The state and media responses to this week’s shooting of Rabbi Mertzbach, seen alongside the killing of 10 year-old Abir Aramin, a Palestinian, highlight the difference in treatment of Jewish and Arab blood.
By Haggai Matar
There are difference between the cases. And the death of any human is, of course, tragic. But we can’t ignore the horrible differences in the treatment these two shootings received and continue to receive. In both cases, it can be purported that there was no murderous intent; the soldier that shot at the car of Rabbi Dan Mertzbach certainly didn’t intend to kill a Jewish settler. And it’s possible that the Border Police officer who shot to death Abir Aramin didn’t mean to kill an innocent 10-year-old child.
But consider the differences. First, the media reports: Two days have passed since the shooting that killed Rabbi Mertzbach. A Google search of his name, limited to the last two days, bring up some 20,000 results. No media outlet in Israel failed to deal with the story at length – reporting on the shooting, the investigation launched as a result, the funeral, the family’s history, and so on. A Google search of Abir Aramin, limited to the month and a half following her shooting, brings up exactly seven results in Hebrew, five of which are from left-wing sites, one by Haaretz’s Gideon Levy, and one on the NRG [Maariv] news site. Here, the reports focus on the unique personage of Abir’s father, Bassam Aramin, one of the founders of Combatants for Peace. How many Palestinian children are killed under similar circumstances, without even one such mention of their parents?
And if the media operates as such – what about the state? A day hadn’t passed since Mertzbach’s shooting before the launching of both a standard military inquiry and a military police investigation. The soldier who fired the gun has apologized to the family. The army and the National Insurance Institute quickly announced they would consider Mertzbach a victim of a hostile act, resulting in NII funding of the funeral and further allowances to the family. The NII stated that this is “standard procedure in such cases and that by law, anyone hurt in an action meant to thwart enemy activity is considered a terror victim and recognized as such by the Defense Ministry and National Insurance Institute.”
Apparently the National Insurance Institute hasn’t heard of Abir Aramin, or just doesn’t apply the term “anyone” to Arabs. In that case, it took the police 48 hours to open an investigation into the killing, and five days to go to the scene to collect evidence – after rain had already fallen. The soldier did not express regret, and nobody considered recognizing Abir as someone who was “hurt in an action meant to thwart enemy activity” – despite the fact that the army had maintained the shooting took place in an attempt to scatter stone-throwers.
Since Bassam Aramin was and remains a peace activist who has connectionswith many Israelis, the case wasn’t closed just like that. Attorney LeaTsemel fought the state in courts until the family received financial compensation, and the NGO Yesh Din, along with attorney Michael Sfard, undertook an independent inquiry, having to spoon-feed the police investigators. Nonetheless, even these efforts ultimately did not help, and the case was closed six months after Abir’s death. Last July, a panel of three Supreme Court justices, presided over by court president Dorit Beinisch, ruled that the investigation was flawed, as was the state’s handling of the case, but that too much time had passed for another investigation to be launched. The shooters would thus not stand trial. (Read Bassam Aramin’s response to the events, published last month on +972 Magazine)
And what about Nibin Jamjum?
The difference between the treatment of the two cases seems glaring. Butit doesn’t end there. Abir Aramin’s story may not have received the attention that Mertzbach’s did, but due to the pressure of human rights organizations and attorneys, it still received more than most deaths of Palestinian children.
Take the example of Nibin Jamjum, who was 14 years old when settlers broke into her house and shot her to death during their 2002 pogroms in Hebron. Another death that went unnoticed. In contrast with the murder of Shalhevet Pass a year earlier, the army and the police did not enablea counter-pogrom of Palestinians against Jews, and the murderers of Jamjum have still not been caught.
During the time I spent in military prison, a soldier named Kobi Hevroni, a settler from of Kiryat Arba, told me that he had taken part in the Hebron pogrom in July 2002. He told, apparently without knowing Jamjum’s name, of a Palestinian girl who had mocked soldiers and settlers, sticking out her tongue or cursing at them. He told me that during the pogrom, some of his friends had entered her home and put a bullet to her head as punishment. When I was in prison, I chose not to believe it. Later, when I read the B’Tselem report on the pogrom, the description seemed to fit perfectly. This was not accidental gunfire. This was murder. The settlers went into her home, shoved her brothers, found her and shot her.
On the advice of the military court, I told everything I knew to the military police. After a few months, they transferred the file to the Hebron police. Both questioned me extensively. After a few months, the case was closed, with no suspects. Just like that – no arrests, no compensation, no media – most killings and murders of Palestinian children, at the hands of settlers and the army, come to a close.
In short: If you’re going to get a bullet to the head, it’s better to be a Jew.
Haggai Matar is an Israeli journalist and political activist, focusing mainly on the struggle against the occupation. He is currently working at Zman Tel Aviv, the local supplement of Maariv newspaper, and at the independent Hebrew website MySay. This piece originally appeared on MySay. Translated by Noa Yachot.