“An Enmity to One’s Being”: A Murder in Palestine

Put in mere prose, the event sounds so humdrum and everyday that the reader is apt to let it in through one ear, and let it out the other:

AFTER A TRIAL that lasted nearly four years, Ben Deri, a former member of Israel’s paramilitary border police force, was sentenced to nine months in jail on Wednesday for firing live ammunition through the chest of an unarmed Palestinian protester without having been ordered to do so.

But sometimes, seeing is believing, and sticks with you awhile:

People sometimes complain, justifiably, that video footage of a crime or atrocity distorts the event by truncation: you miss what preceded the footage, and what came after, to fixate unfairly on the slice in between. Harder to make that claim here.

Nothing I’ve seen since I was in Palestine last year has so powerfully reminded me of the fundamental reality of the place–and the inverted, through-the-looking-glass quality of our discourse about it–than this video. “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me,” says Captain Ahab of Moby Dick. That seems to be the motto of the so-called “Israel Defense Forces,” as well: these are people who, insulted at the sheer fact of someone’s existence, would kill him for walking down the street.

Worth reflecting on Locke on the state of war, in the Second Treatise:

Sect. 16. THE state of war is a state of enmity and destruction: and therefore declaring by word or action, not a passionate and hasty, but a sedate settled design upon another man’s life, puts him in a state of war with him against whom he has declared such an intention, and so has exposed his life to the other’s power to be taken away by him, or any one that joins with him in his defence, and espouses his quarrel; it being reasonable and just, I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction: for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved as much as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be preferred: and one may destroy a man who makes war upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion; because such men are not under the ties of the common law of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into their power.

If “the safety of the innocent is to be preferred” to that of the guilty, what do the rights of the innocent entail in a place where the guilty are armed, and enjoy pre-eminence and legalized impunity to do as they please with the lives of others? A question worth asking, and eventually, worth answering. But unanswerable by those who hear no evil, see no evil, and speak only hasbara.

The Forensic Architecture website. Ht: John Turnbull.

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