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101: How to make a martyr, from al-Durrah to Abu Rahmah

Mohammed al-Durrah and Jawaher Abu Rahmah were both Palestinians who lost their lives to the conflict. Both deaths – 12-year old al- Durrah in 2000, and Jawaher Abu Rahmah this past Friday (31 December) – came to symbolize the Palestinian struggle against occupation.

And in both cases, those who are desperate to prove Israel’s innocence at all costs feverishly sought to discredit accounts of their deaths.

Mohammed al-Durrah’s death in a gun battle near Netzarim junction at the start of the second Intifada was caught on film and broadcast by a French television station. His death became such a powerful symbol that pro-occupation figures (my new term for those defending Israel’s status quo) could not stand it. The IDF investigated who fired the shots and suggested it was Palestinians. A private French businessman accused French Channel 2 of using footage that the local Palestinian cameraman had faked, or “cooked.” The investigations took on the tone of the Warren Commission. Debates raged for years about whose bullets actually pierced the boy’s chest. Seven years after the event, Ynet reported that  the Israeli Prime Minister’s office released a document officially denying Israel’s responsibility for the death and stating that the footage was staged.

I never got the point. The boy died in the conflict and he was 12; his own father could not save him. Thousands of other Palestinian civilians died too and he symbolized their plight, just as the Dolphinarium bombing came to symbolize the death of innocent Israelis. Was it an Israeli bullet or a Palestinian bullet? Who cares? The boy has become the symbol of the following reality: that Israel should not be occupying and controlling the Palestinians, should not be using overwhelming force in an asymmetrical, militarily unsolvable conflict and nobody should be killing children.

The struggle over al-Durrah’s story became a lawsuit between France 2 television against Philippe Karsteny, the French businessman and media analyst who accused the station of a hoax. The suit, verdicts and appeals dragged on, which in my opinion desecrates the memory of the dead. “Because I refused to be brainwashed,” said Karsteny with great self-righteousness, I was sued for defamation” – as if the death of a child, and the raging Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is all about him.

Ten years later, Bil’in has become the symbol of non-violent, joint Israeli-Palestinian struggle against the occupation and the separation wall that has become its symbol.

The Israeli Army is trying very hard to make the non-violent protest impossible. From the arrests and imprisonment of non-violent activists on both sides to the policy of declaring protest areas “closed military zones,” there seems to be some warped belief that spirit and determination can be squelched by mere army orders, signs, barbed wire, warning shots or tear gas. Jews who faced down the British Empire should know better.

Instead, the bizarre response of the Army to the death of Jawareh Abu Rahmah is like an old Jewish joke, except no one’s laughing. A man confronts his friend who returned a pot the friend had borrowed, broken. The friend replies: “First, it’s just a scratch. Second, it was broken when I got it. Third, I never borrowed your damned pot!”

The Army has churned out excuse after excuse for Abu Rahmah’s death. She had been to the doctor recently (so have I, in fact, and I’m not dead). As Lisa Goldman documents here, claims about Abu Rahmah’s health have become increasingly far-fetched, ranging from cancer/leukemia to ear pressure to the remarkable claim that she was stabbed in a family honor killing and then the ultimate assertion that she wasn’t even at the demonstration. But overwhelming confirmation by eyewitnesses shows that she was there, engulfed by a cloud of tear gas, and carried off on a stretcher into an ambulance – events that were “tweeted” in real time.

Further, the incident focused attention on the fact that the Army has resumed using CS, a deadly strain of gas, that has been banned by the IDF itself , and for good reason, as Noam Sheizaf writes here. Doesn’t the IDF get it – that it no longer matters if she had a cold, because the event has already incriminated the IDF and martyred Abu Rahmah?

The IDF seems blinded by the surreal belief that if it can prove Abu Rahmah died by forces other than its own – this will somehow exonerate Israel and salvage its global reputation after 43 years of indefensible occupation.

No matter how she died, Jawaher Abu Rahmah is now becoming a symbol, just like Mohammed al-Durrah. If he was the symbol of helpless children crushed by the jaws of the conflict, she will symbolize something else: the woman Israel killed and tried to pretend it didn’t, because it doesn’t know any other way to deal with civil resistance – or with the occupation and the conflict itself.

It’s so upsetting to watch Israel learn only one thing from its mistakes: how to repeat them.

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    1. maayan

      Actually, at first the IDF admitted that it was probably them who had killed al Durah. Later, they began backing off the claim and it was only after it became abundantly clear they hadn’t killed him that they finally, belatedly, removed the stain of responsibility from their own shoulders. Karsteny shouldered all the costs of his efforts and held fast to the truth despite the fact that he was facing an established myth.

      The problem here involves a few challenges for Israel. First, it can’t extricate itself from the Palestinians because they don’t want to be extricated. The little Qassam museum in Sderot is testament to that. So is the Washington Post interview with Abbas about Olmert’s peace offer where the only justification he gave for walking away from a Palestinian state was that “the gaps were too wide.” This, even though they would have had a capital in east Jerusalem.

      What this means is that Israel faces a number of different wars. It faces the Iranian front, led by two proxy armies on Israel’s borders pointing real missiles at Israel. It faces belligerent Arab states that seek to undermine Israel internationally and diplomatically even as they continue to prepare for war against the Jewish state. And, when not facing a terrorist war by the Palestinians, Israel has been facing a propaganda war by them.

      The goal of the propaganda is straightforward: to isolate Israel diplomatically and eliminate support from the Western public at large to a degree that would influence Western governments to slow or eliminate support for the Jewish state.

      Events such as Al Durah and Cast Lead are used in this context and quite effectively, often with the support and assistance of many Leftist Jews within and outside of Israel. I have been present at demonstrations critical of Israel where there were more Jewish activists by a factor of 10-1 over Arab activists. This has come to help the Palestinian cause immensely, since apparently any Jew who attacks Israel gains automatic credibility as a “good” Jew of the “peace” and “justice” kind. Apparently the rest of us are bad Jews who like to kill and maim, when we’re not manipulating the press and non-Jewish countries’ governments.

      Let’s take Cast Lead as an example. Where is B’Tzelem now that Hamas itself has rejected B’Tzelem’s civilian/militant death count for Cast Lead? Where is HRW? Where are all the college-circuit speakers in the US, Canada and the UK, such as Finkelstein, who walked around parroting false NGO claims against Israel, sordidly attacking the morality of Israel’s war, ignoring or justifying the thousands of rockets launched against the Western Negev and falsely using as the foundation of their attacks the “high civilian death count” in Cast Lead? Where is Goldstone for that matter?

      What exactly was Israel supposed to do? It put out accurate numbers of Hamas dead – and chances are that if those were accurate, so were their other numbers of an additional 400 civilian dead. Did it get credit for its accurate reporting? No, it was vilified. Now, two years later, that it has been proven right about the numbers, are you and others who support the Palestinians going to apologize and claim that many of the claims made against Israel were false and unfair? Of course not. Instead there will be new attacks or more justifications for the old attacks.

      Did Israel get credit for waiting years for belligerence to stop from Gaza? No. Was Hamas ever seriously criticized for shelling civilians all the time and at random? No. It was understood and accepted that their priority is attacking Israel, just like today when they continue to amass pilestocks of weapons while promising Israel’s destruction and enjoying the support of the many people demanding the blockade be removed.

      Israel can’t win. It offers peace and gets war. It faces complex challenges from real enemies who openly wish for its destruction, and when it seeks to handle them, it is attacked in a unique manner by international institutions and organizations who openly excuse far greater “sins” by other nations. Once every couple of years, it faces stories like Al Dura, Jenin, Rachel Corrie, Cast Lead, et cetera, stories whose worst variants are pushed as solid truth by pro-Palestinian supporters.
      What’s surprising is that Israel hasn’t become what its detractors say it is. After all, if it is going to be criticized viciously, you would think it would learn to act as described. It has nothing to lose, since it will be criticized in the same way. And yet, it continues to seek to minimize casualties on the other side, to offer peace, and to express information about events to the best of its ability. Sometimes they get things wrong, but the track record suggests otherwise. It suggests that in two or three years from now, somebody will find out that this tear-gas death in Bil’in might have been something other than what was described. And then nobody will say anything, and I guess somebody will write commentary about how Israel never learns from its previous mistakes.

      I know! They should let the nice, unarmed demonstrators at Bil’in proceed to the fence every week and dismantle it all. Surely that will lead to justice and peace, and certainly much faster than something as ridiculous as a Palestinian leader signing a peace treaty with Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    2. anti-Israeli

      There is absolutely no possibility of reaching an accord with Israelis and all efforts at negotiation only play into the hands of the Israeli criminals.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Anti-Israel – your comment has been edited for offensive content.

      Reply to Comment
    4. maayan My how your Hasbarrow overfloweth.

      “Karsteny shouldered all the costs of his efforts and held fast to the truth despite the fact that he was facing an established myth”

      The court case was not about who killed Mohammed al-Durrah. It was a libel case according to the actual judgment http://wp.me/PDB7k-Y#Al-Durah

      “First, it can’t extricate itself from the Palestinians because they don’t want to be extricated. The little Qassam museum in Sderot is testament to that.”

      How is it a testament to your claim? Fact is, it isn’t. It’s meaningless waffle.

      Israel occupies. //Res 1860
      Recalling all of its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1850 (2008),
      Stressing that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967 and will be a part of the Palestinian state//

      The occupier can end occupation AT ANY TIME IT CHOOSES. Occupation is VOLUNTARY. Having chosen to occupy, the Occupying Power has obligations under the UN Charter Chapter XI.

      In 1949 Israel was demanding http://wp.me/pDB7k-l5 territories OUTSIDE OF ISRAEL http://wp.me/pDB7k-KL . Israel WANTS the Palestinian territories. It has illegally annexed and it illegally settles. Were your twaddle true, it would not be illegally settling or illegally annexing.

      “Did Israel get credit for waiting years for belligerence to stop from Gaza?”

      Uh? You mean all the continual incursions, targeted assassinations were IDF fabrications? AMAZING!! Israel has never ‘waited’!

      ———–

      Israel has dug itself a ghastly black hole by it’s stupid ‘facts on the ground’. If it adheres to International Law and tries to force the illegal settlers out, there will be an Israeli civil war, OUTSIDE of Israel’s Sovereignty. Think about it.. read the UN Charter on States acting outside of their territories.

      If it does not adhere to International Law and continues to act illegally outside of it’s sovereign territories … read the UN Charter on States acting outside of their territories.

      Which ever way Israel turns, IT IS IN DEEP SH*TE of it’s own greedy, insane, making.

      Reply to Comment
    5. anti-Israeli

      talknik

      I think the specter of a civil war etc is something of a red herring. All Israel has to do if it wants to solve the problem of illegal settlements (namely, all settlements) is to stop sending the IDF goons in to protect the settlers. Let them fend for themselves. The settlers will either be forced back over the green line or (preferably) killed. Case closed. The Israelis are once again hoodwinking the international community into thinking the crisis they created with the settlers is now unsolvable and therefore, some special dispensation must be offered to the settler riff raff so that israel can simply annex the land it covets. Don’t fall for it.

      Reply to Comment
    6. YEB

      Great comment, Maayan.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Anti-Israel, you’ve got to stop inciting to violence on the site. Next time we will simply delete your comments. Substance is fine – calling for people to be killed is not.

      Reply to Comment
    8. maayan

      Talknic, if Israel is in trouble, it is predominantly because it is a very small country with little leverage in terms of size or wealth. Contending with a well organized, rich bloc of Arab and Muslim states makes the diplomatic front one of the most complex for Israel.

      As for your attempt to make the little Qassem museum in Sderot something it is not, I’ll explain to you in clearest terms something you don’t seem to understand: targeting civilians, for the sake of murder or for the sake of terror, is the height of immorality.

      If you can find any provision about a “Palestinian state” in 242 or 338, quote it. 242 and 338 are the agreed-upon foundations of Oslo.

      Uh, Israel most certainly waited. A targeted assassination or an incursion to grab a terrorist are not the same as launching the war. How do we know this? Why don’t you do a comparison between the near-silence of Qassem and other rockets from Gaza after Cast Lead versus the ongoing average of 3-4 attacks per day during the days of targeted assassinations and incursions. Of course, if there had been no rockets, there wouldn’t have been incursions or assassinations, which is the most important fact you’re choosing to ignore.

      Finally, regarding the “belligerent occupation,” it is Israeli control over a territory that had no sovereign state or rule other than the Mandate (which was intended to establish a home for the Jewish people) in 1948. In 1967, the ruler, Jordan, had no greater right than Israel to Judea and Samaria. In fact, under the very clear determination of the parceling of land by the League of Nations, this was to be Jewish territory. And it is precisely the behavior of Jordan during its years of control over eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria that contribute to a clear understanding of why the Israelis are ensuring that their control over Jewish areas and holy sites in Jerusalem will remain permanent.

      Reply to Comment
    9. anti-Israel

      Hi Dahlia

      As you’re undoubtedly aware, the incessant (and highly successful) incitement to murder has come exclusively from the Israelis. If your point is that only Palestinians can be killed with impunity, you should spell that out. Your country is inciting mass murder against Iran on an hourly basis and has been inciting violence AND murdering Palestinians for over 60 years. Support of Israel is itself, an incitement to violence murder. That needs to be understood.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Ben

      First-time commenter:
      I’m kind of surprised that someone who is clearly intelligent could come up with such a stupid central argument and use two self-negating examples as its central foundation. The Al-Durah case only works if one forgets (or doesn’t care) that he wasn’t actually killed by any Israelis, that the French reporters lied about this, and Karsenty called them on their deceit and was vindicated (which somehow has been described an example of self-righteousness or the conflict being all about him, a line of thought not likely to earn higher than an ‘F’ in a Logic 101 class). And the later case has nicely unraveled into a PA ring of lies, where the IDF’s main fault was rushing to falsely claim responsibility. If the point of this was that Palestinians can simply create rallying cries and this is Israel’s fault, it would have been nice to have that spelled out explicitly. Pieces like this and a-i’s posts have the same chance of helping end the conflict: zero.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Martin Sandberger

      the only way the conflict can be resolved is for the zionists to go back to E Europe and Palestine returned to the Palestinians. Everything else is accepting the theft of 1948. “Progressive” israelis should lead the emigration, otherwise you will appear as putting an ethical gloss on your theft

      Reply to Comment
    12. maayan “if Israel is in trouble, it is predominantly because it is a very small country with little leverage in terms of size or wealth. Contending with a well organized, rich bloc of Arab and Muslim states makes the diplomatic front one of the most complex for Israel”

      Irrelevant to the actual extent of Israeli Sovereignty and/or the legal status of territories in the region.

      “As for your attempt to make the little Qassem museum in Sderot something it is not..”

      False accusations are so un-becoming.

      “I’ll explain to you…something you don’t seem to understand: targeting civilians, for the sake of murder or for the sake of terror, is the height of immorality”

      Ya don’t say. WOW!! It has absolutely NO THING to do with anything I have ever written. In fact I agree.

      “If you can find any provision about a “Palestinian state” in 242 or 338, quote it. 242 and 338 are the agreed-upon foundations of Oslo.”

      Why would I even bother to look? UNSC Res was to end hostilities between states. Palestine is not a state. The states were all High Contracting Powers, why the GC’s apply according to the UNSC. Israel was left as the Occupying Power. See Chapter XI UN Charter.

      “A targeted assassination or an incursion to grab a terrorist are not the same as launching the war.”

      When did the preemptive Plan Dalet waged on Palestine come to an end. Can you show ANY ceasefire, armistice or peace agreements between Israel and Palestine?

      “Of course, if there had been no rockets, there wouldn’t have been incursions or assassinations, which is the most important fact you’re choosing to ignore.”

      You ignore the fact that Israel had illegally acquired by war, 50% of the territories NOT slated for Israel or Declared by Israel, BEFORE there were any Palestinian rocket attacks. Before there was a Hamas, before the ’67 war.

      ” regarding the “belligerent occupation,” it is Israeli control over a territory that had no sovereign state or rule”

      Irrelevant, read the UN Charter Chapter XI. Read UNSC Res 1860.

      “..other than the Mandate (which was intended to establish a home for the Jewish people) in 1948.”

      The Mandate said nothing about a Jewish ‘state’. The mandate expired May 14th 1948. Read the Declaration for the Establishment of the State of Israel.

      “In 1967, the ruler, Jordan, had no greater right than Israel to Judea and Samaria.”

      Jordan didn’t claim it as their own. Israel AGREED to Jordan occupying in after the ’48 war. Read the Armistice AGREEMENT. Jordan occupied as per the UN Charter Chapt XI as a temporary trustee.

      After the ’67 war Israel occupied by agreement with Jordan. Read th Armistice AGREEMENT. Israel is obliged to the UN Charter Chapt XI.

      ” In fact, under the very clear determination of the parceling of land by the League of Nations, this was to be Jewish territory.”

      Read the Mandate Article 7 then stop lying.

      “And it is precisely the behavior of Jordan during its years of control over eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria that contribute to a clear understanding of why the Israelis are ensuring that their control over Jewish areas and holy sites in Jerusalem will remain permanent”

      Then Israel must LEGALLY annex. It hasn’t. Legal annexation requires a referendum of the citizens of the territory being annexed. It’s Customary International Law from at least the time the US annexed Texas.

      Nothing you have said has any bearing on the legal status of territories.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Ben

      The court case was not to decide who killed Mohamed Al Dura. It was a slander/libel case.

      Read the court decision. http://wp.me/PDB7k-Y

      Reply to Comment
    14. anti-Israeli

      “The settlers will either be forced back over the green line or (preferably) killed”

      A) Yes B) Don’t lower yourself….

      Reply to Comment
    15. maayan

      Wow, all that responding and you said nothing.

      Reply to Comment
    16. maayan LOL Nothing you can refute

      Reply to Comment
    17. This is a very interesting article, but is not very clear. The boy died because IDF has occupy his land. This is the only reason why that boy is died. (I was crying to watching this video…he is so defenceless)
      No other words can support any other ideas. This is the ugly fact!

      But this is also an introduction at what you and other Jews wish to point at.
      What kind of land do you want?
      2 lands, Israel and Palestinian or one big land where Jews and Palestinian are brother?Where one state is one composed in the same misure for you and palestinian? Where the right are the same and where the extremism, the Orthodox (askenazi, lubavitcher and other and where walabiti, salafiti, and so on) for both religion are forced to stay out with any other permission and any other rights that to live quietly with their neighbor.

      Reply to Comment