Uri Avnery: Wine, Blood and Gasoline

Arab youth clash with Israeli riot police in Kafr Kanna, Israel. The protests come less than a day after an Arab man from the village was shot and killed by Israeli policemen. Security cameras caught the man attempting to attack the policemen, as well as the shooting, which took place after the man had already backed away considerably. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Arab youth clash with Israeli riot police in Kafr Kanna, Israel. The protests come less than a day after an Arab man from the village was shot and killed by Israeli policemen. Security cameras caught the man attempting to attack the policemen, as well as the shooting, which took place after the man had already backed away considerably. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Uri Avnery
November 15, 2014

KAFR KANNA, a village near Nazareth, is probably the place where Jesus – according to the New Testament – turned water into wine. Now it is the Arab village where the Israeli police is turning stones into blood.

On the fateful day, the police was confronting a group of young Arabs protesting against the Israeli efforts to change the status quo on the Temple Mount (known to Muslims as “the Noble Sanctuary”). Such demonstrations were taking place that day in many Arab towns and villages all over Israel, and especially in occupied East Jerusalem.

According to the first police statement, the 22-year old Arab, Kheir a-Din Hamdan, attacked the police with a knife. In self defense, they had no choice but to shoot and kill him.

As so often with police reports, this was a pack of lies.

UNFORTUNATELY (for the police), the incident was recorded by security cameras. The pictures clearly showed Hamdan approaching a police car and beating on its windows with something, possibly a knife. When he saw that this had no effect, Hamdan turned around and started to walk away.

At that moment, the policemen got out of the car and immediately started to shoot at the back of Hamdan, who was hit and fell to the ground. The officers surrounded him and, after some hesitation, obviously a consultation between them, started to drag the wounded youngster on the ground towards the patrol car, as if he were a sack of potatoes. They dumped him on the floor of the car and drove away (to a hospital, it appears), with their feet on or near the dying man.

The pictures show clearly, for everyone to see, that the policemen violated the standing police orders for opening fire: they were in no immediate mortal danger, they did not shout a warning, they did not shoot first in the air, they did not aim at the lower part of his body. They did not call an ambulance. The youngster bled to death. It was a cold-blooded execution.

There was an outcry. Arab citizens rioted in many places. Under pressure, the Police Investigation board (which belongs to the Ministry of Justice) started an investigation. The first investigation already uncovered several facts which put an even more severe face on the incident.

It appeared that before the cameras caught the scene, the police had arrested Hamdan’s cousin and put him into the car. Obviously, Kheir a-Din wanted to release the cousin and therefore beat on the car. The cousin saw him being shot and dumped on the floor of the car in which he was sitting.

The first reaction of the police command was to justify the behavior of the policemen, whose names and faces were withheld. They were spirited away to some other police unit.

I DESCRIBE the incident at length, not because it is unique but on the contrary – because it is so typical. What was special about it was only the unnoticed presence of the camera.

Several cabinet ministers lauded the exemplary behavior of the police in this incident. This can be dismissed as the publicity-hunting of extreme right-wing demagogues, who believe that their voters approve of all and any shooting of Arabs. They should know.

However, one statement cannot be ignored: the one made by the Minister of Home Security.

A few days before the incident, Minister Yitzhak Aharonowitz, a protégé of Avigdor Lieberman and himself a former police officer, declared publicly that he did not want any terrorist to survive after an attack.

That is a manifestly illegal statement. Indeed, it is a call for crimes. Under the law, policemen are not allowed to shoot “terrorists” or anybody else after they are taken prisoner, especially when they are wounded and do not present any “mortal danger”.

Aharonowitz always seems a nice guy. He has a knack of popping up before the cameras after every newsworthy incident – whether a severe road accident, a political crime or a fire. God knows how he manages that.

In actual fact, the Minister for Home Security (formerly known as Minister of Police) has practically no function. Since the days of the British Mandate, the commander of the police force has been the Inspector General, a uniformed professional officer. The sole police function of the minister is to recommend to the government the appointment of a new commander.

But for ordinary policemen, a statement by the minister sounds like an order. Quite probably, the irresponsible utterance of the minister was a direct incitement to the crime of Kafr Kanna. Especially since neither the Inspector General nor the Prime Minister denounced it.

All this reminds one of the fateful 1984 utterance of then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who also declared that no terrorist should stay alive after an attack. The direct result was the “Bus Line 300” affair, in which four Arab boys, without any weapons, hijacked an Israeli bus. They were stopped, two were shot during the recapture, and two were taken alive. One of them was murdered by the chief of the Shin Bet himself, Avraham Shalom, who crushed his skull with a rock. When the pictures were published (first by me), Shalom and his colleagues were pardoned. Shamir denied any responsibility.

BACK TO today’s events. Is this the long-awaited Third Intifada? Yes? No?

Army and police officers, politicians and especially media commentators are busy trying to answer this question. (Intifada means literally “shaking off”.)

This is not just a mere semantic game. The definition carries with it operational consequences.

As a matter of fact, the entire country is now aflame. East Jerusalem is already a war zone, with daily demonstrations, riots and bloodshed. In Israel proper, since the Kafr Kanna killing Arab citizens are also mounting daily strikes and demonstrations. In the West Bank, there were some demonstrations and a fatal stabbing, after which an Arab was shot and killed.

Mahmoud Abbas is doing everything in his power to prevent a general uprising, which might quite well endanger his regime. But pressure from below is mounting. Abbas refused to meet Netanyahu in Amman.

Popular wisdom in Israel has already found a name for the situation: “Intifada of Individuals”. For the Israeli security chiefs, that is a nightmare. They are ready for an organized Intifada. They know how to quash it by force, and, if necessary, by more force. But what to do with an Intifada which is entirely made by isolated individuals, with no orders from any organization, with no grouping that can be infiltrated by the collaborators of the Shin Bet net of informers?

An individual Arab listens to the news, is incensed by the latest outrage against the Holy Shrines and drives his car into the nearest group of Israeli soldiers or civilians. Or takes a knife from the kitchen of the Israeli restaurant where he washes the dishes and stabs people in the street. No prior information. No network to be infiltrated. Quite frustrating.

The center of the storm is the Temple Mount. The al-Aqsa (“far away”) Mosque, the third holiest place of Islam, is under siege. At one point, Israeli soldiers entered the mosque (with their boots on) in pursuit of stone-throwing demonstrators.

WHERE ARE we going?

For decades now, a group of Israeli zealots has been busy planning for a new Jewish Temple to be built in place of the al-Aqsa and the magnificent Dome of the Rock. They are stitching garments for priests and making the necessary preparations for animal sacrifices.

Until recently, they were considered simply a curiosity. Not anymore.

Several cabinet ministers and Knesset members have entered the holy enclosure to pray, contrary to the status quo. Throughout the Islamic world, this has aroused alarm. Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and in Israel proper are furious.

Netanyahu promised King Abdallah II to restore quiet. But he is doing the opposite.

Jesus turned water into wine. Netanyahu is turning water into gasoline and pouring it on the flames.

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1 Response

  1. Poo says:

    Unhappily for Avnery, he lives in the only place in the world where police actions result in the death of an alleged innocent. As everyone knows, such a thing would never occur in the U.S. of A., Europe, Africa, Asia or here in the Frozen North, to name just a few of the places where such a thing would never occur, either by design or poor judgement.

    Bad or foolish behaviour is, however, no reason to be shot, anywhere.

    I have read Avnery’s interpretations of events before so naturally approached his latest rant with a natural amount of skepticism. From what I can gather from Avnery’s no doubt factual and totally unbiased account, a fellow named Hamdan was “approaching a police car and beating on its windows with something, possibly a knife.” Well gee, I for one would not do that over here in peaceful North America where police shootings are unheard of. It never made sense to me to provoke armed police and certainly not “with something, possibly a knife.” They might exhibit the same lack of control. Who would do that? And why? Apparently, the police “had arrested Hamdan’s cousin and put him into the car.” Seems like reason enough to go attacking a police car “with something, possibly a knife.” Avnery does not mention why the cousin was arrested so I’ll just assume it was unjust as his omission intends.

    Cameras are everywhere these days and I’d be very surprised to find that the Israelli police were unaware of them. If they have been, they aren’t anymore. One trusts the investigation will place the correct amount of blame and punishment on all those deemed guilty regardless of what Avnery says.

    It is interesting how Avnery always manages to find a path to Netanyahu. Everything is his fault. He won the election. He beat you and yours. Either get over it or run in the next election.

    It is harder for me to comment on Minister Yitzhak Aharonowitz’s statement that “he did not want any terrorist to survive after an attack.” He was not talking about shooting them after an arrest but after an attack. There is a difference that calls for no crime. Up here in the Frozen North, as I’m sure everyone has heard, 2 terrorists were shot and killed this month. One was attempting to escape after the act while the other was shot during it. As I said, hard for me to comment when it is our practice and quite legal.

    I note with some amusement that when Avnery recounts the horrors of the “Bus Line 300″ affair, his ego cannot refrain from pointing out that he was “first” to publish the pictures. Good to know there was an upside for him.

    Avnery’s thoughts on Mahmoud Abbas are as telling as they are fictitious.

    “Mahmoud Abbas is doing everything in his power to prevent a general uprising, which might quite well endanger his regime.” Ah, there it is. Abbas might lose his cushy perk plus job as more corruption allegations begin to unfold against him. He must stay on side with Hamas as well as Fatah. Details about Abbas’ income and assets have been, however, disclosed by opposition elements within Fatah. Documents released claim Abbas earns $1 million a month and holds several Jordanian accounts of more than $500 million made up mostly of Palestinian tax payer money not under any national or international scrutiny. This is money Palestine owes for water and power among other things. He is known as the “Sultan of Ramallah.” Abbas has 3 presidential jets to ferry him about: a new Russian advanced presidential jet worth $55 million (reportedly a gift), a new Global Express speed jet bought for $53 million and a 504 Challenger jet. Obama earns $400,000 and flies on Air Force One. He’s overpaid too.

    Fatah was notoriously corrupt under Arafat. U.S. accountants conducted a PA authorized audit and estimated his net worth at about $1 billion. Under Abbas, it is worse. PA finances are a black hole defined by bribes, foreign aid, secret investments, hidden bank accounts, slush funds and other ill-gotten gains. Massive corruption, abuse and impropriety are the call words of the day. And we give them money!

    Abbas, who took office on Jan. 15, 2005, has exceeded $1 billion on his expenses since then. Palestinian Authority sources claim he has vast property holdings. His sons, Tarek and Yasser, also profit from all PA projects helping them to become millionaires. A July 2012 House Foreign Relations Committee investigated chronic PA corruption. Testimony given said “corruption within the Palestinian political establishment has been endemic for decades. Reports suggest that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, like his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, has used his position of power to line his own pockets as well as those of his cohort of cronies, including his sons, Yasser and Tarek.”

    The Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) was established to serve all Palestinians. Abbas “asserted complete control.” He appoints cronies as board members. He rejects requested audits. U.S. taxpayer funds were stolen as where those of any other country who contributed, the Frozen North included. Accountability is absent. Corruption is endemic.

    Jonathan Schanzer is Foundation for Defense of Democracies research vice president. He testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee. He said Abbas and his sons line their pockets lavishly. Others made similar comments. Bush and Obama officials did nothing to stop misuse of U.S. funding.

    Abbas himself prevents internal investigations. He enforces censorship. He targets press freedom. He blocks PA criticism. He wants his own malfeasance and that of his sons suppressed. He also crushes political opposition. This the man Avnery supports, a man who encourages the education of Palestinian children to hate Jews, a man who wants a Palestinian state “free of Jews.” He even wrote a dissertation denying the Holocaust. This is a man Avnery would embrace as peacemaker. Huh?

    At the United Nations General Assembly, Abbas claimed that Israel was inflicting a “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza. This in spite of the fact that, since 1967, the population of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has increased fourfold to nearly 4 million people today. Does he even know what “genocide” is?

    Israel is neither an occupier nor a genocidal state. Israel is in its natural home. As I have often mentioned there never was a Palestinian people or an Arab Palestine at any time in history. The Palestinian Liberation Authority (PLO), Arafat’s terror organization, invented the false notion of a Palestinian Arab nation in their charter of 1964. As he said in his official biography, “if there is any such thing as a Palestinian people, it is I, Yasser Arafat, who created them.” That from the mouth of Avnery’s pal Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian icon and undoubtedly Gaza’s most famous resident. Arafat bragged about it. There is no Palestinian culture, language, nor cuisine. There has never been a land called “Palestine” ruled by “Palestinians.” Philistines were Greek and they ate pork. Oops. Delilah and Goliath were Philistines. For the record, the Philistines died out. There has never been a Palestinian president or Prime Minister or government or military. This whole notion of there being a Palestine is a recent and false invention, based on lies and violence, with no intention for peaceful co-existence with Israel, or any other nation who won’t buy their line and, of course, send money. Jewish pioneers redeemed the barren land, Israel, from a dry wilderness. In the long and glorious alleged history of the “Palestinian people”, there is only one “small” problem; nobody in history ever found them. Avnery knows this. Odd he never mentions it.

    He should know that Israel is not the greatest threat in the Middle East. He seems to think it is. Sunni and Shiite extremists are violently slaughtering each other by the hundreds even as I type. And they don’t like to fight each other, apparently, but have been since the Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632. The greatest sufferers from radical Islam are Muslims. Go figure.

    The “Intifada of Individuals” Avnery speaks of is not just an Israeli problem. It is world-wide as recent events in Canada and the U.S. can attest. If Avnery believes there are “no orders from any organization” he ought to familiarize himself with social media. It’s all there. The question is why seemingly normal individuals are persuaded by it. A better question might be why the wackos are attracted by it and little else. There’s a common theme there. Avnery finds it all “quite frustrating.” Really? Is that all? “Frustrating?”

    The Temple Mount is the centre of the current storm and protests and the genesis of Avnery’s article. At least three religious traditions are known to have made use of the Temple Mount prior to Islam: Judaism, Christianity and Roman religion. Islam, Judaism and Christianity remain to fight out the right to pray, nothing new there.

    Happily for Avnery, as in all other things, he has Netanyahu to blame for it all, and I do mean “all.” But it is Avnery who throws gasoline on the fire, as usual. It seems to suit him. Pity he couldn’t contribute anything else. Is he just bitter, a sore loser or both?

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