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The cemetery killing

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 02.12.2013:

The cemetery killing

Toine van Teeffelen

Bethlehem, December 1, 2013

Like every Sunday morning the ka’ek salesman passes by, selling his sesame bread, falafel and speckled eggs heated in the oven. He always wants to sell more, and asks whether he had perhaps heard me asking for “four” breads instead of one. He also sells the Al Quds newspaper, for which Mary has more reading time on Sunday than during the week.

While today is the opening of the Christmas market in Bethlehem, the news does not make anyone happy. There were recently several dead and injured in the West Bank and Gaza because of the occupation. Most of the time the “incidents” do not draw much attention. Who did for instance last week hear that the Israeli army killed three men driving in their car, near Hebron? It apparently concerned “Salafists” and “Al-Qaida.” As always there are contradictory accounts about the circumstances under which such extrajudicial executions – how to call them otherwise? – take place.

Mary relays an item in the paper about a worker from a village near Nablous, the 24-year old Antar Al-Aqraa. He was killed yesterday at a cemetery not far from Tel Aviv. He happened to be there in the neighborhood together with some 40 men who did not have a permit to work in Israel. Some tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians are illegally working in Israel, finding their way across the supposedly impenetrable Wall. A volunteer of the Israeli border police shot Antar dead from 10 meter distance, according to al-Quds. It is said that he had attacked the police. His family in the West Bank could not believe that he had done so. It was not his personality.

What is his story? After three weeks he would marry. His fiancée fainted after hearing the news. He worked day and night to save for his marriage. But the unemployment rate is high in the West Bank, both under manual workers and those with more education. Young unmarried men like Antar do not get permits to work in Israel, except when they collaborate. So he took risks and worked hard in Israel as an illegal laborer. You can imagine the types of places where illegal laborers stay for the night. Mary tells that she heard that many got a skin disease in such places. He too stayed under unhygienic circumstances during the night in Israel.

Previously Antar was arrested several times during night raids. He had to pay fees, but still he continued working in Israel. According to his colleagues he would have to stay this time, if caught, at least one year in prison. That would mean: no marriage any time soon. So he tried to escape from the arrest into the cemetary.

How he tried to escape is not clear. In a first report on the Internet the Israeli paper Jerusalem Post mentioned that he had attacked the border police with an “axe.” This morning the report presented a new version in which it was claimed that the man had “stabbed” the police. Below the report a correction stated that it was not clear whether it concerned an axe or not. But who cannot tell the difference between an axe and a knife? And if it was an axe, how can you stab with an axe? And how dangerous is somebody at a distance of some ten meter; the distance mentioned elsewhere, in Al Quds newspaper.

A few weeks ago we discussed a similar incident. A worker was called to come out of his car at a checkpoint in the West Bank, the so-called “container” checkpoint near Abu Dis. The soldiers said that they were attacked. Passengers in the car denied that. The man was killed at close range. Nobody started an appeal procedure. That would lead to nothing, so is the feeling. In general people want of course to have to deal with the army as little as possible.

Ask the dissident Israeli ex-soldier group, “Breaking the Silence,” how regularly Israeli soldiers lie to escape punishment (modest or negligible the punishment itself may be, compared to international standards).

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