When an incapacitated suspect lies immobile and seriously injured on the ground, desperately in need of medical attention, and then is shot and killed by a soldier—executed in cold blood—who is the victim?

According to Israeli media and public opinion, the victim, as well as the hero, is the soldier who does the killing.

On March 24 in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of occupied Hebron, an Israeli soldier stood a few feet away from twenty-one-year-old Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif’s wounded body and, amid voices shouting “Is the dog alive?” in Hebrew, shot him in the head, at point-blank range, killing him instantly. Afterward, the soldier jovially shook hands with an extremist Israeli settler who is a former leader of an illegal Israeli terrorist group. Though several days have passed, al-Sharif’s body still hast not been returned to his family.

Rather than repudiating the soldier’s actions or questioning the military’s illegal practices,  the Israeli public has generally celebrated him as a hero.

This may explain why the soldier’s name has not been publicly disclosed, as well as a new bill in the Knesset, which ensures his name cannot be published while he is under investigation.

It likely explains why the victim’s home was raided, while the soldier’s home was not, and why Israelis believe, absurdly, that the soldier felt his life was in danger and that al-Sharif’s body was booby-trapped, even though video clearly shows otherwise.

It helps us understand why, instead of being condemned by Israeli officials, the soldier has received substantial support from within the Israeli government, including from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

[Trigger warning: graphic footage]

It might also explain why the life of the man who filmed the incident, Imad Abu Shamsiya, has been threatened by Israeli settlers and why these settlers have filed official complaints against Abu Shamsiya.

It explains why, despite video clearly showing that a monstrous act occurred, not one Israeli, including a Jewish medical team, intervened.

It may also help us understand why little pressure has been placed on Israeli authorities to explain, condemn, or rectify the crime, even though the spate of extra-judicial executions over the past several months is a direct result of a clear directive to kill from high-level officials.

It underscores how the pervasive racism, militarism, and anti-Arab sentiments that permeate every aspect of Israeli culture, media, and government have mobilized an entire social and political apparatus to defend this soldier and downplay the severity of his crime.

What it does not explain is why the Western world has failed to acknowledge these atrocities, even though they keep occurring. It does not explain why such incidents are repeatedly downplayed, obliquely justified, or tucked away as “isolated incidents.” It does not explain why The New York Times’ headline for its biased article about the event bizarrely focused on the detention of the soldier and not the actual killing, which is sadly part of a pattern at The Times.

As Palestinian activist Abir Kopty wrote for Mondoweiss:

I wonder how many of us need to die, how many more Israeli crimes it will take for the US media to realize that it is not an “isolated incident”, and I wonder when will we see an in-depth article in the New York Times that follows up on the “isolated” cases in which the military claimed they detained a soldier, and tell us what happened with these cases?

Finally, I wonder when the New York Times will dare to realize that it’s an Israeli military occupation, and Israeli soldiers are not victims.

Israeli activist Orly Noy found the Israeli public’s reaction to the crime reprehensible and called upon Israelis to awaken from their “collective coma.” In her essay for 972 magazine, she wrote:

Our collective moral compass has become so fundamentally twisted that even the most decent of people, those who are not considered extremists, believe that there is nothing wrong with shooting a man as he lies dying on the ground.

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  • Are You Sure

    While I agree that the dead man should not have been shot in the head, and instead put on trial, let’s put a couple of things in perspective.

    1) He was an attempted murderer, not a victim.
    2) When he decided to attack heavily armed soldiers by stabbing them, he would have known it would probably end in his death.
    3) He no doubt wanted to die so that he could be hailed as a martyr.
    4) If he had succeeded in his murderous plan, he would have been hailed as a hero within Gaza and the WB with ordinary Palestinians encouraged to emulate him.
    5) The Israeli soldier has, rightly, been arrested and will face a trial.