When there is a call for justice, Israel acts. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Out of nowhere, all hell broke loose here in the West Bank. It was around 5 AM when a caravan of Israeli armored vehicles entered the Israeli settlement. One of the vehicles was a trailer carrying two huge Caterpillar vehicles, an excavator and a bulldozer, both refit with armored plating. In the sky, one could hear the whizz of drones flying overhead. Dozens of IDF soldiers, in full military gear, were seen deployed around the entrance to the settlement, guns locked and loaded. Within minutes heavy gunfire could be heard. What was expected by onlookers to last a few hours continued for five days. The entire settlement and surrounding neighborhoods were tormented by this “Iron Fist” coming down on the settlement. Journalists were not permitted to enter the settlement to report on what was taking place.
Israel’s world-renowned intelligence services had identified the perpetrator of a horrendous and criminal act that took place a few days prior. A Jewish settler named Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old son of a rabbi, was guilty as charged by the Israeli intelligence services. No time was wasted. No need to bother the courts here because this monster criminal was a ticking time bomb and lives were saved by swiftly capturing him.
Mr. Ben-Uliel was arrested from his bed, blindfolded, and thrown into the back of one of the IDF jeeps. Neighbors report they could hear him screaming in the jeep, supposedly from being tortured even before reaching the prison. His father and two brothers were also arrested and put in a separate jeep after being stripped down to their underwear, albeit they had no knowledge of Amiram’s crime. Then, upon command, the Caterpillar vehicles rolled off their truck bed and trundled loudly toward the Ben-Uliel’s home. The excavator pounded the house from the top, collapsing the ceiling. The bulldozer knocked the walls in from the sides. Within minutes, the Amiram’s home was a pile of rubble.
While all this was happening, Jewish youth from the neighborhood threw stones at the soldiers, resulting in 14 wounded by live gunfire and a 9-year-old girl losing an eye from the IDF firing rubber-coated bullets while she was peeking out of the window to get a glimpse of the ruckus outside.
When it comes to the law, Israel does not play around. When the dust settled, and the troops drove away, as methodically as they entered, justice was served. Israel showed the world how justice is done — swiftly, brutally, and without due process. This is more accurately called street justice.
Not a pretty sight, but a democracy, especially a “Jewish and democratic” one, must do what it must do. Discrimination is not in Israel’s vocabulary. Everyone is punished if they break the law. This is the only way the rule of law has meaning.
Thank you, Israel, you are a poster child for justice.
Oops, a mistake. The above series of events could not have happened because the suspect was a Jewish Israeli, not a Palestinian. The entire account is a total falsehood, except for Amiram Ben-Uliel being a criminal, to describe him politely. If the roles were reversed, and the suspect was Palestinian, the above account would not only be plausible, but it happens so frequently that it would be buried deep inside the pages of Israeli newspapers if covered at all.
Allow me to explain the real story.
It was late on July 30, 2015, somewhere between 2 and 4 AM. The Dawabsheh family was sound asleep in their home in the Duma village in the Northern West Bank. The young Palestinian family comprised of 18-month-old Ali, Ahmad, age 4, father Sa’ed, age 32, and mother Riham, age 26. They awoke in the pitch dark, ablaze. Their house was the target of a firebombing, one of two that evening. Infant Ali perished on the spot. His parents died in hospitals from their burns a few weeks later. His brother Ahmad was the sole survivor.
The assailant, it was discovered, was an extremist Jewish settler named Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old son of a rabbi. Amiram was originally from Karmei Zur, a settlement north of Hebron, but frequented the settlements of Ramat Migron, Maoz Esther, Itamar, Baladim, and Geulat Tzion. All of these are Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, and all exist in blatant violation of international law.
The details of the arson attack are horrifying and have been widely reported.
Today, Monday, May 18, 2020, will go down in history, Israeli Hasbara-driven history at least. After a long 5 years, an Israeli district court convicted Amiram Ben-Uliel for the murder of Ali, Riham, and Saad Dawabsheh. No mention was made of the state of the sole survivor, Ali’s 4-year-old brother Ahmad who will live with the trauma and burn scars for the rest of his life.
I have no qualms about Israel bringing its citizens to justice. What I do have an issue with is Israel trying to hold up this case as being an act of judicial fairness. We Palestinians know better. As noted at the outset, that false account is not imaginary. It is what Palestinians have been facing for decades.
As sick and criminal as Amiram Ben-Uliel is, he is not the problem. He is the product of Israeli society, a sick society that is bent on militarism, structured discrimination, disrespect for the rule of law, and outright racism in its rawest forms. I take no pleasure in making this point. As a matter of fact, as we all work to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against Palestinians, we are helping Israel to take the first step needed to recover from its past and present.
In the days to come, when supporters of Israel parakeet Israeli state talking points about how bringing Amiram Ben-Uliel to justice proves Israel’s respect for the law, ask about a few prior cases. Ask about how long their cases took, where were these suspects during their long trials, are their houses still standing, were they ever tortured or convicted, did their families become targets of the system too, were their neighborhoods tormented, did they serve out their full sentences, how were they treated while incarcerated, etc.
Ask about Jewish extremist Yigal Amir who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv.
Ask about IDF’s Nahal Brigade commander Col. Yisrael Shomer who murdered a 17-year-old Palestinian youngster, Mohammad Kosba, in cold blood, only to be promoted and chosen to represent the IDF at the most important ceremony on Israel’s Memorial Day last month.
Ask about Yosef Haim Ben-David and his two unnamed nephew minor accomplices. Ben-David is a resident of the Geva Binyamin settlement, also known as “Adam”, who was convicted for the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from the Wadi al-Joz neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Ben-David hit the boy with a wrench, poured gasoline on him then lit him on fire in the Jerusalem Forest in the Givat Shaul neighborhood of West Jerusalem.
Ask about IDF Caterpillar D9 bulldozer operator, only identified as “YB,” who ran over the American activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza.
Ask about then 19-year-old Elor Azaria, an Israel Defense Forces medic who executed 21-year-old Palestinian Abdel Fattah al-Sharif while he lay incapacitated on the ground in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. A fan club across Israel emerged to demand that Azaria not be convicted.
Ask about Moshe Nissim, nicknamed “Kurdi Bear,” a D-9 operator who leveled dozens of houses in the Jenin Refugee Camp while many families were still in their homes, only to brag afterward by saying “I made them a stadium in the middle of the camp.” Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot published an interview with Nissim where he said he had begged his officers to let him destroy more houses and added, “I didn’t see, with my own eyes, people dying under the blade of the D-9 and I didn’t see house[s] falling down on live people. But if there were any, I wouldn’t care at all …”
Ask about Jewish extremist Meir Ettinger who heads a known Jewish terror group and even Israel’s Shin Bet Security Service acknowledges that he is a risk to public safety.
Ask about Israel Defense Forces Captain “R” who murdered the 13-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl Iman Darweesh Al Hams in Gaza then “confirmed the kill” by emptying his magazine into her motionless body at point-blank range.
The list goes on and on.
My point is not to be comprehensive in this limited space, but to make a case. A case for holding the state of Israel, and those who fund it, arm it, and cover-up for it, accountable.
There are no settlements without the state of Israel. There need not be house demolitions, torture, arbitrary arrests, tormenting of entire neighborhoods, uprooting of trees and so much more if this 53-year-old military occupation would come to an end.
Until then, my prayers are with Ali, Sa’ed, and Riham. May their only remaining family member, Ahmad — and the Israeli society at large — experience an occupation-free life in my lifetime.
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living in Ramallah/Al-Bireh in Occupied Palestine. He blogs at ePalestine.com. @SamBahour