Democracy Now!, JUNE 24, 2020
Israeli soldiers on Tuesday killed 27-year-old Ahmed Erekat at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank as he was on his way to pick up his sister, who was set to be married that night. Ahmed Erekat is the nephew of senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and cousin of Palestinian American legal scholar Noura Erakat, who says Israeli claims that Ahmed was attempting a car-ramming attack on soldiers are completely unfounded. “What we understand is that Ahmed lost control of his car or was confused while he was in his car. That was all it took to have a knee-jerk reaction … and immediately to cause the soldiers to open fire on him multiple times,” she says.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to begin today in Israel and the West Bank. Israeli officers on Tuesday shot dead a Palestinian man at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank as he was on his way to pick up his sister, who was set to be married last night. A warning to our viewers: This story contains graphic footage. The video from the scene shows 27-year-old Ahmed Erekat bleeding, but still alive on the street where he was shot. He’s the nephew of senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, who said his nephew was, quote, “murdered in cold blood,” and wrote in a tweet that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responsible for his death.
Ahmed Erekat’s family said he was killed while on his way to a beauty salon to pick up his sister and his mother, but Israeli authorities claim he tried to run over an officer at a checkpoint in the Palestinian village of Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem. His family rejects the allegations, is calling for Israeli authorities to release security footage. Ahmed himself was also due to be married soon.
His killing comes nearly a month after another Palestinian man was killed in similar circumstances near Ramallah, also in the West Bank, and as Netanyahu plans to start annexing nearly a third of the occupied West Bank next month.
For more, we’re joined by Ahmed Erekat’s cousin, Noura Erakat, who’s a Palestinian human rights attorney and legal scholar, assistant professor at Rutgers University, author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine.
Noura, our condolences to you and your family. This is such a terrible time for you. We so deeply appreciate you’re able to join us. This is just hours after your cousin was killed. Can you describe the circumstances under which you understand he died?
NOURA ERAKAT: Thank you, Amy. Thank you, Juan, and to the viewers. I haven’t had a chance to speak to his parents, so I want to start out by saying [speaking Arabic].
We understand the circumstances to be what people know. Ahmed was on his way, from Abu Dis to Bethlehem, to pick up his sister from a hair salon for her wedding. Her mom was there with her. You know, on the way to the hair salon, he passed through a checkpoint separating Bethlehem from Abu Dis through a known roadway, back roadway, a dangerous one known as Wadi Nar, or Valley of Fire. There is a steep decline between this checkpoint on the road. And what we understand is that Ahmed lost control of his car or was confused while he was in his car. That was all it took to have a knee-jerk reaction, for the car to jerk a little bit and immediately to cause the soldiers to open fire on him multiple times.
Note that these soldiers, who are fully armed at this checkpoint, are behind barriers, are not actually out in the open, and then left Ahmed to bleed for one-and-a-half hours. We also understand that his father, Abu Faisal, was there pleading with the Israeli soldiers to let him access his son. We also know that the Palestinian Red Crescent, the equivalent of the Red Cross, was not allowed access. And for one-and-a-half hours, as you saw in that inexplicable video, Ahmed was left writhing and bleeding out, without the ability to care for him.
And what is very obvious is the ease and the callousness with which this happened, the way that it’s normalized completely. And there’s a Palestinian — there’s a line, a queue, of Palestinian cars. And the one filming this was praying over Ahmed as he’s dying. It should remind us that even those Palestinians who are bearing witness to this are subject to a state of forced helplessness. They are not even allowed to help Ahmed in that moment.
I want to just bring up something, Amy, to the audience before I address Israel’s vicious, dangerous and disgusting allegations that this was a car ramming, and raise three questions for the audience that’s paying attention right now.
Right now, one, why is Abu Dis, where Ahmed and my family is from, so severely underdeveloped that he has to travel outside to one of the big Palestinian cities in order to get his sisters from a hair salon? What is the cause of that underdevelopment?
Number two, I want to ask the audience to think about the biggest Palestinian city and commercial center to Abu Dis is Jerusalem. Abu Dis is a suburb of Jerusalem and has been cut off from it by the apartheid wall. Why can’t Palestinians, why couldn’t my family get to Jerusalem, and instead have to travel to Bethlehem?
And number three, and so importantly, why is there a checkpoint between Bethlehem and Abu Dis, two Palestinian cities? Why are there checkpoints anywhere? Just think about those questions as we answer this broader question of the context that Ahmed was killed in.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Noura, that last point that you — first of all, my deepest condolences to you and your family. But I wanted to precisely ask that question. What are these checkpoints that are within Palestinian territory, that apparently are not even near any Israeli settlements? How many of them are there? And what is the justification for them from Israel’s perspective?