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Watching your son's killers walk free

This is the story of a Palestinian father whose son was shot in the back by two Israeli soldiers. In the bizarre reality of occupation, he is the one who must ask permission from the wardens while his son’s killers walk free.

Ahmad Awad, whose son, Samir, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers, stands outside Ramle Magistrate's Court, September 22, 2016. (photo: Haggai Matar)

Ahmed Awad, whose son, Samir, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers, stands outside Ramle Magistrate’s Court, September 22, 2016. (photo: Haggai Matar)

What took place at the Ramle Magistrate’s Court on Thursday morning was beyond bizarre. Every encounter between a grieving family and those who killed their child is, without a doubt, terrible — but they usually look different than what I witnessed. Most of these meetings take place in district courts. Usually the ones who killed the child are brought to court house from prison, led by guards, while the family walks free. Not today. Not in this story.

In this story Ahmed Awad, whose 16-year-old son Samir was shot in the back and killed by two soldiers after he was already wounded, was the one who had to wake up early in the village of Budrus, obtain a special entry permit ahead of time to leave the West Bank and show up in a court where the prosecutor is not the same prosecutor from the previous hearing (perhaps the case is not important enough). The prosecutor did not utter a word to Awad. No condolences, no update — nothing.

At the end of the five-minute hearing Awad was resigned to request — with the help of an Israeli friend, since the court does not provide a translator for the victim of the crime — that the court allow him to be present at the next hearing. Then he had to go to the court clerk in have the judge’s decision written out as a court order, which he will need in order to obtain an entry permit at an Israeli army base in the settlement of Beit El. That hearing certainly won’t have a translator either, the prosecutor won’t say a word to him, because what difference does it make that Ahmed’s son, Samir, died after being shot in the back by the soldiers he is prosecuting?

Then there were the two now-discharged soldiers who aren’t sitting in prison, nor do they need special jump through bureaucratic hurdles and obtain special permits just to make it to the courthouse. They are not even accused of manslaughter, only reckless and negligent use of a firearm. The soldiers’ names cannot be published, despite the fact that they have been published in the past, since that is what their attorney requested in the previous hearing. The judge slapped a gag order on their names, saying that the court would look into whether they were previously published, and whether there is a danger that they will be published in the future. But on Thursday morning the judge extended the gag order, without looking into whether their names were published or whether they are actually in any danger. Just like that.

An Israeli solider shoots tear gas toward Palestinian demonstrators during a protest against the occupation in the West Bank village of Budrus, three days after soldiers shot and killed 16-year-old Samir Awad, January 18, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An Israeli solider shoots tear gas toward Palestinian demonstrators during a protest against the occupation in the West Bank village of Budrus, three days after soldiers shot and killed 16-year-old Samir Awad, January 18, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The soldiers have attorneys, former military prosecutors. In a previous hearing one of the attorneys argued the indictment was “unusual” because the crime took place in the framework of an “operational incident that lasted 38 seconds.” That’s it. An operational incident of 38 seconds, and the life of a 16-year-old who would have been 19 today. We count the soldiers’ precious time spent in court, but no one is counting the family’s mourning and longing, the life of Samir Awad, stolen in just 38 seconds. After all, this was merely a matter of recklessness, not shooting a wounded teenager in the back as he was running away. So why should it matter that today he could have been a university student?

The hearing was short. Extremely short. The accused deny the charges, but want time to negotiate with the accuser (the state). Perhaps even mediation. The prosecutor agrees, the judge agrees; no one says it out loud, but the atmosphere feels like we are heading toward a plea bargain. Another hearing is scheduled in another two month. The court allows Ahmed Awad to be present in the next hearing as well. Order, after all, is of utmost importance. Next case.

The soldiers and the attorneys leave. The judge and the prosecutor continue on to the next case. Ahmed Awad stands smoking outside the courthouse with two Israeli friends. He does not know what comes next or where to pour all of his pain over Samir, a child who walked through a hole in the separation fence near his school and was caught by two soldiers. He was wounded but managed to flee, running back in the direction of his home when they shot him in the back. Two soldiers whose names are not allowed to be published fired eight bullets, one of them piercing the nape of his neck and killed him. No one says a word about this in court. The next hearing is in two months. Once again Ahmed will wake up early to pass through the checkpoint. Maybe he will discover that a plea bargain has been signed and see the two people who killed his son put this whole affair behind them and move on with their lives.

All that took just 20 minutes in a Ramle courtroom on a Thursday morning.

This article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

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    1. Jim KABLE

      This is a dreadful waste – of Samir – and the life he could have led; for Samir’s family – and the huge gaping hole of Samir’s wasted absence; for the lives of the two soldiers – who cannot but reflect on this senseless killing for the remainder of their lives – no matter the sham court and magistrate rulings – all down to the letter of the “law” though it has been arranged. In fact I don’t blame the soldiers necessarily – I blame their superiors who have anaesthetised their ethical stance on human life that they feel (and know) that they can do what they like with impunity. And then I go further – I blame the ugliness of the political system right all the way up to Netanyahu. He’s the biggest thug of all in the so-called “democracy” of the Israeli state. And beyond him – well there is the US which props it all up with billions of dollars per year!

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      More “domestic political affairs,” about which the right wing is outraged that those Jews of B’Tselem with their “European money” are nosing around in. Yessiree, just “internal domestic affairs.” “Buzz off while we have our nice little domestic affair you self-hating greedy Jews palavering after European money.” So says the right wing and they don’t mince words:

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        Yessiree folks. Israel is the root of all evil. Israel causes tzunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes and murders innocent Arabs.

        The Arabs on the other hand are models of innoncence who have to put up with being occupied by crazy Jooos. Arabs don’t even harm flies all, they are doing is defending themselves.

        In any case, extreme left wingers and other assorted haters of Israel believe that narrative. They go to sleep with it, they wake up with it in the morning and it gives them nourishment during the day.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          What a very odd idea. No human beings on Earth are models of innocence. To manufacture the idea that anyone says this completely misses the point, which is, to quote Gershon Gorenberg explaining Theodor Meron’s top secret opinion given to the Israeli leadership in 1967 on the illegality of the settlements: “the [4th Geneva] convention can’t be interpreted by splitting hairs and forgetting real human beings. Its point isn’t to protect states. It is to protect people from a state whose army has conquered the land where they live and before whose power they are otherwise defenseless. If it is ignored, their basic rights will be trampled.” And so they have been. Read the article above. This trampling continues at an ever accelerating pace 49 years after his country’s leadership received Meron’s expert, authoritative and unambiguous opinion that they were wrong:

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Yessiree folks. Despite his protestations, our Ben confirms the attitude which I attributed to extreme lefties in my previous post. All one needs to do is to look at Ben’s posts as far back as far as one cares to look back. Halas (Arabs know what that word means, I won’t be explaining it).

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Halas” — Hey lemme guess, it means “Ok, I give up, I finally realize I have no argument. I mean who am I kidding, right?” Dang, them Arabs sure know how to express things succinctly.

            Reply to Comment
        • jake hawkes

          Wow…what an ignorant and insensitive comment.

          A 16 year old boy is murdered by IDF soldiers and all you have is sarcasm for the people who are actually moved and horrified? What if your son was murdered and you had to request permission from the government to attend the trial of the murderers, only to watch the murderers walk free as a bird?

          Oh, yeah…I forgot…The boy wasn’t human…he wasn’t a “Jooo”…he was an Arab.

          I guess it’s really true that you Jooos have lost all of your humanity. After all, you’re Gods chosen people.

          I’m sure he’s really proud of his “choice”….

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Another extreme leftie shoots his mouth off about insensitive Joos. But those very same people never shoot their big mouths off when Jewish children are murdered. Yes it happens. In fact it happens often. Your Palestinian saints murder Jooooish children and women and old people. All we get from you then is deadly silence and pointing the finger ONLY at us. Spare us your hypocrisy. We had enough of you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I’m afraid no one’s going to be much impressed with the whining and the special pleading and the anti-Semitizing attacks, Gustav. It is the height of hypocrisy. No one here has canonized Palestinians. No one thinks this a contest (but if you want to make it a contest of self-righteousness about who has had more children murdered, the Palestinians win hands down, it is not even close). Justice is at issue. Whether you are sick of the criticism is beside the point. As has been documented and explained in countless articles here: (1) Israel commits violence, often deadly violence, in the occupied territories every day and night and it is a form of terror, (2) Israel works tirelessly and with expert, practiced efficiency to immediately shut down any nonviolent protest and/or convert it to violence, and (3) Israel has shown time and again that it only listens to violence, (4) all the while Israel complains about violence:

            I think the issue Jake is getting at is your sneering belittlement of an utterly brutal occupation and what that implies about how you see the worth of some human lives versus others.

            Reply to Comment