On December 9, al-Nabi Saleh village residents protested peacefully against settlers stealing their land. At point blank range, an Israeli soldier fired a tear-gas canister directly at Mustafa Tamimi’s head, killing him.
On December 10, thousands of Palestinians protested against his cold-blooded murder. Tamimi was the 20th Palestinian killed this way in the past eight years, besides many more by other means, especially in Gaza.
“The pictures from….Nabi Saleh are hard to swallow: An Israel Defense Forces soldier opens the back door of an armored military jeep and, from a distance of just a few meters, fires a tear-gas canister directly at a young man who is throwing stones. After the canister is fired, the jeep continues on its way without stopping.”
Al-Nabi Saleh residents, like other West Bank ones, hold weekly nonviolent anti-land theft/Separation Wall demonstrations. It’s their country and property. Under international law, they have every right to defend it. Not according to Israel.
Since 1967, under Military Order No 101: “Order Regarding Prohibition of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda Action,” It’s “forbidden to conduct a protest or march or meeting (involving 10 or more participants for political reasons) without permission of the Military Commander.”
The same order forbids distributing political articles, pictures, or other materials.
In other words, an illegal occupier prohibits Palestinians from exercising their free expression and assembly rights on their own land, in their own country, under threat of intimidation, attacks, arrests, imprisonments, torture, and at times death.
In response to Tamimi’s murder, an IDF spokesman said, “the army is looking into the incident.” “Looking into” means whitewash. Arrests, prosecutions, justice, or even apologies rarely ever follow military, police or settler violence.
Haaretz cited a new Yesh Din-Volunteers for Human Rights report discussing 192 Palestinian complaints and 67 Military Police “investigations” involving harm to Palestinians and their property. It showed that “95.5 percent of the total number of complaints are closed without indictments.”
Moreover, nearly always when they occur, penalties at most are minor and inconsequential. The “conclusion is obvious,” said Haaretz. “When it comes to shooting a Palestinian, pulling the trigger does not come with a real fear of having to answer to the law.”
Soldiers, police and even settlers can kill or otherwise harm with impunity. Tamimi’s death and many others show that Palestinian life is “cheap.”
Nonetheless, Israel’s military called his killing “exceptional,” saying the offending soldier’s gas mask blocked his vision, despite aiming directly at Tamimi’s head from about 9 feet away.
According to journalist/editor Noam Sheizaf:
“(A)s we have reported here in the past, firing tear gas canisters at protesters from close range (in violation of army orders) is a common practice in the West Bank.”
“I have seen tear gas canisters shot directly at protesters (including myself) in several demonstrations in Bil’in, in Hebron, and in Nabi Saleh.”
According to French photographer Anne Paq, “I am wearing a gas mask all the time to take pics. I can tell you, you can see if somebody is 5 meters in front of you!” Israel lied claiming otherwise.
Moreover, IDF rules of engagement prohibit firing tear gas grenades or other projectiles from rifles pointed directly at demonstrators or from a distance within 40 meters. In addition, soldiers must use rifle sights and verify that no one’s in their line of fire.
In practice, however, rules of engagement, as well as Israeli and international laws don’t matter. Soldiers, police and settlers attack Palestinians with impunity. The practice is longstanding and lawless. Nonetheless, it persists virtually daily throughout the Territories.
Al-Haq Report on Repression of Nonviolent Protests
On December 10, Al-Haq published a report titled, “Repression of Non-Violent Protest in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Case Study on the village of al-Nabi Saleh,” saying:
Since Israel began constructing its Separation/Annexation Wall in 2002, West Bank Palestinians protested against theft of their land. Villagers usually do it weekly on Fridays.
In response, Israel retaliates “with an intense campaign of violence, intimidation and arrests…” In the past two years especially, escalated viciousness has been common, including increased violence and brutality against peaceful Palestinian protesters. Al Haq knows of at least 13 deaths since 2004, as well as many other injuries and arrests.
Al-Nabi Saleh residents repeatedly lodged complaints in vain, despite Israel’s High Court 1978 ruling that land confiscation was illegal and had to be returned to their rightful Palestinian owners. Israeli authorities refused to comply. As a result, West Bank villagers lose more land, and know no other recourse than to protest.
In Al-Nabi Saleh and other villages, Israeli forces “deliberately creat(e) a hostile atmosphere” during protests. Military commanders give soldiers “vast powers to suppress (them) and imprison participants for extended periods of up to ten years.”
Residents on their own land are accused of “incitement.” As a result, they face long prison terms and large fines.
As soon as protests begin, soldier attack them with tear gas canisters, stun grenades, rubber bullets, “skunk” foul-smelling chemicals, and beatings. In response, some Palestinians throw stones. Doing so escalates retaliatory violence.
Paramedics are prevented from treating and evacuating injured residents. Instead, occupying forces arrest them. Commanders lie saying soldiers only respond to stone-throwers.
Documented testimonies say “force is not directly related to stone-throwing or any other alleged physical threat to the soldiers’ safety, and seems instead to be targeted against the protest as a movement.”
In other words, soldiers are ordered to use force indiscriminately against nonviolent protesters. When they respond defensively, intense retaliatory violence follows. So do deaths and severe injuries.
Moreover, Palestinian bystanders and in homes are affected. Documented cases show “Israeli soldiers have fired teargas or rubber-coated metal bullets (at) people standing on rooftops, passing by the area, or watching events by their windows.”
Residents estimate soldiers fire up to 500 tear-gas canisters during weekly protest demonstrations alone. They’re launched from mortars atop militarized jeeps in batches of 20 or more at a time.
Thick clouds of gas then spread over targeted areas. Panic and fear ensue. So does psychological trauma. Women, children, the elderly and infirm are affected. Windows are shattered firing canisters through them. Gas inhalation harms residents inside. Property damage also occurs.
Moreover, “intimidation, arbitrary arrests, beatings, and night raids” occur regularly. Children as young as 10 are affected. Some are seized at home in middle-of-the-night raids and sent to repressive detention centers for intimidating interrogations and threats of torture for not cooperating.
Outrageously, Israel says it abides by Fourth Geneva provisions. At the same time, it doesn’t specify what it considers humanitarian. In addition, it claims international law doesn’t apply to Occupied Palestine. “The actions of (its soldiers) in repressing Palestinian protests reflect this position.”
Nonetheless, international law is clear and unequivocal. Civilians under occupation are protected persons. Violence is absolutely prohibited. Fundamental human rights remain in force. Violations are forbidden.
“Law enforcement activities must always be subject to the international human rights standards applicable to civilian police operations, which may never be conducted like hostilities against combatants.”
Israel repeatedly and willfully breaches this and virtually all other international law standards – including the right to life, the most fundamental one of all.
Instead, wanton, excessive, undisciplined force is disproportionately unleashed against peaceful protesters on their own land defending it heroically against hostile soldiers.
Israeli rules of engagement are also violated. Section 8 of the “Permanent commands from the operation department” states:
“As a rule, it is prohibited to shoot live fire in the direction of a stone thrower.”
“It is allowed to execute the procedure for a suspect’s arrest only when the attack is massive in a manner that endangers the life of the soldier or another person….”
“In unique danger circumstances, when an imminent and real threat to life is perceived….it is necessary to shoot directly with a purpose of hitting the body of the attacker and remove the threat.”
Police must also observe these provisions, and take all precautions to avoid gratuitous violence. Nonetheless, civilian and military security forces violate these rules with impunity.
They have no respect for international law or their own. They repeatedly violate basic human and civil rights, including expression, assembly, security, liberty, health, and life.
As a result, Palestinians face daily cruel and unusual punishment. While no precise definition exists, common law refers to disproportionate fines, penalties, confinement or treatment.
America’s Eighth Amendment prohibits the federal government from imposing cruel and unusual punishments. Specifically it states:
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”
America’s Fourteenth Amendment due process clause bars states from imposing such punishments. In addition, most state constitutions prohibit cruel and unusual punishment of any kind.
Despite precise definitions, it’s like pornography/obscenity. In Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said “I know it when I see it.”
It became one of the High Court’s most remembered comments, despite lacking legal precision.
In contrast, no ambiguity whatever exists when peaceful protesters are violently attacked defending their rights.
It especially holds when children, the elderly, infirm and innocent bystanders are affected. In Occupied Palestine, they are repeatedly.
* Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon.