Mustafa Tamimi of Nabi Saleh died yesterday morning in Beilinson Hospital. There’s no debate over the cause of death: Tamimi was shot in the head at close range during the weekly demonstration in his village. The weapon: a high force, long range tear gas canister. According to a number of witnesses, backed up by photographs, the canister was fired point-blank, in total contravention of army regulations, from a distance of less than ten meters. The shooter: an Israeli soldier, from a Jeep.
Mustafa Tamimi is on the left. The weapon and the tear gas canister are circled in red (photo: Haim Scwarczenberg)
It’s not every day that the authorities come in possession of such a picture, which can supply more than 1,000 words in an indictment. The picture shows, firstly, the shot, an instant before the canister strikes him. This picture also shows that Tamimi may have thrown stones at the military Jeep, but it’s also clear that the Jeep is both closed and armored, and there is no doubt that Tamimi constitutes no danger to the lives of the soldiers – especially had they shut the door. In the picture you can also see the canister in the air, and the forbidden angle at which it’s flying toward Tamimi. You can’t see the shooter, but you can easily see that he was driving in military jeep S0661410. You can easily figure out who drove it by calling 02-5694211. From there it probably won’t be too hard to figure out who else was in the vehicle, and who opened the door to fire at Tamimi.
But this won’t happen. Unlike Bassem Tamimi – an organizer of the demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, who has been in jail since March and whose trial used testimonies taken from minors pressured by illegal interrogation methods – it’s safe to assume that the soldier who shot Mustafa Tamimi won’t be arrested in the near future. He won’t sit in jail while awaiting trial for murder, or manslaughter, or even negligent manslaughter. The past has proven to us that maybe, just maybe, if some organizations and dedicated attorneys invest in a prolonged military struggle, the soldier will be charged with firing against regulations, or illegal use of a weapon, or a moving violation like driving in a military vehicle with the door open. Maybe, just maybe, he will be convicted and demoted, and maybe he’ll even be fined or get a two-month sentence. Suspended sentence, of course. But maybe not.
I haven’t been to Nabi Saleh. They have been protesting there against the occupation for two and a half years, against the army-supported settler seizure of the village’s lands and spring. But I haven’t made it there. I have written on several occasions about the struggle there, but I didn’t join the demonstrations. I’ve been to Bil’in, Ni’lin, Ma’asara, Um Salmona, Jius, Hebron, Susya, Salfit, Azon, Jenin, Beit Ommar, Ramallah, Jericho, Walajeh, and more – but I haven’t been to Nabi Saleh.
The photographs of violence that have come out of Nabi Saleh simply scared me. The beatings, the rubber bullets from close range, the many wounded, and the army that roams the streets and fires tear gas into homes around the village – there’s nowhere to hide. Nobody had been killed until now, but it was just a matter of time. My friends told me that things had calmed down there lately, that it wasn’t like it had been at the beginning, that it was manageable, that you could fade back and find safety if you wanted to – I started to consider going.
More and more friends on Facebook are sharing the close-ups of Tamimi’s head after he was shot – covered in blood – and the video clips of his evacuation. I have no choice but to look at the photographs, and my body stiffens, freezes, shakes a bit. Before I was notified of Tamimi’s death, the photographs reminded me of Tristan Anderson, the American whose skull was shattered by a similar canister by similar soldiers in Ni’lin, in a demonstration at which I was present. I remembered the horror of that day, and the time that Anderson then spent in the hospital, hovering between life and death until he left in a wheelchair, in which he’ll probably remain for life. I remembered Matan Cohen, and Limor Goldstein, and their injuries, and my own light injuries. I remember Bassem and Jawaher Abu Rahma, who were killed in Bil’in, and 10-year-old Ahmed Moussa, who was killed by soldiers in another demonstration – and more.
It is simply shocking. Truly shocking. I look around, and I don’t see my society shocked. Not shocked at all of these people, or at the two head injures in Nabi Saleh yesterday, or at the two arrests in a peaceful demonstration in Ma’asara, which didn’t even get any coverage. I see the careful reports reading, “Palestinians claim that…” and the blind faith in the stance of the IDF Spokesperson. And the lack of shock shocks me even more. Especially shocking after all this are the reader comments, which claim that “they deserved it” or that describe the weekly popular demonstrations in the occupied territories, despite the repression and the injuries and the arrests and the terror and the death, as a “game,” or “theater,” or a “hangout of anarchists and bored Arabs.” And I hope that somehow, the UN Special Rapporteur on Free Speech, who spent Friday in Nabi Saleh when Tamimi was shot, sees and understands what is happening here, and maybe will manage to give us some assistance from outside. He, or the European consuls who are witnessing the trial of Bassem Tamimi, or diplomats who document the destruction of the caves and wells in the South Hebron Hills. But I have a hard time believing.
But – a shred of hope? Despite it all? Is there a source of encouragement, alongside all these killings, alongside the father of son who were killed in Gaza, and the death and bereavement that follows us everywhere thoughout this land of occupation and repression and war? Yes. The human spirit. It may be a cliché, but I believe in the words of Charlie Chaplin: We want to live by each other’s happiness — not by each other’s misery. We don’t give up on the eternal struggle for a future that is better, freer, more equal, more just, and in the long run, we achieve something. Capitalism and racism may incite us to selfishness and war, but ultimately, occupations collapse, empires fall, and humans continue to create and protest and build and love. And alongside such pictures of murder, this must be remembered.
Haggai Matar is an Israeli journalist and political activist, focusing mainly on the struggle against the occupation. He currently works 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.