“I was on the balcony of my home. I heard Saad screaming, ‘Help me. They’ve killed me,’” explains Ibrahim Dawabsha in a new short documentary produced by the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq (watch it at the top of this page).
Ibrahim rushed out to find Saad Dawabsha and his wife, Riham, lying on the ground, their bodies on fire.
A masked figure stood near Saad, and another stood near his wife.
Ibrahim carried Saad and then Riham away from their burning home, and then rescued their 4-year-old son Ahmed from inside.
“I took him to my neighbor’s house. The neighbor told me that there was also another child inside the house. His name was Ali. I went back to Saad’s home. At that time, the whole house was on fire.”
While villagers waited for firefighters to arrive, they tried in vain to rescue baby Ali, who perished in the fire.
Six hours before the Dawabsha family home was set ablaze in the occupied West Bank village of Duma on 31 July, Israel’s Channel 2 aired an exposé on a group of settlers who had set fire to the historic Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes in the Galilee region of present-day Israel.
When they were arrested, Channel 2 reported, the members of the cell admitted that they had set fire to the church as well as to homes and mosques in the West Bank. Investigators found a CD they produced which describes how Arabs can be burned alive: break the windows of a home, throw flammable material into the rooms and set fire to the exits.
“This way Arabs are burned to death,” the instructions assure.
After the Dawabsha home was set on fire, the Israeli military held a press conference outside it.
Al-Haq’s documentary shows an army spokesperson stating, in Arabic, that Israel promises “to arrest those who did this and bring them to justice.”
No one knows the emptiness of such promises more than Hussein Abu Khudair.
His 16-year-old son Muhammad was abducted from outside his Jerusalem home and burned alive in June 2014, hours after a right-wing rally in the city during which protesters chanted “Death to the Arabs.”
“Those who abducted my son had participated in the demonstration, which provided moral support for them to kidnap and set my son Muhammad on fire,” Hussein explains in the documentary.
“For four days, the Israeli police claimed that my son had been killed on grounds of family disputes,” he adds.
“If it had not been for surveillance cameras that documented the abduction and the abductors, the Israeli police would have registered the case against unknown persons.”
“When the judge is your enemy”
The perpetrators of Muhammad’s murder are being brought to trial. But Hussein doesn’t believe that it will bring justice for his family.
“The Israeli judiciary is not impartial. When the judge is your enemy, who can you complain to? The Israeli judiciary is sympathetic to these criminals.”
Hussein insists that the people who killed his son should not have been able to commit the crime in the first place.
“The police cooperated with them in spite of the fact that they should have arrested them before they burned and killed Muhammad,” he says.
One can only imagine that Saad and Riham Dawabsha would say the same about those who murdered 18-month-old Ali.
But Saad died of his injuries one week after the attack, and then Riham succumbed to hers one month later.
Nearly two months since the attack, no one has been charged in connection with the crime, though the Israeli government knows who did it.
The Israeli army spokesperson’s promise to catch the Dawabsha family’s killers is cynical enough, given the long history of settlers attacking Palestinians and their crops, homes and places of worship without punishment.
But it is also totally insincere, as the army protects those settlers’ very presence in the West Bank through its violent occupation that robs Palestinians of their most basic rights.
Israel’s army exists in service to the settlers, who are a necessary component of the state’s settler-colony enterprise.
Why would the army inflict worse punishment on settlers when its own uniformed soldiers routinely get away with murdering Palestinians at checkpoints, like they did 18-year-old Hadil Salah Hashlamoun on Tuesday?
To believe that a Palestinian family could obtain justice in Israel’s courts is to completely ignore the reality of the system and who it is designed to serve.