Today I joined thousands of Palestinians in the burial of a nineteen year old Palestinian boy who was beaten to death by Israeli soldiers; his name was (and is) Jihad Al-Sha’er. In order to not have his story become a number in the books of records, I decided to write it in this article.
Jihad’s story should be a warning to all those who are losing their humanity to the corruption of absolute power.
To give a clear picture of what happened, I talked to several villagers from the village of Tiqua’ where Jihad was from including some who eye witnessed the incident and some very close friends that I respect and trust.
In the morning of July 26th Jihad left his home and headed up the street to a nearby taxi stop. He was going to Bethlehem University to complete his enrolment for the upcoming fall semester; on the other side of the taxi stop stood an Israeli army Hummer. A soldier standing outside the army vehicle called Jihad for no reason at all other than what seems to have been out of boredom from standing in the hot summer heat. Jihad hesitantly walked to the soldier who asked him for his identification card. Jihad only had his birth certificate as part of the paperwork he was taking with him for registration. Even though that is enough, the Israeli soldier, again from what seems to be born of boredom began to taunt and then physically assault Jihad. As the assaults grew, Jihad physically defended himself and a brawl broke up between the two who could have easily been the same age. Seeing this, four other Israeli soldiers from the same army vehicle jumped out and began beating Jihad with their batons and the buds of their rifles. Even after falling to the ground the beatings continued.Tens of Israeli army jeeps came as reinforcement, for what? I truly don’t know. Jihad was carried in one of the army vehicles to an unknown location.
It is not known what happened after that but after several hours the Israeli army called the Palestinian Red Crescent to “pick up” Jihad at one of army checkpoints leading into Bethlehem. The ambulance picked up the body of a dead nineteen year old.
A surplus of absolute power was given to these Israeli soldiers by their commanders and government that led them (directly or not) to treat others as a lesser form of a human being. This is not the first time and I am sad to say will probably not be the last time such things happen.
As I thought about it more I asked myself what if in that evening, as the soldiers were sitting in their base, one of them stood up expressed remorse and regret for what had happened then how will the others react? How will his commanders react?
If (big IF) there is enough pressure to open an investigation, the Israeli army and government will claim this as a “singular and tragic incident that does not reflect the Israeli military,” but the facts present a different reality. What happened might be a “unique / rare incident” (every act of violence and brutal killing is unique) but in reality, what is happening is a clear reflection of the systemic demonizing that is embedded in the Israeli military and poltical establishment.