Belfast (Special to Informed Comment; Feature) – Like any other toddler in the world, two and a half years old Palestinian toddler Mohammed Altamimi was with his father in the car at their home entrance in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. All was normal until the Israeli army opened fire at their car. Both were injured but Mohammed was more seriously wounded than his father, since he was hit in the head. He died a few days later in hospital.
Just as when the Israeli army killed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last year, their spokesman initially blamed Mohammed’s killing on Palestinian crossfire. Villagers, however, confirmed that the Israeli soldiers were the only ones who were shooting. Then the Israeli army changed its narrative to say that it had opened an investigation into the killing. Later it admitted that both of them were hit by Israeli fire.
This tactic seems to be common when there is media interest in such crimes. It starts with denial, then gradually the story changes. By the time they admit that the Israeli army was behind the killing, the media attention has turned elsewhere and the truth becomes another victim of the 24-hour news cycle.
Even the Office of Palestinian Affairs of the US State Department tweeted a mild rebuke of the Israeli occupation army, saying, “We express our condolences to the family of Mohammed Al-Tamimi. We urge Israel to evaluate all use of deadly force that involves civilian casualties, and we call on Israeli and Palestinian leadership to take responsible actions to end the conflict.” The US won’t do anything practical about the killing, but it is rare for Washington to go even this far in criticizing Tel Aviv.
Palestinian 2-year-old kid Mohammed al-Tamimi succumbs to his wounds sustained earlier in lsraeli gunfire near Ramallah. The little boy and his father were shot a couple of days ago near Nabi Saleh village by lsraeli occupation forces and were admitted into hospital since then. pic.twitter.com/y3rGIuCv5y
— TIMES OF GAZA (@Timesofgaza) June 5, 2023
Even in the cases where Israel accepts responsibility, the Israeli army and legal system seldom take action to hold those responsible to account. According to the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, between the years 2017 and 2021, the Israeli military law enforcement system received 1260 complaints. Only 248 criminal investigations were opened and 11 led to indictments filed against soldiers of which only three involved killing Palestinians which means soldiers were prosecuted only in 0.87 percent of all cases.
This impunity encourages the Israeli soldiers to act recklessly when they deal with the Palestinians. It is no wonder why the number of Palestinian children who got killed by Israelis keeps rising. According to Defence Children International Palestine (DCIP), 2,267 Palestinian children have been killed by the Israelis since the year 2000, which is about 100 children a year or 2 children every week. They should not be seen as just numbers, all of them had their own story, dreams, life, ambition and loved ones whose lives are devastated by their loss.
Having grown up in occupied Palestine, I experienced the violence of Israeli soldiers when I was 17 alongside two friends aged 16 and 15. As we were handcuffed and blindfolded, we were beaten and kicked on the testicles. Despite that treatment, we were the luckier ones. Many other Palestinian children were killed by the Israeli army and settlers including my 16-year-old classmate who was shot by an Israeli driver of a fuel tank truck on his way home from school. Our right to education was also denied as Israel closed sour schools for long periods and Palestinian universities were closed for 3 years 1988-1991 while Israeli schools and universities were kept open. Once again, another evidence of apartheid system.
Furthermore, a report by the DCIP, titled “Arbitrary by Default,” and based on 766 statements given by Palestinian children who were detained by Israel forces between 2016 and 2022 found that most of them were denied their basic human rights, inasmuch as they were subjected to physical torture and were not informed of their rights. Additionally, 97 percent of them were interrogated without their parents’ presence. Like the rest of the Palestinians, they were all subjected to the Israeli military law which denies them a fair trial. They were also prosecuted in a military court system that is not impartial.
The report concluded that “Israeli forces and authorities’ systemic non-observance of the obligatory and absolute prohibition against torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment constitutes arbitrary detention.” That Israel applies its military law only on the Palestinians, while law-breaking Israeli squatters who live in illegal Israeli settlements in the same occupied West Bank are subject to the Israeli civil law, is a manifestation of a racist apartheid state.
Moreover, research conducted by Save the Children charity investigating the impact of the Israeli occupation and blockade on the mental health of Palestinian children in Gaza showed that they are in a constant state of fear, worry, sadness and grief. They struggle to sleep or concentrate. Bed wetting is another common problem. They also expressed feelings of nervousness, anxiety, stress and anger. Things they disliked included violence, death, nightmares, poverty, war and the occupation including the blockade.
Asked what makes them feel better, they said they would like to experience feelings like courage, joy, strength, calmness, safety, security, love and optimism. But mainly they want to enjoy their lives and to pursue their dreams like other children around the world.
As demonstrated above, Palestinian children continue to suffer under the Israeli occupation. With every atrocity committed by Israel, leaders of the EU, US and UK keep regurgitating the same victim-blaming cliche of Israel’s right to defend itself. Surely a Palestinian toddler did not pose any threat to nuclear-armed Israel. This hypocritical policy only means that more children will suffer. Western politicians who constantly defend Israel’s inhumane treatment of the Palestinians have the blood of Mohammed Altamimi and other children on their hands. Governments that pretend to support the Palestinians in order to gain popularity, without doing anything tangible to ease their suffering, are also hypocrites.