International protection for Palestinians

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Wednesday 7 Dec 2022

A 38-second video makes for a new reminder of what Israel’s racist occupation is about. It shows the cold-blooded execution on Friday of 22-year-old Palestinian Ammar Mefleh by an Israeli occupation soldier in the West Bank town of Hawara.


Not only was the killing unjustified, it also reflected the mentality of Israeli occupation troops who don’t see murdering Palestinians as anything for which they should be held accountable. Mefleh was already restrained by the officer who pushed him to the ground after a scuffle. Yet, with no justification whatsoever, the officer pulled out his personal pistol and shot him four times at zero range. As stated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, “cold-blooded execution has become the official policy of Israeli governments.”

While Tor Wennesland, the special UN envoy to the Middle East peace process, wrote on Twitter that he was “horrified” by the shooting and sent “heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family,” Israel’s police commissioner, Kobi Shabtai, spoke to the Border Police officer who assassinated Mefleh with four bullets shot from his pistol, and praised him for his actions. He claimed that the killer “acted professionally as expected of any soldier or officer.” The Commander of the Israeli Border Police Amir Cohen, also praised the officer for his “quick response.”

This “quick response” did not apply to the young Palestinian martyr, Mefleh, who was seen in the video moving and rolling over on the ground after being shot, left mercilessly to bleed to death as Israeli security forces prevented Palestinian medics from administering aid for nearly an hour. Even worse, Israel refused to hand over Mefleh’s body to his family for burial. 

The horrific video showing the assassination of the Palestinian young man is nothing new. A similar video showing the death of Palestinian child, Mohamed Al-Dora while he was seeking cover in his father’s arms amid nearby shooting was a key reason behind the second Al-Aqsa uprising in the fall of 2000.

Disabled Palestinians, as well as children, were shot dead by occupation troops only for being close to one of the many ugly cement walls with which Israel has encircled the occupied Palestinian territories in another racist violation of basic rights. Only last May, there was a worldwide uproar after the intentional killing by an Israeli sniper of veteran Palestinian journalist Sherine Abu Akleh while she was carrying out her job as reporter at the West Bank town of Jenin.

In all shootings and cold blooded murders of Palestinians, Israel has consistently denied responsibility, coming up with one bizarre, false pretext after another to cover up the nearly daily crimes committed by its occupation troops. Devastating shelling, aerial bombing and mass killings of Palestinians in repeated wars launched by Israel against the tightly besieged Gaza Strip have been standard practice which the world has been passively watching except for empty statements calling for calm or condemning military action “by both sides.”

Nevertheless, the killing of Mefleh in such cruel manner comes at a very difficult time. It demonstrates what to expect of the new extremist, right-wing government due to take office shortly and led, yet again, by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. 

Even before Netanyahu formed a cabinet that will include ministers who were prevented from serving in the military because of their racism and support for killing Palestinians, tensions have been rising in the occupied territories, particularly the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians have given up hope of ending occupation as the term “peace process” nearly disappeared, replaced by massive expansion in the building illegal settlements on their own land.

This state of frustration has turned 2022 into the deadliest year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the long-running conflict since 2006. More than 145 Palestinians have been killed by Israel before this year comes to an end.   

With Netanyahu soon in office, along with several extremist ministers such Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who have called for sending Palestinians into exile and put up, in their homes, photos of Israeli terrorists who killed Palestinians in cold blood, further escalation is likely.

Ben Gvir, the next national security minister, hailed the killing of Mefleh near Nablus as “precise, swift and rigorous”, calling the shooter a “hero”. He added the shooting was a job “well done.” The same minister and Knesset member is well known for provoking clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque by insisting on accompanying fellow extremists on visits to the Muslim mosque.  

Diplomatic statements by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday that Washington “will gauge the [Israeli] government by the policies it pursues rather than individual personalities,” cannot be but wishful thinking. As one Arabic saying goes, “The book is known from its title.” The titles and histories of Netanyahu’s cabinet members can generate extreme worry that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories will only grow worse.  

What Palestinians urgently need as Netanyahu takes office is international protection in order to save their lives and prevent any further field executions and continuous crimes by Israeli soldiers. According to Palestine’s envoy to the United Nations after the video showing Mefleh’s cold blooded murder became viral that “expressing anger and denouncing Israel’s crimes and impunity is not enough. It must be accompanied by firm action in accordance with international law.”

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