Middle East Eye / June 5, 2021
The death of 16-year-old Nadeen Awad, residents of Dahmash argue, could have been avoided if the village wasn’t systematically neglected by Israeli authorities.
Palestinian citizens of Israel from the village of Dahmash expressed their anger on Saturday over the instrumentalization of a young resident’s death by an Israeli official during last month’s escalation of violence across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
Nadeen Awad, 16, and her father Khalil Awad, 56, were killed on 11 May in Dahmash, 15 kilometres south of Tel Aviv, by a rocket fired from the besieged Gaza Strip.
Tensions in East Jerusalem over the planned expropriation of Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and Israeli forces’ violent raids at al-Aqsa mosque sparked widespread protests in the occupied West Bank and among Palestinian citizens of Israel in May. Simultaneously, Israeli forces and the Palestinian Hamas movement waged an 11-day war, killing 248 people in Gaza and 12 in Israel – including the Awads – before agreeing to a ceasefire on 21 May.
On 16 May, Israel’s ambassador to the United States and permanent representative at the United Nations Gilad Erdan tweeted a photograph of himself holding a picture of Nadeen’s face, as he slammed the UN for its alleged anti-Israel bias.
Translation: Today, I fought with all my might in the Security Council to expose the hypocrisy of the United Nations, which compares a jihadi terrorist organisation to a peace-loving democratic state. I told the international community that no matter what they choose to do, we will continue to destroy Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure and protect our citizens.
The head of the Dahmash popular committee, Arafat Ismail, addressed an open letter to Erdan on Saturday over his “humiliating” tweet.
“You have used Nadeen’s picture for your own interest, without mentioning the way you and Israel’s governments have treated Dahmash over the years,” Ismail wrote.
He went on to highlight Dahmash’s status as unrecognized by the Israeli government, like scores of other Palestinian-majority villages in Israel.
Unrecognized villages like Dahmash suffer from a lack of access to basic services and infrastructure, as well as frequent home demolitions, a contrast with services provided to Jewish-majority municipalities in Israel that has been denounced by rights groups as “discriminatory”.
While there are an estimated one million public and private bomb shelters across the Israel, residents of Dahmash have pointed out that their village, like many others inhabited by Palestinian citizens of Israel, does not have access a public shelter.
“If the state had treated the inhabitants of Dahmash as equal citizens, and at least installed shelters to protect them in wartime, the deaths of Khalil and Nadeen could have been prevented,” Ismail wrote.
“We ask you to apologize to Khalil and Nadeen’s family and to Dahmash in general for this humiliating tweet as soon as possible,” he added. “At the same time, we ask you to discuss frankly the case of Dahmash and to work towards recognizing the village and affording it all the rights and services the people of Dahmash deserve.”
Making up around 20 percent of the country’s population, Palestinian citizens of Israel are have long denounced their status as “second-class citizens”, facing legal, institutional and social discrimination compared to their Jewish-Israeli counterparts. Most recently, the 2018 Nation-State Law officially declared that Israel was, in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own words, “the nation-state of the Jewish people – and only it”.
Nadeen was one of 71 minors killed between 7 and 21 May in Israel and the occupied territories, including 66 killed by Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, two killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, and three inside Israel – two killed by rockets fired from Gaza, and one shot dead by Israeli police.
While Erdan has brandished Nadeen’s photograph to illustrate the impact of rockets on Israel, he has also taken to social media to slam news outlets covering the deaths of children – the vast majority of whom at the hands of Israeli forces – rejecting any Israeli responsibility in the matter, and blaming all deaths on Hamas.
Erdan has also accused UN bodies of anti-Israel bias – even as international leaders have repeatedly called on ‘both sides’ to de-escalate violence.
Chloé Benoist is a French journalist who has been working in and on the Middle East since 2011