Ethics in the Service of Violence in Israel/Palestine

A guest post from James Eastwood. James is a PhD candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). This post is partly based on his latest article, ‘”Meaningful Service”: Pedagogy at Israeli Pre-Military Academies and the Ethics of Militarism’, forthcoming in the European Journal of International Relations.


Die you fuck, die you son of a whore, die, die, die you son of 66 whores.

These are the words that Ahmad Salih Manasra, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, heard as he lay bleeding in the street on 12th October 2015. The insults were yelled by an Israeli passer-by, who recorded the child on video as he lay helpless on the ground. Ahmad was taken to hospital in a critical condition. His cousin Hasan Khalid, who was shot at the same time, is dead.

Israeli police later released a video depicting the alleged chain of events leading up to these incidents. It shows two young boys carrying knives attempting to attack a passer-by, followed by an alleged stabbing which takes place off-camera. In the ensuing pursuit, the elder of the two boys – Hasan – appears to run at the police with a knife. They shoot him dead, without attempting to immobilise him. According to Israeli media, Ahmad was hit by a car as he ran away. But the video circulated on social media shows him lying some distance from the road on a tramline. Palestinian news sources, which had originally claimed that Ahmad was shot dead, now suggest that he was run down by an Israeli patrol car and then beaten.

The graphic video of Ahmad Manasra is only the most shocking to emerge from a series of shootings of Palestinians by Israeli police and soldiers as they scramble to respond to a spate of un-coordinated knife-attacks. 50 Palestinians have been shot dead since the beginning of October, with hundreds more injured. Meanwhile, 9 Israelis have been killed in stabbing and traffic ramming incidents, with dozens more wounded. Last Tuesday witnessed the most serious escalation of the attacks, with separate incidents occurring almost simultaneously across Israel and the occupied territories. Protests have erupted in the West Bank and Gaza, while Israeli authorities have ramped up police and military presences and have introduced checkpoints and barriers around Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.

The wave of public panic over the stabbings has re-ignited a longrunning controversy in Israel over the rules of engagement for police officers and soldiers dealing with suspects, wanted assailants, and protestors.

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