Yesterday, I wrote about the shocking story reported in Haaretz that B’Tselem had compiled eyewitness testimony confirming that the IDF had murdered four Palestinian militants execution style in Bethlehem a few weeks ago, which contradicted earlier IDF claims that the victims had resisted arrest or returned fire on their attackers. Several IDF apologists in the comment thread for that post have attempted to raise doubts about the nature of the attack. So I thought I would quote from one of the witnesses, Muhammad Abu ‘Ahour, to give readers a sense of how reliable his account is. I warn you that this is very graphic and very disturbing stuff. If you have half a conscience it will shake your convictions, and if you consider yourself a supporter of Israel as I do, it will make you question whether there is pure evil lurking in the hearts of some Israelis:
…I heard the sound of gunfire outside. I immediately went outside to see what was happening, because my wife and baby were in the car [in front of the one attacked by the IDF]. I stood in front of the shop, about five meters from my car, and saw a red Daihatsu parked behind my car. I saw a man walking three meters from the car. Then I heard someone call out, “’Imad!” The man who called out the name was standing on the street next to an orange minibus with Palestinian plates. I saw the man called ‘Imad turn toward the voice and then I heard the sound of a gunshot. The bullet hit ‘Imad in the leg and he fell to the ground.
Immediately after that, I saw six soldiers, in uniform, with helmets and masks, approach the Daihatsu and open massive gunfire at it. I saw the blue ricochet of the bullets. They fired into the car for a long time. The man who had called out to ‘Imad stood next to the minibus and didn’t fire. He was wearing civilian clothes – a blue shirt and jeans – and looked as though he was in his forties. He had a potbelly and was tall, dark-skinned and bald. He told me in Arabic, “Get back or I’ll shoot you.” I shouted that my wife and baby were in the car and that I wanted to go to them, and that I didn’t care if he shot me, that I preferred to die with my wife and baby than die watching how the car next to mine was being shot at. I spoke to him in Hebrew, and he answered me in fluent Arabic.
I heard ‘Imad cry out. He was lying in the middle of the street. Then I saw the soldiers who had fired at the Daihatsu turn toward him and shoot him in the head. His brain scattered all over the ground, which was a horrible sight. I went over to my car and took out my wife and baby, who were unharmed. The bullets hadn’t hit my car. I took the two of them into the mobile-phone store and then I went outside again. I saw the soldiers take a weapon from the driver’s seat of the Daihatsu.
Then I saw the man in civilian clothes holding a weapon. He went over to the Daihatsu and shot the heads of the three men who were inside. They didn’t move. He shot them from behind, in the head. I didn’t know who they were or why they had been executed.
After that, the man in civilian clothes fired one shot into the head of ‘Imad, whose brain was already scattered on the ground. Then he went back to the minibus, got in with the soldiers, and they drove off.
I went over to the Daihatsu and looked inside. I was shocked when I saw my uncle, ‘Issa Marzuq Zawahreh, who was 36 years old, sitting in the back seat of the car. His head was shattered and resting on the shoulder of his friend, Muhammad Shehadeh, who was next to him. Shehadeh was wanted by the Israeli army. Their heads, which had bullet holes in the back, were leaning forward. It was a terrifying sight, as was the sight of Ahmad al-Balbul, who was sitting next to the driver’s seat. Part of his body was scattered on the seat. The three were killed while sitting in the car. The firing was massive and lasted about two minutes. It came from behind the car. The bullets entered through the back window and went out through the windshield.
There are two other eyewitness accounts on the B’Tselem website which confirm the essential details of this one. So what do you think? Execution or not?
When I read such accounts my feelings about Israel are severely tested. Is this the type of nation that we stand for? One that wreaks vengeance on those who do not threaten it? One that murders its prey rather than be forced to go through the tedium of arresting them and bringing them to trial? One that trains killers not only to kill their enemy but to disfigure them Mafia-style by splattering their brains and body parts in order to further humiliate them and their families? Lord, what is this nation? Is it the Golem created initially to save us Jews only to become an out of control monster who threatens our good name? What hath God and the Jewish people wrought?
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.