Under sentence of death
By Gideon Levy
Anwar Himran, 28, left the university after an exam, books in hand, and his wife at his side. She went to the bookstore where she works, he waited for a cab. A few minutes later he lay in a pool of his own blood after about 20 bullets hit him. Maybe he was a dangerous terrorist, maybe not; maybe he was on his way to carry out a terror attack, maybe not. In the past he had been accused of activism in the Islamic Jihad, was imprisoned and deported by Israel, arrested by the Palestinian Authority and released about a year before he was killed, approximately two weeks ago. IDF sharpshooters fired on him from the heights of Mt. Gerizim, as the crow flies about 300 meters from the entrance to al Quds University, where he was standing. Eyewitnesses, two taxi drivers and a relative, said that he was not armed.Himran was one of almost 20 Palestinians who have been intentionally killed by Israel during the past month and a half. To paraphrase the well-known saying "Every bullet has an address" - it might be said that in the context of Israel's old-new policy in the territories, there are now bullets with very exact addresses.
In war as in war, Israel eliminates its enemies, real or imagined. It's not possible to make arrests in Palestinian Authority territories? Then eliminate. Since the killing of Hussein Abayat, the Tanzim activist who was fired on from a helicopter on November 9 in Beit Sahur, to the cellular phone that blew up in the hands of Samih Malabeh from Qalandiyah, Israel has again been prowling through these hunting grounds in a way that is pointless and immoral, unwise and illegal.
At least four of the nearly 20 people who have been "eliminated" were killed only because they happened to be near the targets of the killing - like passersby Aziza Danoun and Rahama Shahin, who were hit by the missile that killed Abayat. But who cares? Can anyone really know that the rest of those who were "eliminated" - a term immediately applied to these victims of killings as a kind of guarantee that they are criminals - really seriously endangered Israel to the point where they had to be considered under a death sentence? And if they were dangerous, was it not possible to apprehend some of them and bring them to trial?
A look at the list of eliminations raises the suspicion that some of them were killed though they were not guilty of anything - but were killed for things they had done in the past, and only their release from Palestinian prisons and the unbearable lightness that envelops the killing of Palestinians made their deaths possible. It is no wonder that a number of prisoners that the PA released have recently asked, or so it has been reported, to return to the safety of prison.
These acts of elimination in any case arouse weighty moral, legal and practical questions, which are hardly discussed at all in Israel. So 250 Palestinians have been killed? So a few dozen more will be killed. From the moral perspective, it is easy to determine that a state where the law prevails does not eliminate people. Period. What a terror organization does is prohibited to a state that has other mechanisms of punishment. Sending soldiers or police accompanied by Shin Bet security service personnel to shoot at live targets, not for purposes of self-defense, is an immoral act, with no ifs or buts. Like kidnapping people to serve as "bargaining chips." This is how underworld gangs operate, not to mention death squads in the most evil regimes. If elimination is so essential, it may be asked why it has never been adopted against the world of dangerous criminals?
The picture is a bit more complicated with regard to the legal aspect of the actions. International law allows the elimination of civilians when they are on their way to carry out a terror attack. Were all those eliminated really on their way to carry out the next terror attack? The student Himran who was standing outside the entrance to the university? The owner of the clothing shop in Nablus, Sa'ad al Harouf, who was shot at night a week ago near the Jewish settlement of Yizhar beyond the 1967 border? Who can prove it? Who can supervise this?
Is Israel allowed to eliminate someone who shoots at Gilo at night while he is eating his lunch? No. Is it allowed to eliminate people who were terrorists in the past and released from Palestinian prisons? Of course not. But the security forces, one may assume, are as usual taking advantage of the vagueness of the law, the lack of public knowledge about their targets for elimination and the terrible public indifference to what they do.
Are the eliminations of any real use? Those in favor of the method say that it is wonderfully effective: It discourages the terrorists, pushes them to the wall and thins their ranks. But like Israel's elimination campaigns abroad during the 1970s and the 1980s, the elimination campaigns in the territories will bring no benefits. Those killed have many replacements, every funeral in the territories produces more volunteers for the struggle, inflames emotions and eliminates any chance for bringing about a bit of calm.
The day is not far off when the Palestinians are likely to adopt this despicable method and also embark on a campaign of eliminations, for example against the heads of the occupation mechanism in the territories. Then of course public opinion in Israel will be shocked and raise a hue and cry: Look at their cruel and barbaric methods.