Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Every child has a name

Last Wednesday, June 11, 2014, was an ordinary weekday in Israel. In the morning, the Israeli Air Force sent out an aircraft to carry out an assassination in the Gaza Strip, and the task was carried our successfully. The 33-year old Mahmud al-Awoor, from Beit Lahiya in the northern part of the Strip, was located as he rode a motorcycle. He was shot from the air and killed instantly.

The Army told the Israeli media that Awoor had been involved in firing rockets at Israel. The media took up the Army’s version without question, and published news items headed "Terror activist liquidated in the Strip”. Prime Minister Netanyahu congratulated the Air Force for this successful operation, quoting for the occasion a maxim of the old Jewish sages: "He who gets up early in order to kill you, get you up even earlier and kill him first!".

It was noted in passing that during the assassination, two other people were injured. Several media outlets mentioned briefly that one of these wounded was a child. Did anyone bother to inform the Prime Minister that there was a child involved, before he spoke of "He who gets up early..."? Perhaps nobody told him. Quite possibly, Netanyahu really did not know.

Three days later, this child died at the hospital in Gaza. Too many fragments of shrapnel had penetrated his body, and the doctors' efforts to save him failed. On the day that the child died, Saturday June14, there was already another issue, a very hot and urgent issue which absorbed the full attention of the Israeli media. Everything else was shoved aside. Though it is not sure that even without the distraction of such an urgent issue they would have truly taken an interest.

Most of the Israeli media did not bother to make any mention whatsoever of the fact that a child of seven had died in Gaza as a result of wounds caused by Israel’s Air Force. Even Ha'aretz, considered the flagship of Israeli liberalism, mentioned the child’s death only in single line, buried deeply in a long article. The child's name was not mentioned.

As far as I know, in the entire Israeli communications media, the news website Y-net was the only one to publish a complete news item on the child's death. It was also the only one to publish the child’s name. His name was Ali Abdel-Latif al-Awoor, and he was seven years old at his death. He was a nephew of the assassinated Mahmud al-Awoor. Family members told that when the uncle had gone to buy food for the family, he had taken his little nephew with him on his motorcycle at the request of the child’s father.

In much of the Israeli media, indignation was voiced at the coldness and lack of compassion exhibited by their European counterparts. The European media did not report, or made only a brief report, of the issue which already for four days occupies the Israeli media to the exclusion of everything else – i.e, the abduction of three Israeli youths on the West Bank and the apprehension about their fate. How could the Europeans be so heartless?

Today Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein made a speech in which he emphasized the enormous moral difference between us Israelis and our Palestinian neighbors:”We sanctify life, they sanctify death”.

Without saying any such sanctimonious words, of course I too greatly hope that the 16-year old Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, and the 19-year old Eyal Yifrach, will come back safeand sound to their homes and families.