- Muhammad Shehadawriter and activist from the Gaza Strip and a student of development studies at Lund University in Sweden. He writes for Haaretz, The Forward and other publications.
In Gaza, thousands of Palestinians have resumed protests against the Israeli blockade. Israeli soldiers have killed at least 119 Palestinians and wounded more than 13,000 more since the Palestinians’ nonviolent Great March of Return protests began on March 30. A week ago today, Israeli forces shot dead Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar as she was helping evacuate wounded Palestinians at a protest near the separation fence between Israel and Gaza. At the time of her killing, she was wearing a white medical coat and a medical ID card. The following day, thousands of people poured into the streets of Gaza to attend her funeral. Her killing has also sparked international outrage. Earlier this week, the Israeli military said Israeli snipers had not intentionally shot at Razan. But the Israeli military is now facing widespread criticism after it released a short video Thursday, that was heavily edited, in efforts to claim the slain medic was acting as a “human shield” for Hamas when she was shot dead by an Israeli sniper exactly one week ago. We speak to Muhammad Shehada, writer and activist from the Gaza Strip and a student of development studies at Lund University in Sweden.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn to Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians have resumed protests against the Israeli blockade. Israeli soldiers have killed at least 119 Palestinians and wounded more than [13,000] others since the Palestinians’ nonviolent Great March of Return protests began on March 30th.
A week ago today, Israeli forces shot dead [Palestinian] medic Razan al-Najjar as she was helping evacuate wounded Palestinians at a protest near the separation fence between Israel and Gaza. At the time of her killing, she was wearing a white medical coat and a medical ID card. The following day, thousands of people poured into the streets of Gaza to attend her funeral. The Palestinian medic’s killing has also sparked international outrage. Earlier this week, the Israeli military said Israeli snipers had not intentionally shot at Razan. But now the Israeli military is facing widespread criticism after it released a short video Thursday, that was heavily edited, in efforts to claim that the slain Palestinian medic was acting as a “human shield” for Hamas when she was shot dead by an Israeli sniper. The video, posted by the Israeli Defense Forces, appears to show Razan throwing a smoke grenade into an empty field. The words on the video read, “This medic was incited by Hamas to give up her life for their goals.” It’s then followed by a short clip of the Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar speaking.
RAZAN AL-NAJJAR: [translated] I’m the paramedic Razan al-Najjar. I’m here at the front lines as a rescuing human shield.
AMY GOODMAN: After Razan speaks, the words on the video read, “Hamas uses paramedics as human shields.” After the video was released, the Israeli military spokesman Avichay Edraee tweeted, “Razan al-Najjar is not the angel of mercy that Hamas propaganda attempts to portray,” unquote. But the video has sparked immediate criticism for taking Razan’s words from a previous interview out of context in order to distort their meaning. This is a clip from the original interview, in which Razan is being interviewed by a journalist with Al Mayadeen News.
REPORTER: [translated] Razan, the idea of becoming a paramedic, how did that idea start for you? Tell us. Was it your own idea only? Did it cross through your mind? Tell us, if you may, please.
RAZAN AL-NAJJAR: [translated] I’m the paramedic Razan al-Najjar. I’m here at the front lines as a rescuing human shield to protect and save the wounded at the front lines. Indeed, this idea was not suggested to me by anybody. I did it for my own self, because I opted to go through this adventure and try rescuing the wounded at the front lines. I have enough strength, courage and daring to go through this experience, to join the field and be prepared to go to ground zero to save the souls of our martyrs and some of our wounded. They are our brothers, of course. And praise to God, I managed, with all my determination, persistence and strength, to continue on this course that I started and I will end. And I’ve been persistent for 45 days.
AMY GOODMAN: So that was Razan al-Najjar speaking, in her own words, about her efforts to rescue wounded Palestinian protesters, wounded by the Israeli military. Earlier this week, we spoke with Razan’s cousin, Dalia al-Najjar.
DALIA AL-NAJJAR: Razan was a very strong-minded girl, since she was very young. She always had dreams. She loved life. She was a source of positivity all the time. And being a nurse was one of her dreams. She worked hard to be one. She couldn’t get a degree in nursing, unfortunately, because of the financial situations her family were living under. And then she went and got training in nursing for two years, and she worked as a volunteer for two years without being paid. And then she felt it’s her duty to be a first responder, because it’s everyone’s duty. Everyone has a role in what’s going on. And she felt that she can do what she’s best at by being a first responder. She was one of the first female first responders.
And she inspired many people. I heard stories from her colleagues saying that other first responders used to motivate each other by mentioning her and talking about her. If anyone is sitting, they would tell him, “Come on, Razan broke her wrist, and yet she completed her shift.” So, she’s a source of inspiration for everyone.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Razan al-Najjar’s cousin, Dalia al-Najjar. We reached her in Istanbul, Turkey, where she’s co-founder of Xyla Water, an organization dedicated to making clean water accessible around the world.
Well, for more, we go to Sweden, via Democracy Now! video stream, to speak with Muhammad Shehada, writer and activist from the Gaza Strip, student of development studies at Lund University in Sweden. He writes for Haaretz, The Forward and other publications.
Muhammad, talk about this video that the Israeli military has released a week after Razan was gunned down by an Israeli sniper.
MUHAMMAD SHEHADA: Well, this incident shows how the IDF evidently feels able to, first of all, lie so blatantly, in a way that can be checked so easily, because it knows that the Western media and the Western reporters would catch the bait and convey its lies as unquestioned facts, or at least come as credible narratives. For instance, The New York Times reported about this specific incident or this specific controversy as opposing narratives, between the real video and what the IDF claims. Any reporter could simply just go on YouTube and check the full interview for her or himself. But the problem is that, again, they won’t do that. It’s a betrayal not only of heroism, not only of the courage and sacrifice of the Palestinian people; it’s just a betrayal of basic journalistic values.
As you have seen in the footage, the IDF footage, according to the shamelessly fabricated and doctored video, Razan was saying, very ironically, that she’s standing as a human shield. Her specific use of that word “human shield” was obviously intended to take a dehumanizing term, that is widely deployed by the IDF to justify the killing of innocent civilians, and she used it to make it into something so powerful and touching, that couldn’t be ignored. It is decisive and conclusive that there is no chance the IDF did edit and doctor that video in good faith or by accident. It was purposeful, to cut this interview after two seconds of what she says, in order to falsify her own words. If the IDF—or had they just lengthened the clip by one second, one more word, the whole story would have been unraveled.
But the problem is that, instead, they first murder an unarmed, clearly marked paramedic with precision weaponry, then they claim that it was an accident, and finally they claim that even accidents are directed by God to occur only to bad people, so the victim’s death is justified. It appears that under no circumstance whatsoever would Israel acknowledge the Palestinians’ suffering. We are never allowed to be seen as victims. It is as if Israel cannot tolerate another story of dispossession and misery to exist alongside it, so intolerance is constantly reinforced through the Israeli forces’ hostilities toward the Gazan civilian population and now the deliberate desecration of their sacred memories. The least the IDF could have done in that incident is to show remorse, to say that “We were wrong for the execution of an innocent female paramedic.” But sometimes there is enough honor in losing a battle than snatching a defeating and false victory. Instead, from the first moment, as you have seen, the IDF invested disproportionate time and effort to contextualize and find a pretext for this horrendous war crime than to hold the perpetrators accountable.
The problem is that, as always, the calamities visited upon the Palestinians are either denied, ridiculed or sometimes even cheered and applauded. There is always an internal investigation to be opened, a relief from blame. And this investigation is either never concluded, as in the case of the young martyr, 14-year-old protester Mohammed Ayoub, who died through the protest, or the findings of these reports are rather more appalling than the incident itself. One of the findings is that it never happened, just plain and simple, some IDF reports say, as in the case of Ahed Tamimi’s cousin Mohammed. His medical record, his X-ray, eyewitnesses, everybody confirms that his head was shattered by Israeli live bullets directed towards him. But according to the IDF, he fell off his bike, it never happened.
AMY GOODMAN: Muhammad, I want to turn to that story for a moment, on Wednesday the Palestinian Information Ministry saying Israeli forces shot dead the 21-year-old Palestinian Ezz El-Deen al-Tamimi in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. He was a member of the prominent Tamimi family, which is well known for its resistance to the Israeli occupation. This is Mahmoud al-Tamami, a relative of the young man who was killed, Ezz El-Deen.
MAHMOUD AL-TAMIMI: [transalted] Israeli occupation forces raided a site near the gas station. When he ran away, they identified him and shot him directly with live ammunition, three bullets in his neck and chest. Then they beat him, and he was bleeding, before they moved his body to a military vehicle, where he was left for a long time before being pronounced dead.
AMY GOODMAN: Another member of the Tamimi family, 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi, remains imprisoned on charges of slapping an Israeli soldier in a video that went viral. Earlier this week, a parole board rejected her appeal for an early release. She has really become a global face of the resistance to occupation. Muhammad Shehada, if you’d continue with—I mean, we’re not just talking about—I mean, what we’re talking about here, over 120 Palestinians killed since March 30th, since the nonviolent March of Return. Razan, a female paramedic—paramedics and medical people have been hit so hard. I wanted to go back to an excerpt of an interview we did a few weeks ago. This was the day after the U.S. moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. And I think the Israeli military killed more than 60 Palestinians in Gaza that day. I want to turn to Tarek Loubani. He’s a Canadian emergency room doctor who went to Gaza to help wounded Palestinians. This is an excerpt of what he had to say. He was shot by Israeli sniper in both legs.
DR. TAREK LOUBANI: I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know what orders they received or what was in their heads, so I can’t tell you if we were deliberately targeted. What I can tell you is the things that I do know. In the six weeks of the march, there were no paramedic casualties. And in one day, 19 paramedics—18 wounded plus one killed—and myself were all injured, so—or were all shot with live ammunition. We were all—Musa was actually in a rescue at the time, but everybody else I’ve talked to was like me. We were away during a lull, without smoke, without any chaos at all, and we were targeted—and we were, rather, hit by live ammunition, most of us in the lower limbs. So, it’s very, very hard to believe that the Israelis who shot me and the Israelis who shot my other colleagues—just from our medical crew, four of us were shot, including Musa Abuhassanin, who passed away. It’s very hard to believe that they didn’t know who we were, they didn’t know what we were doing, and that they were aiming at anything else.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Dr. Tarek Loubani. I mean, the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, spoke out about this. He was shot in both legs. And the man he just mentioned, the paramedic, Musa, who went to save him, was shot dead an hour later. Muhammad Shehada, if you can continue to talk about the coverage of what has taken place in Gaza and also what is happening today as we speak? Thousands are protesting in Gaza.
MUHAMMAD SHEHADA: Well, as I said, the coverage of the Gazan protest or actual particular incidents, like Razan, concludes three different dehumanizing and equally appalling indications. One is that it never happened. There is the unarguably racist, dehumanizing and hideous term “Pallywood,” that is coined and going viral to imply that the entire Palestinian population are consistently conniving and contriving staged major lies to defame Israel and exert an understandable anger or hatred, as they call it, of its illegal occupation and criminal blockade. The absurdity of this horrendous term dishonors only its authors and advocates.
But the problem—the other conclusion is that it wasn’t us. As you have seen in the case of the double amputee Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, the IDF concluded that the bullet that landed in his forehead was not coming from their own ammunition. Another racist term is coined here to describe Ibrahim’s death as “self-inflicted suffering.” The entire population of Palestine are perceived as masochistics who find joy in getting killed, maimed or crippled by the IDF, and whose main goal is, of course, to make their wish come true, without a second thought. The Israeli intelligence apparently managed to dig into Ibrahim’s heart and to conclude his intentions, that his death was entirely self-inflicted, it was his own fault, because he was, quote, “an agitator who wanted to die as a martyr.” And they, indeed, purposely overlook the fact that even if Ibrahim for once in his life contemplated death as a relief from the insufferable misery that he endured, it was mainly because the IDF first shot his legs, both of them, stole his legs and stole his life, because Israel’s blockade turned his life into unbearable hell. He spent his golden years crawling on the floors begging for bare-bones subsistence.
The third conclusion, which is what we are now seeing in Razan’s case and in the case of the Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja, is that it was an accident. And it comes from a deep and evident wishful thinking that if you presume the IDF to be the most moral army in the world, you can never conclude that they did this on purpose. By no means, the most moral army in the world would do a such thing. The IDF stated, at the beginning of the protest, that it knows where every bullet shot at the protest landed, maybe except for the ones that—when it’s convenient for them to claim otherwise, like in the particular case of Razan. You see that they say first that she was shot by accident: The bullet apparently was shot in the air and bounced back and accurately shattered her heart. And even incidents that happen by accident, according to the IDF definition, only happen to bad people, as they call them. So the IDF, instead of investigating the actual incident or the accident, seem to spend great time and effort trying to prove an alleged affiliation between the victims and dehumanizing categories that would justify their killing. And this ought to be—