In Israel, police killing a demonstrator is a marginal story, only because the victim is an Arab
The funeral of Mohammed Taha in Kafr Qasem on June 6, 2017. Photo David Bachar
Let’s say the demonstrator who was shot to death by a security guard had been a Jew. Let’s say he had been an ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) man, or someone of Ethiopian origin, or – just imagine – a settler. It’s hard to conceive of because it has so rarely happened. But if a Jewish demonstrator had been shot to death by the security forces, the country would be up in arms — though even then, the degree of outrage would be based on the victim’s ethno-political rank: If the victim were Ethiopian, less outrage; if he were a Haredi man – more; and if he’d been a settler it would be the end of the world.
But it was Mohammed Taha’s bad luck to have been born an Arab – not a settler, not a Haredi, and not even an Ethiopian Jew. Being an Arab was his bad luck, both in life and in death. That’s why his killing was effaced by the Israeli media and wasn’t considered a tragedy. The teacher who hugged his pupils inappropriately in a Tel Aviv school was the bigger story Tuesday, because that was about our tender, precious children. Arab citizens are far less tender and precious to us.
That’s why the killing of an Arab demonstrator was shoved to the margins. It’s hard to believe, but police killing a demonstrator is a secondary story, only because he was an Arab.
In an incredible coincidence, the demonstrators shot to death in Israel are always Arabs. The thieves shot to death are also almost always Arabs. It’s an amazing coincidence, almost as reasoned as “Yitzhak Rabin was killed at Rabin Square.” The 13 victims in October 2000 were Arabs; Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, killed in January at Umm al-Hiran in the Negev, was an Arab, and Mohammed Taha was an Arab. Just by chance, 55 Arab citizens have been killed by the security forces and Jewish civilians since October 2000, according to data from the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel. Nouf Iqab Enfeat, the 15-year-old girl killed near Mevo Dotan by soldiers last week as she fled, was also an Arab, as were all the girls with scissors and boys with knives that the security forces killed for no reason.
It’s an unfortunate coincidence that it was Arabs who were killed. But the truth is that no security guard has been born who would shoot a Jewish demonstrator in the face from a protected guard post simply because he “looked death in the eye.” Israelis have an inborn tendency to see death whenever they see Arabs. That’s why they shoot and kill them. They were all killed not because they demonstrated, threw stones, torched patrol cars or tried to stab a soldier; they were killed first and foremost because they were Arabs. Otherwise, they would not have been killed with such shameful ease.
And it’s also no coincidence that there are so rarely any consequences for the killers, and that some even become the heroes of the hour. “We will not abandon the shooter,” the police said Wednesday. The shooter is already a victim who must not be abandoned, even before the investigation that will never be launched. But we are not only talking about the fate of the dead man; not just about the terrible contempt for Arab life, which is the cheapest there is in Israel. What’s shocking about this whole event is that out of racism, no one sees the danger to democracy. For all our racism, no one considers that police officers and security guards who would shoot an Arab demonstrator in the face to kill him, could do the same to a Jewish demonstrator someday. Or perhaps the racism is so entrenched that this indeed could never happen, and democracy is to be preserved for Jews only in the Jewish, nondemocratic state.
The Israel Police ought to take special precautions in Kafr Qasem. The State of Israel should bow its head in shame and guilt any time this city comes up on the agenda. Sixty years ago 47 residents, including nine women and 17 children and teenagers, were massacred by that same police force; the state should have long ago asked forgiveness and the police should be even more concerned about the residents’ security there than in other cities.
Instead, we got a mini-massacre in Kafr Qasem, this time of only one person. At least let us admit that it would never happen to a Jew. That says everything.