In the West Bank, the search continues for the three Israeli youths who went missing near the Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Etzion on Thursday night. The boys, who were hitchhiking home from a seminary held in a settlement near the West Bank city of Hebron, are largely believed to have been kidnapped by a Palestinian militant organisation.
Naturally, their disappearance has ignited a national campaign to find the teens, with the Israeli general public recruiting social media like the twitter hashtag ‘bringbackourboys’ to show support. This has extended to the currently ongoing Facebook campaign calling for the killing of a Palestinian ‘terrorist’ for every hour the boys are missing, signed by 100,000 people.
On the political level, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pointed the finger at Hamas, and publically stated that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is personally responsible for the teenager’s disappearance, alongside blaming the Palestinian security forces for failing to protect them. The area the youths went missing falls under Area C- the 60% of the West Bank that is under complete Israeli control.
The Israeli PM has also used their disappearance as a chance to undermine the Palestinian unity government. He said yesterday, “Today I can say what I refrained from saying yesterday ahead of the wave of arrests that captured Hamas operatives Judea and Samaria. Hamas men carried out the kidnapping. This is the same Hamas with which Abbas entered a unity government. This has grave consequences.”
Away from the public furore, the autopsy results of another teenager, 17 year old Nadim Nawarah, confirmed he was killed by live ammunition shot into his back. Alongside 16 year old Muhammad Salameh, Nadim was killed by Israeli soldiers on Nakba Day, the day commemorating the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
The Israeli authorities have fervently denied responsibility for the deaths, calling the video footage showing the boys unprovoked killing and Israeli soldiers shooting the fatal bullet, f0rgeries. The authorities then claimed the soldiers only fired rubber coated steel bullets, tear gas and grenades. Despite a non-rubber coated bullet found in the Nadims backpack, the family were forced to exhume his body to provide proof- which came in the form of the autopsy results released 2 days ago.
There were no calls for an apology from Netanyahu for the unlawful killings of these boys, because the Palestinian people know these calls would fall on deaf ears. Abbas has not come out publically and announced that he holds Netanyahu personably responsible for the conduct of his soldiers who fired the gun, and world powers such as the US will continue to fund the army these soldiers are part of with its citizens tax dollars– despite the boys’ deaths being labelled a possible war crime by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The grave consequences Netanyahu mentioned for the kidnapping of the teens could be the weekend airstrikes on Gaza that injured two women- a 10 year old boy succumbed to his wounds sustained in an earlier strike on Saturday, or the dawn raids that saw 80 Palestinian men arrested, probably in front of their children, a 20 year old youth shot dead and the door of a family home bombed open in Hebron. The Israeli boys’ disappearance has ignited a national campaign, led and encouraged by Israel’s politicians, that is working to fuel age old hatreds – when it should be fuelling the realisation that any child should not be a legitimate target in a conflict, and any mother should not go through this pain.
Against the backdrop of the Nadim’s autopsy results, the physical and verbal reactions from the Israeli authorities to this tragedy seems to demonstrate a belief that the death of a Palestinian child is justified as collateral damage in the ‘war against terror,’ and their daily arrest during dawn raids and subsequent detention part of the victory. The real grave consequences in this war against ‘terror’ is that a child’s life is considered more important based upon his or her ethnic identity. One day the finger will be pointed at the occupation and not Hamas or any equivalent, but how many more children must pay the price before this happens?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.