his seventeenth birthday in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

Video of the incident totally contradicted the version of events given to Israeli media by Nofar Mizrahi, the occupation soldier who killed him. Yet once again, despite the evidence, Mizrahi has enjoyed complete impunity.

Amnesty International confirms that Israeli soldiers and officers, if investigated at all, generally go unpunished for killing or injuring Palestinian civilians, even when they do so in violation of Israel’s own legal system.

The failure of the US to demand any real accountability is hardly surprising: one of the Obama administration’s proudest achievements was helping Israel bury the UN-commissioned Goldstone report into Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 massacre in Gaza.

The US has also tenaciously assisted Israel to avoid accountability over its killings of nine people, including the American youth Furkan Dogan, aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010.

Continuing this unbroken pattern of cover up and complicity, the US was alone out of 47 countries in voting against several resolutions condemning Israeli abuses at the UN Human Rights Council in March.

Under Obama, US military aid to Israel has reached record levels.

Live ammunition

In addition to the transparent lies about the killings of Nadim and Muhammad from the Israeli defense minister, Israeli occupation forces spokesperson Peter Lerner claimed that preliminary findings show that occupation forces fired only rubber-coated steel bullets and did not use live fire.

However, B’Tselem said it had “obtained medical opinions regarding the entry and exit wounds found in the bodies of all four victims, which are completely consistent with injuries caused by live fire and could not have been caused by rubber-coated metal bullets – especially not when fired at a relatively long range, as was the case here. Also, eyewitness accounts described the sound of live gunfire, which sounds different from rubber-coated bullet fire.”

The evidence, B’Tselem said, raised “grave suspicion” that occupation forces “willfully killed two Palestinians” and “injured two others” and demanded investigation by Israel’s Military Police Investigations Unit “into the military’s highly incorrect version of the incident conveyed to the media.”

B’Tselem surely knows, as does the US government, that the chances for impartial justice for Muhammad, Nadim and the other victims from the same occupation authorities that sent soldiers out armed to occupy and kill are precisely zero.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and a fellow with the Palestine Centre in Washington, DC.  Abunimah is Executive Director of The Electronic Intifada.

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