Yusef a-Shawamreh at Separation Barrier near where he was later murdered by IDF (Abed Al-Hashlamoun, EPA)
In March 2014, the IDF murdered a 14 year-old boy , Yusuf a-Shawamreh, who crossed the Separation
Barrier near Hebron to forage for edible plants his family could sell at the
market. His family owned farmland that the Barrier had made inaccessible
to them. He was crossing to harvest plants from his family-owned plot.
This is one of the many portions of the West Bank in which the Wall in
effect confiscates private Palestinian land and annexes it to Israel.
boys crossed the Barrier where it had been breached with a wide opening for
passage (watch an IDF video of the incident annotated and translated by B’Tselem). It had been
this way for two years and the boys regularly crossed. In fact, in a 35-mile
stretch of the Barrier, there are nearly 20 such openings where 12,000 cross
into Israel each month for various purposes, mostly to work illegally in
construction and other jobs. Neither these boys, nor the workers desperate to
earn a living pose any security threat to Israel.
the murder, the IDF announced an investigation and as almost always happened,
it closed the file without taking any action. The army claimed that the
boys had cut through the fence and thus endangered Israeli security. In fact,
they did not do so. There already was a break in the fence, as I noted
above. The TV news segment (video displayed) below notes that the IDF soldiers
lying in ambush were there because there was a break in the fence. If
this break indeed posed a security threat to Israel then it should’ve been
repaired, but wasn’t. Not to mention, how does a 14-year-old boy picking
flowers from his family’s plot of land endanger state security?
responded by demanding the army turn over all documentation concerning the
crime so that it might make a determination whether to file an appeal with the
civil authorities. As a result, it received the video displayed above
which shows two boys crossing the barrier and three IDF soldiers lying in
ambush. Once they cross, the soldiers open fire on them (though
conveniently for the IDF, you can’t see the actual murder itself due to the
terrain and location of the surveillance camera).
army justifies the killing by saying that it first fired in the air and shouted
warnings for the boys to stop. Only when they refused and continued on their
way did a solider fire at them. As you’ll see below, the army knew these
children well. It was their normal routine to harvest these edible plants. It
knew where they were going. It knew they posed no danger. Yet it fired on them
anyway. This is cold-blooded murder.
responded to the army’s whitewash thus:
justifying the use of lethal fire in broad daylight at youths who posed no
danger to any other persons, the [IDF] conveys a cynical lack of concern
for the life of a Palestinian teenager. Israel’s security forces in the area
are well aware that, for the past two years, Palestinians have been crossing
the Separation Barrier at the breach at that particular point at this very
season to pick gundelia on their own farmland. In his testimony to B’Tselem,
a-Dardun stated that police officers had detained him and three of his friends
at the very same spot two days before this incident. He said that, before
letting them go, the police officers beat all four of them and confiscated the
plants they had picked.
decision to mount an armed ambush at a point in the barrier known to be crossed
by youths, who pose no danger whatsoever to anyone, for the purpose of
harvesting plants is highly questionable. It also indicates, at the very least,
extremely faulty discretion on the part of the commanders. Moreover B’Tselem’s
findings are markedly different from the description given by the IDF
Spokesperson: the youths made no attempt at vandalism; they were crossing
through a long-existing breach, and the soldiers did not carry out suspect
arrest procedure, shooing at a-Shawamreh with no advance warning.
military’s open-fire regulations around the Separation Barrier prohibit opening
live fire at Palestinians crossing the Barrier, if they are identified as
posing no risk to security forces. However, as revealed in a previous publication concerning shooting near the barrier, the regulations
present the prohibition as an exception to the rule. This is compounded by
public and media rhetoric considering every Palestinian who crosses the barrier
as a potential terrorist. In reality, security forces are well aware of the
fact that hundreds and even thousands of Palestinian workers regularly cross
through breaches in the Separation Barrier to reach places of employment in
are literally thousands of such cases of IDF murder of Palestinian children.
All of them are heartbreaking. But in this case, Raviv Drucker, one
of Israel’s foremost investigative journalists, decided to produce a segment on
the killing for his TV news program, HaMakor. This video segment brings
Shawamreh, his life and death into the homes of the Israeli viewing public.
Not that it will change anything. Children will continue dying (500
were killed last summer during Operation Protective Edge). But at least
we can say they knew. Israelis knew what their soldiers were doing in
their name. They chose to ignore it. But they were told. If
this reminds you of a colloquy heard in Europe in the days following the end of
World War II, then you have a good memory.
Drucker closes the segment by noting the military prosecutor found no criminal
liability in this incident. To which Drucker replies, if there was no
criminality here then I don’t know what criminality is.
the worst irony is that last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, under
enormous pressure from Israel (and perhaps the U.S.) ignored the recommendation
of his own staff investigator and refused to list Israel as a nation which endangers the lives of children in
conflict zones (Hamas was also removed from the list). Watch these videos and
then tell me Israel doesn’t debase the value not only of the adult Palestinian
lives it takes, but especially those of the children. What can we say of a
nation which kills children with such impunity? And then forgives itself
without shedding a tear?
is a moral obscenity that Israel managed to squirm its way out of designation
on the List of Shame.