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Mustafa Tamimi: A murder captured on camera

Mustafa Tamimi of Nabi Saleh died yesterday morning in Beilinson Hospital. There’s no debate over the cause of death: Tamimi was shot in the head at close range during the weekly demonstration in his village. The weapon: a high force, long range tear gas canister. According to a number of witnesses, backed up by photographs, the canister was fired point-blank, in total contravention of army regulations, from a distance of less than ten meters. The shooter: an Israeli soldier, from a Jeep.

Mustafa Tamimi is on the left. The weapon and the tear gas canister are circled in red (photo: Haim Scwarczenberg)

It’s not every day that the authorities come in possession of such a picture, which can supply more than 1,000 words in an indictment. The picture shows, firstly, the shot, an instant before the canister strikes him. This picture also shows that Tamimi may have thrown stones at the military Jeep, but it’s also clear that the Jeep is both closed and armored, and there is no doubt that Tamimi constitutes no danger to the lives of the soldiers – especially had they shut the door. In the picture you can also see the canister in the air, and the forbidden angle at which it’s flying toward Tamimi. You can’t see the shooter, but you can easily see that he was driving in military jeep S0661410. You can easily figure out who drove it by calling 02-5694211. From there it probably won’t be too hard to figure out who else was in the vehicle, and who opened the door to fire at Tamimi.

But this won’t happen. Unlike Bassem Tamimi – an organizer of the demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, who has been in jail since March and whose trial used testimonies taken from minors pressured by illegal interrogation methods – it’s safe to assume that the soldier who shot Mustafa Tamimi won’t be arrested in the near future. He won’t sit in jail while awaiting trial for murder, or manslaughter, or even negligent manslaughter. The past has proven to us that maybe, just maybe, if some organizations and dedicated attorneys invest in a prolonged military struggle, the soldier will be charged with firing against regulations, or illegal use of a weapon, or a moving violation like driving in a military vehicle with the door open. Maybe, just maybe, he will be convicted and demoted, and maybe he’ll even be fined or get a two-month sentence. Suspended sentence, of course. But maybe not.

I haven’t been to Nabi Saleh. They have been protesting there against the occupation for two and a half years, against the army-supported settler seizure of the village’s lands and spring. But I haven’t made it there. I have written on several occasions about the struggle there, but I didn’t join the demonstrations. I’ve been to Bil’in, Ni’lin, Ma’asara, Um Salmona, Jius, Hebron, Susya, Salfit, Azon, Jenin, Beit Ommar, Ramallah, Jericho, Walajeh, and more – but I haven’t been to Nabi Saleh.

The photographs of violence that have come out of Nabi Saleh simply scared me. The beatings, the rubber bullets from close range, the many wounded, and the army that roams the streets and fires tear gas into homes around the village – there’s nowhere to hide. Nobody had been killed until now, but it was just a matter of time. My friends told me that things had calmed down there lately, that it wasn’t like it had been at the beginning, that it was manageable, that you could fade back and find safety if you wanted to – I started to consider going.

More and more friends on Facebook are sharing the close-ups of Tamimi’s head after he was shot – covered in blood – and the video clips of his evacuation. I have no choice but to look at the photographs, and my body stiffens, freezes, shakes a bit. Before I was notified of Tamimi’s death, the photographs reminded me of Tristan Anderson, the American whose skull was shattered by a similar canister by similar soldiers in Ni’lin, in a demonstration at which I was present. I remembered the horror of that day, and the time that Anderson then spent in the hospital, hovering between life and death until he left in a wheelchair, in which he’ll probably remain for life. I remembered Matan Cohen, and Limor Goldstein, and their injuries, and my own light injuries. I remember Bassem and Jawaher Abu Rahma, who were killed in Bil’in, and 10-year-old Ahmed Moussa, who was killed by soldiers in another demonstration – and more.

It is simply shocking. Truly shocking. I look around, and I don’t see my society shocked. Not shocked at all of these people, or at the two head injures in Nabi Saleh yesterday, or at the two arrests in a peaceful demonstration in Ma’asara, which didn’t even get any coverage. I see the careful reports reading, “Palestinians claim that…” and the blind faith in the stance of the IDF Spokesperson. And the lack of shock shocks me even more. Especially shocking after all this are the reader comments, which claim that “they deserved it” or that describe the weekly popular demonstrations in the occupied territories, despite the repression and the injuries and the arrests and the terror and the death, as a “game,” or “theater,” or a “hangout of anarchists and bored Arabs.” And I hope that somehow, the UN Special Rapporteur on Free Speech, who spent Friday in Nabi Saleh when Tamimi was shot, sees and understands what is happening here, and maybe will manage to give us some assistance from outside. He, or the European consuls who are witnessing the trial of Bassem Tamimi, or diplomats who document the destruction of the caves and wells in the South Hebron Hills. But I have a hard time believing.

But – a shred of hope? Despite it all? Is there a source of encouragement, alongside all these killings, alongside the father of son who were killed in Gaza, and the death and bereavement that follows us everywhere thoughout this land of occupation and repression and war? Yes. The human spirit. It may be a cliché, but I believe in the words of Charlie Chaplin: We want to live by each other’s happiness — not by each other’s misery. We don’t give up on the eternal struggle for a future that is better, freer, more equal, more just, and in the long run, we achieve something. Capitalism and racism may incite us to selfishness and war, but ultimately, occupations collapse, empires fall, and humans continue to create and protest and build and love. And alongside such pictures of murder, this must be remembered.

This piece originally appeared on MySay. Translated by Noa Yachot.

Related posts on +972:
IMAGE: Unarmed protester shot to death by IDF
Nabi Saleh protester hit by tear gas canister dies from wounds
Vicious reader comments left on JPost article on Tamimi
In West Bank, peaceful Palestinian opposition marches on

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Max

      Haggai, I have a couple of questions/points:

      - Is this photo just before Tamimi is struck, as you say, or just after? To me, given the angle of the canister compared to the angle of the gun, it seems that we are looking at the canister after it has ricocheted off Tamimi’s skull. His posture in the photo seems to support this; he looks as though he is just beginning to crumple to the ground, rather than like someone who is in mid-stride.

      - Second, a question: is there any way to know whether or not the jeep was in motion, or stopped? Eyewitness accounts, video, or further photos that could clearly show this one way or the other seem important.

      Reply to Comment
    2. louis

      Call the number. I did. When they ask if the jeep committed a traffic offense tell them letting a soldier illegally shoot a tear gass cannister from the jeep must at least be a traffic crime. Demand details. They will not give them but call…

      Reply to Comment
    3. powerful piece

      Reply to Comment
    4. AYLA

      This is really beautiful and moving, Haggai. Thank you so much.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Q. Mark

      After seeing soldiers that are proud of killing an unarmed guy, reading what IDF spokeperson said and reading comments praising murder of Palestinians; I cannot understand why the armies of hasbarah are spread in every site denying the truth and accusing Palestinians. The USA and UN are in the side of occupiers even after all of these crimes and even if they say clearly “We, Jew are human and all others are subhuman and deserve to die. We, Jews, do not need to find a reason for killing a subhuman. We will take all the land and whatever we can. If any Jew is hurt, hundreds will be killed in revenge.”

      Reply to Comment
      • F Guttmann

        First Mr Haggai in his post does not specify what was doing Mr Tamini the moment, supposedly was shot, I don’t believe he was out walking the family Dog. Second what Mr Haggai would write if the one killed was the IDF soldier????

        Reply to Comment
    6. AYLA

      @QMark–I share your emotional response and outrage. Still, please be careful not to respond to immoral injustice, as well as propaganda, by spreading dangerous propaganda yourself–especially in falsely-used quotation marks. We all have a choice: to seek understanding with complex truths and to raise the bar for justice and humanity, or to take the machine of hate further.

      Reply to Comment
    7. AYLA

      @NoaYachot–thank you for translating. Such important and difficult work–I am grateful.

      Reply to Comment
    8. JD

      I suppose it is comforting to many to portray this sad situation in such black and white terms. Apparently all Israeli soldiers are evil, laughing blood thirsty racist murderers. This is either intelectual disnhonesty, laziness or for some, a way of justifying their own bigotry. If a just solution has any hope of ever being found it will have to be based on understanding the issues on both sides. Portraying one side as all evil and the other as all just is a recipe for continued suffering for all. You seem to know the mindset of the soldier who killed Tamimi and claim that the military is not capable on conducting an honest investigation. I say lets see before judging but if you say that this was clearly a murder then I guess in your world people are not innocent before being proven guilty. If that is the case I would not want to live in your world which is dominated by emotion not law.

      Reply to Comment
    9. AYLA

      @JD–you’re responding in a way that epitomizes why we are so stuck in this dialogue. We all come in wanting to see “our side” understood, and believing that anything exposing anything true that works against our side is threatening. the author of this thoughtful piece did not say or imply anything you said about the entire Israeli Army; he’s responding to one incident, which is certainly not a sole incident, appropriately. If you have served in the IDF, and you want to write a blog piece about what it’s like to sit in that army vehicle and why you believe you’re there, do so! That would actually be enlightening! But to knee-jerk respond to something you feel is anti-Israel rather than responding to the content of this tragic event is exactly what most of us do, on all so-called sides, that keeps us stuck.

      Reply to Comment
    10. JD

      AYLA the title of this article is A Murder Captured on Camera. Not a killing, or death, or any of the many other ways it could have been described. The author does not only know the mind of the soldier but goes also makes clear his belief that the military and the courts are all complicit in these cases. He then goes on to imply that Israeli society as a whole is also complicit for failing to be shocked, he also suggest the media is also apparently complicit due to a lack of coverage. Why are my assumptions about the author’s point any less valid than his are about an entire society.

      Reply to Comment
    11. AYLA

      @JD, maybe you’re right, and I just dont see it because on everything you just mirrored back, I agree with the author of this piece (it is murder in this case and many others; the courts are complicit (many have confessed as much); israeli society as a whole is complicit for failing to be shocked (or, really, to care beyond a sort of general “chaval; if only it didn’t have to be this way…”. I do believe, however, that if Israelis knew more, they would care a lot.

      Reply to Comment
    12. JD

      AYLA I really appreciate your honesty. This is the ingredient that is missing on all sides of this tragedy. To me this conflict is an example of two rights making a wrong. There is both truth and injustice on both sides. Until we stop demonizing the other and accept that all are equally human we won’t make progress. No people are all good and no people are all bad. It would be simple if this was not the truth. All people tend to be tribalistic whether based on race, religion, culture, politics or even sports and defend their tribe regardless of the truth. The world will change when we overcome our tribilistic instincts and direct our loyalty to humaniity as a whole instead. I personally believe that any widely held belief must have some kernel of truth to it no matter how much I may wish it otherwise. The sincere desire to identify the element of truth within an opponents argument is the first step to real understanding and solutions.

      Reply to Comment
    13. AYLA

      JD–that’s beautiful, and I couldn’t agree more. We still read this article through different lenses, but/and, we share a yearning that, I believe, most people share; it just comes out in so many sordid ways. All best.

      Reply to Comment
    14. JD

      AYLA, thank you. Examing a human heart doesn’t reveal whether its owner was white or black, Moslem or Jew. The curse of Babel divided us all. Language dominates our lives and yet words can have such different meanings to each of us leading to conflict and confusion. If enemies could truly see what the other sees and feel what the other feels would their hearts not beat as one? If we begin with compassion perhaps we can each help the other to see better and help remove a little blindness from the world. Take care.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Ahmad Saleem

      A guy drives a car and exceeds the speed limit. He hits another guy passing the road. Then, the driver and his friends smile and laugh. They try to delay people that want to take the victim to the hospital. The next day, the victim dies. The driver and his friends that were in the car and some other friends accuses the victim of using his mobile in the middle of the road and say that all people who tried to help him deserve to die.
      Now, you can decide if the driver and these friends of his are bad enough to be called bad people.

      Reply to Comment
    16. JD

      Ahmad-The case you describe involves negligence and criminal conduct on the part of the driver and friends. If this is true than they should be punished. I liked the fact that you left out whether these people were Jews or Palestinians, truth is that it could happen either way. It is possible that in their communities there actions might be applauded, and that they are regarded by those they known as “good people”. The disturbing truth is that good people can do terrible things when they allow themselves to be believe that some individuals or groups of people are undeserving of respect. When a person acts upon this belief as in this case they should be punished but but we must be careful not to deny their humanity or we too will fall into the same trap.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Some days ago I have had the opportunity to watch the reportage “This is my Land in Hebron“. I don’t know why our national television have transmitted it, while they are so aligned with the brutal power in israel. But this movies was so shocking and so brutal that neither newspaper or media was so brave to discuss it in our parliament and make one interrogation with our ambassador in Israel.

      Every power, privately condemns these atrocities, but when they have to make some public declaration they are all servants of the Zionist thought.

      Reply to Comment

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