posters on a a building wall in Qarawat Bani Zeid depict Fatima Hjeiji

Feminist Fuck No: Palestinian Girl Murdered by Police in Jerusalem

Earlier this week, Fatima Hjeiji, a sixteen-year-old Palestinian girl from the West Bank, was shot dead by Israeli police forces by Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli authorities claim that they shot Hjeiji because she was wielding a knife as she approached them and yelled “Allah Akbar.” Israeli police also claim that a knife and a farewell letter were found on the body. Israeli news source described this incident as the “neutralization” of a “female assailant,” praising the “determination and professionalism” of the police in “thwarting” a would-be terrorist.

Local media sources, however, assert that Hjeiji was over ten meters away from the Israeli border guards at the time of the shooting. An eyewitness recounted that after one police guard yelled “knife! knife!” five soldiers opened fire on the sixteen-year-old and continued shooting even after she had fallen to the ground. Twenty bullets were found in Fatima’s body. In the past, Israeli security forces have been accused of planting knives on dead Palestinians to claim that they were acting in self-defense (sound familiar)?

Police brutality against Palestinians, including children, by Israeli police officers, is a widespread and under-discussed phenomenon. Amnesty International issued a report in 2016 that showed that Israeli authorities demonstrated “an appalling disregard for human life by using reckless and unlawful lethal force against Palestinians.” The report revealed at least 20 cases of use of lethal force in an unlawful manner against Palestinians, fifteen of which posed no imminent threat to life. The report describes a “culture of impunity” in the face of clearly extrajudicial assassinations, and added that 225 Palestinians and three foreign nationals were killed by Israeli forces over the past year.

Israeli civil rights organization B’Tselem, puts the number of minors killed by Israeli forces in 2016 at 31. An additional four minors were murdered by Israeli civilians. Defense for Children International (Palestine), a nonprofit working on children’s’ rights issues in Occupied Palestine, noted that Hjeiji was the seventh minor killed by Israeli police forces in 2017.

This disproportionate use of force against Palestinians is codified in Israeli law. Last year, Israel authorized the use of lethal force against Palestinians, including minors, suspected of stone throwing. Israeli police and soldiers are now allowed to use lethal force as a first option when confronted with children suspected of, or likely to, throw stones.

In rare moments when Israeli law does recognize that force used was disproportionate, incentives to avoid lethal force are still low. An Israeli soldier, Elor Azariya, was convicted by a court last month for shooting a Palestinian in Hebron in cold blood, with an intent to kill rather than to protect himself. The court gave him a sentence of just eighteen months for manslaughter, but several on the Israeli right demanded a full pardon.

The narrative of the dangerous Palestinian terrorist who deserved to be shot by the police should raise red flags to anyone who keeps a close eye on police brutality back home in the United States: a focus on the actions and culpability of the victim, without simultaneous examination of the appropriateness of the use of deathly force. This shift in the narrative is not accidental: it is precisely the same tool the media in the United States when focusing on Mike Brown’s size and alleged threatening nature, or on Trayvon Martin’s alleged attack and fighting words to George Zimmerman. The issue is as endemic to Israeli as it is to the United States: the demonization of an entire group of people, and an automatic understanding that they are — even when they are children — inherently dangerous, inherently criminal, and inherently terrorists.

Black Lives Matter has included Palestinian solidarity in its platform, and incidents like the death of Fatima Hjeiji demonstrate why this alliance is critical in fighting the increasing militarization of the police, in both Israel and the United States. It is crucial for intersectional feminists to include the occupation of Palestine and police brutality in their platforms to truly fight for justice for all women. Those of us who stand in solidarity with #BLM must stand in solidarity with #FatimaHjeiji, and vice versa, and resist the paranoid rhetoric of security and safety that accuses children of crimes after they are dead and forces an entire community to live under the omnipresent threat of state violence.

Header image via.



Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

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