The following is a transcript of Flashpoints, hosted by Nora Barrows-Friedman, broadcast on 30 July 2008:
A member of the Israeli occupation military’s border police shot and killed a 10-year-old Palestinian boy yesterday evening in the West Bank village of Nilin. Ahmed Mousa was shot in the head by live ammunition, according to eyewitnesses, as he turned and left an area that was being targeted with rubber-coated steel bullets by the Israeli military during a demonstration against the annexation wall built on the village land. Several soldiers were ordered to remove themselves from the demonstration by commanding officers, according to a report by the Palestine Solidarity Project, for their violent and “undisciplined” behavior.
Flashpoints spoke with two activists about what happened in Nilin yesterday as the ethnic cleansing project continues unabated in occupied Palestine. Bekah Wolf, speaking to us from Beit Ommar near Hebron, is with the Palestine Solidarity Project based in the West Bank, and Yonatan Pollack is with Anarchists Against the Wall. Yonatan spoke to Flashpoints from a demonstration outside Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s home in Tel Aviv. Last night he was at the hospital with Ahmed Mousa after the demonstration.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yonatan, let’s start with you. Right after 10-year-old Ahmed Mousa was shot in the head by Israeli occupation forces, you were at the hospital and spent some time there — what did you see, what happens to a child who has just been shot in the head by the fourth largest military in the world?
Yonatan Pollack: His head was pretty much blown off. There was an entry wound in his forehead that completely destroyed his face, and the back of his head was just missing. His brain was not there. The exit wound just blew off the majority of the back of his head.
NBF: Was the family there? What was going on at the hospital?
YP: I arrived after the family had already left. I was at the village in the demonstration in the morning, until about 3pm I went home and at about 5pm I got the news that a ten-year-old kid was shot dead. I immediately went to the village again and stayed until it got dark, about 8:30 or 9pm, and stayed at the hospital, but the family wasn’t there anymore.
NBF: The Israeli military said that it is “investigating” the child’s death. What usually happens in these kinds of so-called investigations? We remember when 13-year-old Iman al-Hams in Gaza was killed a few years ago, 20 bullets pumped into her body, and the commanding officer who emptied his clip into her head and torso was not only not punished, but he was actually promoted. What does this say about the Israeli military policy toward shooting children and then “investigating” their deaths?
YP: You know, whatever this investigation yields, the problem is obviously not the specific soldier who shot the specific kid. I mean, this is a horrible crime and a horrible tragedy, but the issue at hand is the institutionalized violence by the army attempting to suppress demonstrations and attempting to suppress popular civilian uprising, people who have no arms to defend their land from annexation. This is the issue at hand; not what will be the consequences of a specific investigation. It could be that this investigation will yield nothing, which is what happens most of the time, and it could serve as a fig leaf to prove how democratic Israel is and how humane the Israeli army is. But the issue is not this specific soldier, the issue is how these demonstrations are being suppressed, how an occupation of civil society is allowed to continue and what measures are being used to perpetuate it.
NBF: Yonatan, you’re outside of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s home; why are you there and what are you demanding from him?
YP: We’re here to ask, “what about accountability?” He is directly in charge of the army. He is the head commander of the army. He is accountable. We are here to ask for accountability, to demand that what is happening [in Nilin] stops immediately. Not that the border policeman will be arrested, detained, expelled from the army — but that everything that happened in Nilin specifically, and in the West Bank generally, ceases immediately.
NBF: Bekah, let’s bring you into this conversation. Can you lay out the scene, what’s been happening in Nilin, up to this point?
Bekah Wolf: Nilin has been having demonstrations three, four, sometimes five times a week for several months now. But they’ve been having demonstrations as far back as 2003, one of which was the first demonstration I ever went to. And then there was a court case in which the path of the wall was changed by the Israeli high court, but it still is confiscating thousands of dunums of land. So when the construction started in May of this year, demonstrations began against the wall, against the construction and the bulldozers, and what is happening is just an increase in repression and violence. These demonstrations have been enormously successful — some of the most successful demonstrations that I’ve seen in the five years that I’ve worked in the West Bank.
Demonstrators have nonviolently blocked bulldozers again and again; have been able to sustain a four-day siege and curfew, have been able to sustain half of their popular committee being arrested at one point in time or another; dozens and dozens of injuries — and so, really what I think has been happening is that Nilin has become not only a symbol of Palestinian resistance, but a rebirth of the kind of popular resistance that has been successful in the past. And so it has become incredibly dangerous in some ways to the Israeli military and the Israeli government as a whole.
NBF: the Israeli military regularly states that it is acting in “self-defense” against children throwing stones during these types of protests. Can you talk about the discrepancies in this argument, when the children are met by live ammunition rounds, even rubber-coated steel bullets, percussion grenades, tear gas, used indiscriminately by the occupation military in occupied Palestinian land?
BW: Well, there are several layers to that. The first and foremost being that the idea that there is a defensive military in an occupied land is an oxymoron. You cannot have a defensive position while occupying a foreign country, which is exactly what is happening in the West Bank. So the entire premise is without merit. But then you get into the smaller details, which are, okay, if the youth are throwing stones, what we’re talking about much of the time are young boys — obviously Ahmed was 10 years old — so boys anywhere from 10 to 20, throwing rocks that are maybe tens of yards away, sometimes 100 yards away, at soldiers who have bulletproof vests, and helmets and M16s. Oftentimes the stones are thrown at armored vehicles. So the idea, again, that the kind of violent action that the Israeli military takes using this weaponry — teargas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and live ammunition — is obscene. It’s absurd to say that that is an even playing field.
To come to this particular situation with Ahmed, there was not, in fact, any stone-throwing happening at the time, at least none that we know of coming from Ahmed himself. So the idea that even if he was throwing stones, which we don’t believe he was, and eyewitnesses say that he wasn’t, but even if he was, we’re talking about a ten-year-old kid throwing a rock from dozens of yards away at an armored soldier. And the idea that Israel has continued to perpetuate this image that somehow that is an even playing field — that rocks against guns and armored personnel carriers — is somehow an even score, is ridiculous to any sensible human being.
NBF: Bekah Wolf, you’ve been involved in pro-justice, anti-occupation and anti-apartheid wall demonstrations for years. Do you think the response by the Israeli military is getting worse, and to what do you attribute that?
BW: It’s not getting worse, necessarily. The comparison that I make is that at the height of the anti-wall movement in 2003 and 2004, 11 people were killed in less than a year, in these demonstrations. So it is not the first time — though Ahmed is the youngest — that a young person has been killed in these demonstrations. But what I think it points to is that Nilin, like the anti-wall movement in 2003-2004, has the potential to build a wider movement throughout the West Bank. It’s an inspiring movement, and that is why the Israeli military is reacting to it in a way that is stronger than it has been reacting in recent years.
- Palestinian “Che” blindfolded and shot, IPS (27 July 2008)
- Israeli soldier shoots restrained Palestinian at close range, B’Tselem (20 July 2008)
- Palestinian vilalge takes on Israeli military, IPS (8 July 2008)