This Is the Conduct We Expect: If A Man Comes to Kill You, Kill Him First. If A Boy Throws A Rock At You and Runs Away, Kill Him Too, Because We Can.

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Photo of Muhammad's funeral by Majdi Mohammed/AP. Front photo of his family grieving by Oren Ziv/Active Stills

Oh, Israel. Ever-dishearteningly but unsurprisingly, new video contradicts the Israeli version of the July 3 killing of 17-year-old Muhammad al-Kasbeh by a high-ranking army official. Israeli colonel Yisrael Shomer, commander of the Binyamin Brigade, had said he and two other IDF members were driving near the  Qalandiya checkpoint in the occupied West Bank when they were "attacked" by several Palestinian boys, Muhammad among them, who threw rocks at the windshield of their jeep and shattered it.  A resident of the Qalandiya refugee camp, Muhammad and the other boys had been denied entry to Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers; he had illegally climbed the Apartheid Wall the week before to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque, which his mother called "a dream come true for him.” Shomer told IDF officials that he felt "in mortal danger" from Muhammad and "carried out suspect-arrest procedure," killing him.


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The shooting captured more public attention than the usual, grisly, almost daily shootings of unarmed Palestinians because of Shomer's seniority, because so many  eyewitness accounts radically differed from the official Israeli one, and because despite them several high-level Israeli politicians and military leaders rushed to praise Shomer's actions. Most infamously, Education Minister Naftali Bennett took to Facebook to loftily proclaim, “If a man comes to kill you, kill him first. I fully back the Binyamin Brigade Commander who acted against a terrorist to protect himself and the lives of his soldiers. This is the conduct that we expect from IDF commanders. The nation of Israel stands behind you.”

But video from a nearby gas station security camera, obtained by the tireless Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, confirms earlier charges by two other rights groups that Shomer in fact killed Muhammad as he was running away, firing shots from a distance of 10-15 meters. Eyewitnesses said that, after Shomer fired, he approached Muhammad's body, kicked it with his foot, walked back to his vehicle, and drove away without calling for medical help. Muhammad was evacuated in a private car, transferred to a Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulance, and pronounced dead in a Ramallah hospital. Doctors said he had been shot twice in the back and once in the head. Two of Muhammad's brothers had already been killed by the IDF, one at 11 and one at 15. His grieving family called his action "heroic" and argued, "He died while resisting the Occupation."

Under the Occupation, Israel claims the right to do pretty much anything to Palestinians - confiscate their land, raid their houses, jail them without charges and kill them without resistance, even from stones thrown by children; under a new bill, stone throwers could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. That sort of "systemic abuse" of Palestinian children was just blasted by a brave minority of U.S. Representatives who called Israel's targeting of kids in its military detention system a “cruel, inhuman and degrading...anomaly in the world." Perhaps because they daily view Israeli abuses, B’Tselem uses strikingly cool, disciplined language to describe them in its investigation of Shomer's action: It "sends an unlawful message to soldiers on the ground (that) shooting a Palestinian stone thrower is acceptable, even desirable";  it "violated even the occupation army’s own lax open-fire regulations" allowing the shooting of a fleeing Palestinian in the legs;  soldiers driving away without offering medical aid "runs counter to basic human morality"; support from top public figures render any rules supposedly governing the use of lethal force in the West Bank "utterly superfluous"; Israel's standard "investigation" of the shooting, its automatic public support for the shooter and its long bloody record of impunity in Palestinian deaths "voided from the outset the possibility of justice." In brief, this is the conduct we expect - and will continue to see until Israel is forced to change it.

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