Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) condemned on Monday, April 9, a video showing Israeli soldiers cheering as one of them, a sniper, shot and brought down a Palestinian who approached the Gaza security fence. All Israeli television channels broadcast the clip at the start of their primetime evening news bulletins – with one host describing the spectacle of the cheering soldiers as “disturbing” – after it circulated widely on social networks.
The soldiers can be heard discussing the shot ahead of time, as the sniper trains his rifle on the target, who is visible standing next to another Palestinian crouching in front of a roll of barbed wire several meters away from the security fence.
In the video, the Palestinian who was later shot does not appear to be armed and was not throwing rocks or firebombs at either the security fence or the Israeli troops on the other side. In the footage, the commander is heard saying, “The moment he stops, you drop him. Do you have a bullet in the chamber? Are you [trained] on him?”
One soldier, apparently the one filming the incident, calls over a friend the moment before a gunshot is heard and the Palestinian targeted is seen crumpling to the ground. “Whoa! What a video! YES! Son of a bitch. What a video! Look they’re running to evacuate him,” the photographer enthuses. “Of course I filmed it,” he adds, responding to a question. Another soldier is then heard saying, “Whoa, [he] hit him in the head.” As a group of Palestinians can be seen carrying the injured man away, the photographer adds, “What a legendary video.”
MK Ayman Odeh, (Hadash) head of the Joint List, denounced the incident and called for the sharpshooter and the soldier who filmed it to stand trial.
[This is] “a video that horrifies the mind. Calls of joy at taking a life and what appears to be the execution of someone who did not threaten anyone,” Odeh wrote on Twitter. Odeh’s party colleague Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) mocked the branding of the Israeli military as the “most moral army in the world” and wrote on Twitter: “This is another murder by Israeli soldiers of an unarmed Gazan,” she added, calling the footage “horrifying” and calling for an investigation.
Israeli human rights organizations that have frequently been critical of the actions of the military said that the video depicted the rule for the Israeli army, not the exception. B’Tselem, which recently led a campaign urging soldiers to refuse to shoot unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, said that the Israeli army issues “illegal orders telling soldiers to shoot people who endanger nobody.” The organization said incidents such as the one documented in the video have occurred “hundreds of times” over the last few weeks, and dismissed the promise to investigate the shooting as a “meaningless” stunt that would “cover up the truth.”
Another rights group, Breaking the Silence, which collects soldiers’ testimonies of alleged abuses carried out against the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian Territories, shared the video on Twitter and said, “These are the orders. Take responsibility.” The organization mocked the military’s response that the incident was a few months old: “It isn’t from several months ago; it has been like this for 51 years,” it said, referring to the years in which Israel has maintained military rule over the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
At least 32 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since March 30, when peaceful Palestinian demonstrations began along the Gaza Strip’s eastern border with Israel, the Palestinian Health Ministry has stated.
The rallies are part of a six-week-long demonstration that will culminate on May 15. That day will mark the 70th anniversary of Israel’s establishment – an event Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe.”
The CPI and Hadash have condemned the military actions. MK Odeh emphasized on Sunday the peaceful nature of the protests, and added ““Even such a model of non-violent popular struggle is met with armed soldiers who don’t hesitate to fire at unarmed demonstrators. Israel must immediately stop the shooting and allow the residents of Gaza to carry out their just and legitimate protest.” Palestinian organizations also promised that they will not be cowed by the violence. Nafiz Ghuniam, a member of the Politburo of the Palestinian People’s Party, emphasized that the Palestinian people will continue protesting peacefully against the Israeli occupation.
The world, ranging from the Pope to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and including many Jewish groups in Israel, the United States and elsewhere, has condemned the Israeli government’s action. But with the exception of US Senator Bernie Sanders there has been no condemnation of Israel’s action from the political leadership of the United States.
The Communist Party USA has condemned both the violence of the Israeli government and the active complicity of the Trump administration in this incident. “We call for justice for the Palestinian people, and for an end to the United States’ criminal complicity which has stopped any progress toward a peaceful solution and set the stage for incidents of this kind.”