Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an was an Israeli citizen who was shot dead by Israeli police in Israeli territory. The High Court makes sure to note that, since the case is so similar to another case of another Palestinian killed in the occupied territories.
By Hagai El-Ad
Several weeks ago Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the state must return the body of Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an, who was shot dead by police as they demolished the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran, to his family. The fact that Abu al-Qi’an was an Israeli citizen played such a significant role in the ruling, so much so that Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Amit felt the need to state the obvious: “The funeral will take place in the Negev, in Israeli territory; the family of the deceased belongs to the Bedouin sector whose sons are law-abiding Israeli citizens, some of whom even serve in the security forces.”
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Why is there even a need to “state the obvious?” Because only one part of this story is actually obvious: Yacoub Musa Abu al-Qi’an is an Arab. Before Israeli police officers killed him in Israeli territory, he was a living Arab. After that — he was a dead Arab. In Israel and the territories under its control, the citizenship of Jews is taken very seriously. But when we talk about Arabs, well, it’s not so “obvious” anymore.
Justice Amit is actually trying to quietly state that despite the fact that Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an is a dead Arab, we are still in “Israeli territory” — and that the way Arabs are killed and buried here is not exactly the same as the occupied territories.
Just like in the occupied territories
But the occupied territories and their connection to Umm el-Hiran are clear for all to see. And despite Justice Amit’s attempts to keep this connection quiet, it grows louder than ever.
Why? Because our armed police officers who arrive in the dead of night to demolish ones make noise. Because gunfire and bulldozers also make noise. Because the cries of the families of the deceased also make noise. And suddenly, all is quiet in the Negev.
In “Israeli territory?” Seriously? Perhaps it would have been more accurate to write “just like in the occupied territories.” For instance: just like in the occupied territories, where “the rule of law” is used as a formal justification for dispossession. Just like in the occupied territories, where we deploy military force in the heart of a civilian population. Just like in the occupied territories, where an Arab is a “terrorist” until he is proven innocent — and that anyone who even dares question this fact of life is a traitor. Just like in the occupied territories, but in Israel.
Just another dead Arab
The occupied territories are present in every line of the High Court’s ruling, even if they are not explicitly mentioned. In fact, the only sentence that does mention them refers to a 1992 High Court ruling in the case of Mustafa Mahmoud Barakat v. OC Central Command.
Mustafa Barakat was also a dead Arab. Before that he was a living Arab: he studied interior design in Jordan, and after his studies, at the end of July 1992, he returned to his village, Anabta. A B’Tselem investigation at the time revealed that as he was summoned to the Civil Administration in Tulkarem, as he crossed Allenby Bridge from Jordan into the West Bank. He showed up, was detained and interrogated by the Shin Bet. Thirty-six hours later he was a dead Arab.
Barakat, who was asthmatic in his childhood, suffered an attack during his interrogation. Nevertheless, he continued to be questioned. His sister knew well that the Shin Bet tended to cover the head of Palestinian detainees as they were interrogated. Barakat took her advice and showed up with a a bronchodilator inhaler. On August 4, 1992 at 7:35 p.m., Barakat was dead. He was 23 years old. The “similarity” between Barakat and Abu al-Qi’an, aside from the fact that they are both dead Arabs, was the fact that the OC of Central Command decided that Barakat’s funeral would also take place at night, and attendance would be limited to family members. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) petitioned the High Court. The petition was rejected. The investigation into Barakat’s death was also later buried.
We are able to kill Arabs in many ways — after that we are able to cause the family immense suffering. And yet, somehow, they continue living. They continue living on their land, between their demolished homes or on the backdrop of what Israel builds in the West Bank in the hopes that it one day replaces them. Yet they continue to live. They continue to live in the hollow court rulings of our legal system.
Don’t believe me? The High Court’s ruling on the funeral of Yacoub Musa Abu al-Qi’an is a testament to the memory of Mustafa Mahmoud Barakat.
Hagai El-Ad is an Israeli human rights activist and the executive director of B’Tselem. A version of article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.