Israel must provide answers on killing of US citizen
When Israeli soldiers kill a Palestinian, the response in America is usually just a shrug. But when that Palestinian is an American citizen, things change and, as a consequence, Israel’s military says it wants to urgently release the results of a rushed investigation to prevent the outrage from expanding to full-blown American indignation.
America cares about its citizens, although how much varies depending on the country in which the victim is targeted or abused. Nations that are hostile to the US, such as Iran and North Korea, are often the target of outrage.
When Iran brutalizes an American, the story makes international headlines and Washington spews a lot of tough talk. This was the case in December 2019, when Iranian-backed militias killed Nawres Hamid, a 33-year-old American contractor of Iraqi heritage, who was helping US forces in Kirkuk. Then-President Donald Trump and the US Congress issued statements of outrage at his death. Condolences for the family were issued by scores of members of Congress.
But when an American is killed in Israel, the outrage is muted and limited to a handful of members of Congress. Media coverage is sparse and lacks the biting moral condemnation seen in the cases of victims of the regimes in Iran or North Korea.
For example, Palestinian American Omar Asad, 80, was found dead in the early hours of Jan. 12, not far from his home in the village of Jiljilya near Ramallah. At first, Israel claimed his death was unrelated to the fact he had just been arrested without charge and then brutalized by Israeli soldiers — gagged, zip-tied and held on the ground during an Israel Defense Forces raid on the village.
When it became known that Asad was an American citizen from Milwaukee who was visiting his family, the US State Department issued a lukewarm statement urging a “thorough investigation” and offering condolences to his family.
Five of the 435 members of the US House of Representatives demanded an investigation into Asad’s death, but there was no public statement about the incident from President Joe Biden. Still, this was enough to force the Israelis to get their facts straight and explain how an 80-year-old man had been grabbed, detained, handcuffed and beaten before ending up dead on the cold concrete floor of a building under construction, still with a plastic zip tie on his hands.
Bits and pieces of the so-called investigation have been mentioned in media reports, but no official report has yet been released. According to Haaretz, one of the only Israeli media outlets that has spent any time analyzing the brutality, Israel’s military concluded it was “a bad incident, a serious incident,” explaining that the soldiers were ordered by their unnamed superiors to handcuff and gag anyone who entered the village via a military roadblock that had been set up.
The soldiers involved are members of an ultra-fanatical military unit called Netzah Yehuda, which translates into English as “Eternity for Judah.” They are from the extremist ultra-Orthodox Haredi sect. Their militant views are based on biblical tales in which everyone is an enemy of the Jewish people, and they question Jews who are considered “less observant.”
Every American should be outraged and demand justice because it could easily happen to them.
The Israeli military investigation also reportedly concluded there were no signs Asad was having problems. He did not say anything, which is hardly surprising considering he had been gagged by the soldiers. Other detainees, who were not interviewed for the Israeli investigation, said the Haredi soldiers sat on Asad as they checked his condition. They said he appeared unconscious when he was moved to the building site where the soldiers left him.
Maybe the US should conduct its own investigation into how Asad, who had lived a law-abiding life in the country for more than 40 years, was discovered dead after being detained, handcuffed and gagged by an extremist unit of the Israeli military. Maybe the US government should show concern for all Americans who are brutalized in foreign countries, rather than adjusting its reaction based on where the incidents take place.
Every American should be outraged and demand justice because it could easily happen to them in a country that receives nearly $4 billion in US taxpayer-funded grants every year. You might think they would owe us something. Alas, that is not the case.
Israel wants this investigation gagged and done away with, apparently because it fears the reaction of Americans if the ugly truth is ever revealed. Don’t hold your breath.
- Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania