Israel sinks to new low by smearing slain children as “terrorists”

Palestinian mourners attend the funeral of Jana Assaf, 15, after she was shot and killed in the West Bank city of Jenin, 12 December.

Ahmed Ibrahim APA images

Leave it to innovative Israel to sink to ever-new lows.

It isn’t anything new for the state to smear Palestinians killed by its police and military as terrorists. But it seems to be a fresh twist for Israel to try to convince the UN that most of the Palestinian children slain by its forces had “terror” ties.

According to media reports, Israeli officials planned to tell Virginia Gamba, the UN special reporter on children and armed conflict, that Palestinians are exploiting children who are then killed by its forces.

Gamba was visiting Israel, the West Bank and Gaza ahead of her annual report on the conflict’s impact on children.

“Regarding the Palestinian casualties, Israel will present data indicating that most teenagers were operatives of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, or engaged in military activity or military-linked activity,” an unnamed diplomatic source told Israel’s Channel 13.

The gambit is part of Israel’s overall strategy of deflecting its responsibility for Palestinians slain by its forces.

More than 50 Palestinian children have been killed in 2022, according for Defense for Children International-Palestine.

Last year, Israeli forces and armed civilians killed 78 boys and girls in the West Bank and Gaza, making it the deadliest year for Palestinian children since 2014.

Israel’s most recent Palestinian child victim is Jana Majdi Issam Assaf, 15, who was shot while on the roof of her family’s home in the northern West Bank city of Jenin on Sunday night.

Defense for Children International-Palestine said that the girl “sustained two gunshot wounds to her upper chest and one to the right side of her head.”

The rights group added that doctors who examined the child’s body “alleged the bullet fragments and wounds were consistent with the use of expanding bullets by the Israeli military.”

Jana was the second Palestinian girl killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank this year.

Last month, Israeli soldiers shot and killed Fulla Rasmi Abdulaziz Mallouh, 14, in the town of Beitunia near Ramallah. The girl was in the passenger seat of a car that was fired upon by soldiers, hitting Fulla in the head and chest.

Chief salutes killers

In the case of Jana, the girl killed in Jenin on Sunday, Amir Cohen, the chief of Israel’s Border Police, saluted the officers who shot her.

During a military ceremony on Wednesday, Cohen said “our fighters acted morally, with values, with courage, with determination and saved lives.”

The Israeli military has said that it was likely that one of its snipers “accidentally” shot the girl.

Israel has made the same claim that a soldier “unintentionally” killed Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin during May, despite all evidence and witness testimony suggesting that she was intentionally targeted.

But for Israel, the facts surrounding the death of a Palestinian at the hands of its forces do not matter. Ultimately, Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli military are “mistakes” to be dealt with as a public relations problem and nothing more.

Denied entry

That is probably why Israel has allowed Virginia Gamba, the UN special reporter, into the country while it denies visas to other human rights investigators and researchers.

If Israel’s spin doctors didn’t see some opportunity in her visit, it is unlikely that the state would allow her access.

Earlier this year, Israel denied entry to investigators with an independent commission of inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council to examine Israel’s system of oppression as a whole.

Michael Lynk, the former UN special reporter on the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza, was denied entry by Israel during his tenure.

Israel now appears to have banned Lynk’s successor, Francesca Albanese, and a smear campaign intended to destroy her reputation and credibility is currently underway.

And the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories says that Israeli authorities have delayed issuing new visas for new staff.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, said that he recommended freezing the visa applications of new recruits to the monitoring group.

“They shouldn’t come in because there’s no reason that UN staffers that lie and create a false picture of the Palestinian narrative at the Security Council, there’s no reason they should be on such a stage from within Israel,” Erdan said during an interview with Israel’s Channel 12.

Last year, Israel designated several prominent Palestinian civil society groups as “terrorist” organizations and recently raided their offices.

And now Miki Zohar, a lawmaker with Likud – the party of incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – is seeking to outlaw the recording of on-duty soldiers because it harms Israel’s image.

For Israel, if there is no evidence for its crimes, then all of its PR problems will simply go away – no matter how many Palestinian men, women and children are killed.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.