Sunday, February 04, 2007

The murder of a schoolgirl

WHEN former Israeli combat helicopter pilot Yonatan Shapira spoke in London last Tuesday, at the launch of the Enough! coalition, he mentioned his friend and fellow member of Combattants for Peace, Bassam Aramin.

Bassam Aramin spent nine years in an Israeli prison. He belonged to Yasser Arafat's Al Fatah in the Hebron area, and attempted to throw a grenade at an Israeli army jeep in occupied Hebron. From armed resistance, he has turned to working with Israeli military Refuseniks like Yonatan Shapira, striving for a just peace.

It is not easy. And it brings no let up in the violence and oppression which he and his family, like other Palestinians, have to endure. As Yonatan Shapira told us, Bassam Aramin's ten-year old daughter Abir was killed by Israeli Border Police in their home village of Anata.

It was a Wednesday morning, January 16, and Abir was outside her school when the jeeps came into town, firing gas canisters and rubber bullets. As the children turned to run Abir was hit in the back of the head. The school contacted Bassam to tell him his daughter had been injured. Abir died a couple of days later in Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital. Her skull had been fractured and blood had penetrated her brain.

Neither the army nor the police bothered to investigate what had happened. The army's official account was that the girl was hit by a stone that one of her classmates was throwing "at our forces." Those who saw the wounded child in hospital know different. Among them is Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli mother and peace campaigner whose own daughter, Smedar, was killed by a suicide bomber in 1997, and whose son is a member of Combattants for Peace.

"I saw her just afterwards at Hadassah Hospital, where she slept quietly in a huge hospital bed. Abir's face was white. Her huge eyes were closed. By then, she was already brain dead, and the doctors decided to allow the rest of her to die. I saw clearly that her head had been shot from behind, and I will testify under oath to that fact".

A young student who witnessed her shooting told journalists that the Israeli border police, who are part of the IDF, drove up to the girls as they came out of their school examinations. "The girls were afraid and started running away. The border police followed them in the direction in which they were retreating. Abir was afraid and stool against one of the shops at the side of the road. I was standing near her. The border policeman shot through a special hole in the window of his jeep that was standing very close to us. Abir fell to the ground I saw that she was bleeding from the head."

Amir Aramin's family requested an autopsy. Bassam Aramin says he will not rest until his daughter's killer convinces him that young Abir threatened his life or the life of the other soldiers in his jeep. Bassam has also pledged that he will not let this terrible killing deter him from seeking a just peace with honour for his people in Palestine and Israelis alike.

A brief search on Amir Aramin's name brings various Zionist blogs on her death, claiming that it didn't really happen, that if it did it was the fault of the Palestinians for exposing their children to danger by placing them in a demonstration, or that the Palestinians must have done it themselves, the child could not possibly have been shot when soldiers opened fire on an anti-wall demonstration because there are no photographs from that day of any such demonstration. Doesn't that contradict the first version? It seems the liars cannot even be bothered to get their stories right, because they don't regard the death of a Palestinian child as that important.

To say these Zionists are racialists seems an understatement. Glancing through their light and cynical comments takes a strong stomach, reminding me of what I have seen of Nazi literature cheerfully discussing how many Jews they killed.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan, whom they would doubtlessly dismiss as a "self-hater", has been to sit with Abir's grieving mother Salwa, telling her "we are all victims of the occupation".

There is an online message of condolence to the Aramin family. It is not much. But it is the least we can do.

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