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Shoot First Don’t ask Questions Later

20th October 2015 | International Solidarity Movement | West Bank, occupied Palestine

A video posted on October 12th by Shehab news agency described as an attack on a Palestinian girl from Haifa in her twenties for allegedly trying to assault a taxi driver in Tel Aviv after an argument between them. The video shows a woman pinned to the ground by a man as passers-by argue about whether or not to beat and kill her. One woman claims she saw the woman had a knife and screams “Why are you playing around. They are coming to kill our children!” and demands her execution. Another bystander asks the man “Did she come at you with a knife?” and he replies “She put her hand in her pocket.” Yet Another kicks her in the head. Sharon Puwler from Haaretz Daily reported on 20th October 2015 that the woman did not carry any weapon.

While there undoubtedly are stabbings of Israelis taking place, there are also undoubtedly mistaken or false accusations and pressure from Israeli civilians to kill people they suspect of being terrorists. The latest example being the Eritrean asylum seeker Mulu Habtom Zerhom who was shot and beaten to death in the Beersheva central bus station after being mistaken for an Arab. Because Mulu was not Palestinian there will be an investigation committee looking into his murder.

Palestinians who are killed are assumed guilty by default. In the case of the Palestinian woman in the video taken in Tel Aviv, if some of the bystanders hadn’t intervened and the woman had been lynched it would have been reported as: “knife wielding terrorist neutralized”. This is how the Israeli media portrayed 23 year old Ahmed Sha’ban from Ras el-Amud in Occupied East Jerusalem. Al Quds Newspaper published a video showing an Israeli security guard shooting twice directly at Ahmed’s body after he is already on the ground. An Israeli eye witness is heard stating: “Central bus station in Jerusalem, just now, a terrorist was exterminated, bro, right in front of me! Right in front of me he shot him ten times! Ten bullets were shot at him now! It’s such a mess here! I don’t know, he didn’t touch anything… He didn’t have a knife in his hand. Everyone shouted ‘terrorist’. The security guard shot him. I am telling you the bullets are right in front of me. My head hurts.”

Israeli officials have been criticised by human rights organisations for calling on Israelis with  licensed guns to carry them  in public and to kill any suspect. They have made it clear that it is not necessary to determine if the suspect is holding a knife before shooting to kill. At a press conference on October 8th Israeli Minister of defence Moshe Yaalon stated “Right now it is required primarily to be vigilant, determined, to respond quickly to any local attack, to eliminate the terrorist stabber or the perpetrator, stone thrower and the like, immediately on the spot. This is the answer to this kind of terrorism.” Other Israeli officials rushed to echo the sentiment On  the 11th of October MK Yair Lapid Head of the Yesh Atid party said on a televised interview,” whoever takes out a knife or a screwdriver or whatever it may be, needs to be shot to kill”, adding “don’t hesitate. Even at the start of an attack, shooting to kill is correct.”

There have been many cases of alleged knife wielders shot in the last months since the killing of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun in Hebron that Amnesty international categorized as an extrajudicial execution. They all deserve an investigative committee. Whether a suspect is falsely accused or did actually carry out an attack, shooting and/or killing people  who do not constitute an immediate threat to anyone is war crime.