By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
This morning another Palestinian woman was shot and killed at a checkpoint near Qalqilya and Alfei Menasha. We don’t know all the details as usual, but the allegation is that she approached the checkpoint with a knife, was told to stop, kept walking towards the Israeli security and was shot and wounded. She left behind a suicide note explaining her actions, “I’m doing this with a clear head. I can’t bear what I see and I can’t suffer anymore.” According to reports she was 23 years old and her name was Rasha Hamed.
Over the last month Palestinian women have carried out many of the attacks on Israelis, on an almost daily basis, and many of them have been killed. On Friday, November 6, a 73 year old woman named Tharwat Sharrawi was shot and killed in Hebron. She was accused of trying to run over a group of Israeli soldier. A video of the incident shows her driving toward them and they step quickly out of the way, before unloading their magazines into her vehicle. Most of the 15 or more shots that entered the car were through the back window. Later security found a “commando knife” hidden inside a seat in the car. No one has bothered to fingerprint the knife to see if the elderly woman ever touched it. The woman’s husband was killed in 1988 in clashes with Israeli soldiers. Relatives told media, “If she had wanted to take revenge [for her husband’s death], she could have done that a long time ago…There is no way she wanted to run over soldiers.”
The first woman to be killed in the recent wave of violence was 18 year old Hadeel Hashlamoun, who was shot at the ‘container’ checkpoint in Hebron on September 22. She had approached the checkpoint and been told to stop, when soldiers saw she had a knife they ordered her to drop it. She refused, and was shot several times. The IDF investigated the incident and concluded “the soldiers were right to open fire after the woman failed to lower her weapon….on a tactical level, soldiers could have aimed lower and fired fewer bullets than they did during the incident.”
On October 7 an 18 year old Palestinian woman stabbed a Jewish man near the Austrian Hospice, not far from Lion’s Gate. The man was armed and shot and killed her.
On October 9, Asra’a (sometimes spelled Isra) Zidan Abed, who had attempted suicide before and was a divorced thirty year old mother, turned up at the Afula bus station with a knife. She was immediately surrounded by IDF soldiers and police and then shot. A video shows the entire incident. Later a court determined it was not terrorism.
On October 11 a 31 year old Palestinian woman was stopped driving a car from Azariya towards Jerusalem, near Ma’aleh Adumim. After being stopped she detonated a small explosive (IED) in the car. According to reports she was known to security services and lived in Jericho.
On October 12 a sixteen year old Palestinian woman was shot near the Israel police headquarters, not far from ammunition hill, after she tried to stab an Israeli policeman.
October 17 Bayan Ahmed Seelah, age 16 was shot in Hebron after she tried to stab a female IDF soldier in Hebron.
On October 21 a fifteen year old Palestinian woman approached Israeli security near Yitzhar in the West Bank. When it was clear she had a knife in her hand she was shot and arrested, surviving the incident.
On October 25 another woman was shot at a checkpoint in similar circumstances. 17-year old Dania Jihad Hussein Ershied passed through a checkpoint near the Ibrahimi mosque (cave of the Malchpileh). She was deemed suspicious and asked to stop by Border Police. According to reports, “warning shots were fired at her feet, prompting her to step back and raise her hands in the air. She was shouting at the police that she did not have a knife and still had her arms raised when police again opened fire, shooting her six or seven times.”
On November 8 a Palestinian woman dressed in a long black coat approached an Israeli security guard at a bus stop near Beitar Ilit. When asked for ID she pulled a knife from her purse and began to stab him. She was shot and killed.
What to make of all this? Of the more than 70 Palestinians killed in the recent violence, many of them while carrying out attacks, more than ten percent have been women. Of course in the past Palestinian woman have been involved in attacks, such as in December of 2014 or in July, 2015. There were a handful of attacks carried out in the Second Intifada by Palestinian female suicide bombers.
There are very real questions that need to be asked about a number of the instances of women killed in alleged attacks. Was the 73 year old grandma really trying to run over soldiers? Was it proper to shoot her 15 times in the back while she no longer posed a danger? In Afula and the case of Hadeel, subsequent investigations showed it either wasn’t terror or was not necessary to shoot the suspect. But since so many of them have been shot and killed on the spot, there is little interest in discussing their motivations.
Israeli society has become numb to asking questions, with recent surveys showing a high level of support for killing perpetrators, which are often described as “neutralized” in Hebrew and Israeli media. Why do so many Palestinian women choose death? Why are teenagers throwing themselves at soldiers, armed with only a knife, knowing they will die? It’s an issue worth talking about, but since the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has become so dehumanizing, there is little room to discuss this. In almost every instance where a Palestinian is killed the reaction of the Palestinian public is to deny that the perpetrator did anything.
The woman killed at Beitar Ilit was said to be “going to pick olives” or “on the way to her family”. When video emerged, the same Palestinians then write “heroic” and “salutes” to her actions. The woman who stabbed a Jewish man near the Vai Doorrosa was said to be a victim because “settlers tried to remove her hijab.” There is denial on both sides. Few want to probe whether the motivations for the women are not always “nationalism” but relate to person problems at home, or other factors that may drive them to “suicide by police,” a phenomenon known in other countries. With so many perpetrators lacking political affiliation, or carrying out orders by terrorist groups, it is clear that the disorganized and “spontaneous” nature of the current conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has “empowered” women to be part of the action, but whereas in the past that might mostly mean throwing stones, now it means stabbing attempts that often end in death of teenagers. Whatever the case, it’s time to talk about it.