By Ray Hanania
Coverage of violence by Israeli soldiers and armed settlers follows a distinct pattern in which the Israelis defend their actions and describe the victims as “terrorists.”
With the “terrorist” label applied, the US — Israel’s biggest financial benefactor to the tune of more than $3.3 billion a year — often shrugs off or ignores the deaths, referring only to a more neutral “cycle of violence,” thus removing any blame from Israel.
However, occasionally, a victim falls into that special category where the killings cannot be ignored by US officials, or at least not as thoroughly as they would like.
This week, an 80-year-old Palestinian American was found dead after being detained and handcuffed by Israeli forces during a raid on the village of Jiljilya, adjacent to Ramallah.
Because Israel prohibits news media from reporting on “military actions,” the only source of information on the death is the Israel military and police.
According to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces, Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad “was apprehended after resisting a check” during the Jiljilya raid. The IDF said that As’ad had been released and died later.
“The Military Police Criminal Investigation Division is reviewing the incident, at the end of which the findings will be transferred to the Military General Advocate Corps,” Israel said in a statement quoted by the US State Department.
If an American citizen such as As’ad dies in the US under similar circumstances, lawsuits are filed and investigations launched, and the policing agencies end up with mud on their faces. It creates big news, especially if the victim is African American.
But As’ad had the misfortune of being in an area under Israeli occupation, where Israeli soldiers can act without fear of consequences and the Israeli government is rarely held to account.
After the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee described As’ad’s death as a murder, US State Department spokesman Ned Price responded to a reporter’s query by saying: “We support a thorough investigation into the circumstances.”
The State Department has expressed its condolences to the family and offered to provide consular assistance, he added.
Well, I guess that is better than nothing — the usual response to Palestinian deaths under such circumstances.
As’ad joins a growing list of Americans killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers.
These include the March 16, 2002 death of social activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by a military bulldozer while protesting against the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli forces. More than a decade after Corrie’s death, an Israeli court rejected a civil lawsuit by the activist’s family calling on the state to take responsibility for her killing.
The circumstances of As’ad’s death are suspicious. Hours after being “released” from Israeli detention without charge, he was found with a plastic zip-tie around one wrist.
Many suspect he died while in custody.
WAFA, the Palestinian news wire service, said that As’ad had been “driving home after a visit to relatives when he was stopped by Israeli soldiers, pulled from his car, blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to a building site along with four other villagers.”
After the soldiers left the area, As’ad was found dead at the site at about 4:30 a.m., according to council leader Fouad Moutee.
As’ad formerly lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is home to a large Palestinian American and Arab community. In an ironic twist, the city was also the home of Golda Mabovitch, who changed her name to Meir after emigrating to Palestine in 1921 and went on to become Israel’s first female prime minister.
I am glad that the State Department at least acknowledged As’ad’s death. But don’t expect this to go anywhere.
The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee issued a statement challenging Israel’s response.
“This murder comes as no surprise, as Israeli forces have continued the illegal detention of Palestinians and murder of innocent children over the past several months,” ADC officials said.
“It is important to remember that Israel receives the largest amount of foreign aid — paid by our tax dollars — without any human rights conditions. A country that continues to violate international and human rights laws should not be receiving a blank check from our tax dollars.”
As an American Palestinian, I agree.
When will justice be applied to our lives?