How Israel's Jewish terrorist became a victim
by Jonathan Cook
Wednesday June 14 2006
"Israel has shown time and again that it selectively enforces law and
order, depending on the ethnicity of killer and victim."
Imagine the following scenario. A Palestinian gunman boards a bus
inside Israel and rides it to the city of Netanya. Close to the end of
the line, he walks over to the driver, levels his automatic rifle
against the man's head and pumps him with bullets. He turns and
empties the rest of the magazine -- one of 14 in his backpack -- into
the passenger behind the driver and two young women sitting across the
As bystanders in the street outside look on in horror, our gunman then
reloads his weapon and sprays the bus with yet more fire, injuring 20
people. He approaches a woman huddled beneath a seat, trying to hide
from him, lowers the gun to her head and pulls the trigger. The
magazine is empty. As he tries to load a third clip, she grabs the
burning barrel of the gun while other passengers rush him.
Seeing their chance, the onlookers storm the bus and fuelled by a
mixture of passions -- fury, indignation and fear of further attack --
they beat the gunman to death.
As the news breaks, Israeli TV prefers to continue its coverage of a
local football match rather report the killings. Later, when the
channels do cover the deaths, they start by showing the picture of the
gunman with the caption "God bless his soul" -- in the same manner as
they would normally relate to the victim of a terror attack.
Despite the Prime Minister denouncing the gunman as a terrorist to the
world, domestically the media and police concentrate instead on the
"lynch mob" who killed the gunman. The police launch a secretive
investigation which after 10 months leads to the arrests of seven men
on charges of murdering him, and the promise of more arrests to come.
A police spokesman describes the men's act against the gunman as one
of "cold-blooded murder".
Fanciful? Ridiculous? Well, exactly these events have unfolded in
Israel over the past year -- except that the location was not the
Jewish city of Nentanya but the Arab town of Shafa'amr in the Galilee;
the gunman was not a Palestinian but an Israeli soldier using his
army-issue M-16; and the victims were not Israeli Jews but Israeli Arabs.
See how it now starts to make sense.
The killing of four Palestian citizens of Israel by the 19-year-old
soldier Eden Natan Zada on 4 August last year, shortly before the
disengagement from Gaza, has been quietly forgotten by the world.
After the Arab victims were buried, the only question that concerned
Israelis was who killed Zada. They appear now to have got their
answer: seven men from Shafa'amr have been rounded up by Israeli
police to stand trial for his "cold-blooded" murder.
No one was interested in the official neglect of the families of
Shafa'amr's dead, all of whom were denied the large compensation
payments given to Israeli victims of Palestinian terror. A ministerial
committee ruled that, because Zada was a serving soldier, his attack
could not be considered a terrorist incident. Apparently only Arabs
can be terrorists. To this day the state has not given the families a
penny of the compensation automatically awarded to Jewish families.
There was no investigation of why Zada, well-known for his extremist
views, had been allowed to go AWOL for weeks from his unit without
attempts to trace him. Or how his family's repeated warnings that he
had threatened to do something "terrible" to stop the disengagement
had been ignored by the authorities. No one questioned why, a few days
before his attack, the police had sent Zada away after he tried to
hand in his gun.
Even more disturbing, no one discussed why Zada, who openly belonged
to a racist and outlawed movement, Kach, which demands the expulsion,
if not eradication, of Arabs from the Holy Land, had been allowed to
serve in the army. How had he and thousands of other Kach supporters
been left in peace to promote their obscene ideas? Why were these Kach
activists, mostly young Israelis, demonstrating openly against the
Gaza disengagement, assaulting policemen and soldiers, when the group
was supposedly underground?
And why did the authorities not round up and question Zada's Kach
friends in his West Bank settlement of Tapuah after the attack? Why
was their possible involvement in its planning never considered, nor
their role in inciting him to his deed?
The point was that the Israeli authorities wanted Zada to be dismissed
as a lone, crazy gunman -- like Baruch Goldstein before him, the army
doctor who in 1994 opened fire in the Palestinian city of Hebron,
killing 29 Muslim worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and
wounding 125 others.
Although Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister then, denounced Goldstein
as an "errant weed", a shrine and park was built for him nearby, in
the settlement of Kiryat Arba, venerating him as a "saint" and "a
righteous and holy man". Far from being isolated, his shrine regularly
attracts thousands of Israeli Jews who congregate deep in Palestinian
territority to honour him.
Instead of seeking out and eradicating this growing strain of Jewish
fundamentalism in the wake of the Shafa'amr terror attack, Israel
claimed that finding and punishing the men who killed Zada was the
priority. It was a matter of law and order, said Dan Ronen, the police
force's northern commander. He told the Hebrew media: "In a country
with law and order, despite the sensitivity, people can't do whatever
they see fit. I hope the Arab sector will display maturity and
This sounds like an outrageous double standard to the citizens of
Shafa'amr, and to the country's more than one million Palestinian
citizens. Enforcing the law has never been a major consideration when
the offenders are Jewish and the victims are Arabs, even when the
killings occur inside Israel.
Arab citizens have not forgotten the massacre of 49 men, women and
children by a unit of soldiers who enforced a last-minute curfew on
the Israeli village of Kfar Qassem in 1956, executing the villagers --
Arabs, of course -- at the checkpoint one by one as they innocently
returned home from a day's work in the fields.
During their trial, the Haaretz newspaper reported that the soldiers
received a 50 per cent pay increase and that it was obvious the men
were "not treated as criminals but as heroes". Found guilty of an
"administrative error", the commander was given a one penny fine.
Nor was anyone held to account when six unarmed Arab citizens were
shot dead by the security services in the Galilean town of Sakhnin in
1976 as they protested against another wave of land confiscations that
deprived rural Arab communities of their farm land. The prime minister
of the day, Rabin again, refused even to launch an investigation.
Some 25 years later, an inquiry was held into the killing by the
police of 13 unarmed Arabs in the Galilee in October 2000 as they
protested the deaths of Palestinians at the Noble Sanctuary in
Jerusalem -- the trigger for the intifada. Six years on, however, not
a single policeman has been charged over the deaths inside Israel.
Even the commanders who illegally authorised the use of an anti-terror
sniper unit against demonstrators armed only with stones have not been
Israel's Arab citizens are also more than familiar with the story of
the "Bus 300 affair" of 1984, when two Palestinian gunmen from the
occupied territories were captured after hijacking a bus inside
Israel. Led away in handcuffs by the Shin Bet security service, the
two men were later reported dead.
No one was ever charged over the killings, even though it was widely
known at the time who had killed the men and later one senior Shin Bet
operative, Ehud Yatom, admitted breaking the men's skulls with a rock.
In 1986, to forestall the threat of any indictments, the president of
the day, Chaim Herzog, gave all the Shin Bet agents involved an
amnesty from prosecution.
If it is shown in court that Zada was in fact beaten to death after
the crowd knew he had been restrained, then this history -- of the
state's repeated denial of justice to the Arab victims of its violence
-- must be taken into account. No one can reasonably have expected the
onlookers to stay calm knowing that Zada, like other Jewish emissaries
of the state before him, would receive either no punishment or a few
years of jail and a pardon because he killed Arabs rather than Jews.
Israel has shown time and again that it selectively enforces law and
order, depending on the ethnicity of killer and victim.
Commander Ronen observed at a press conference after the Shafa'amr
arrests: "Since October 2000 we have come a long way in our relations
with the Arab sector." If that is true, which is doubtful, the
authorites have again made every effort to tear apart what little is
left of that trust.
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