Razan al-Najjar was a threat to Israel, and they knew it

Razan al-Najjar was a threat to Israel, and they knew it
Comment: Razan al-Najjar was not a physical threat to Israel, but she had become a potential 'face of the movement', writes Malia Bouattia.
6 min read
08 Jun, 2018
Najjar allowed the injured, shot, tear gassed or exhausted to heal, recuperate and carry on[Twitter]
The death of 21-year old volunteer medic Razan al-Najjar at the hands of Israeli snipers last week shook many of us.

She was unarmed, tending to the injured protesting peacefully against the continued blockade and occupation. She was unquestionably visibly a paramedic in her white medical jacket, and was seen with her hands held up moments before she was shot in the chest.

An outpouring of messages across Palestine and around the world asked how she could possibly have been a target?

News of her death kept me up that night, and the more I learned about her life, the more difficult it felt to even fathom the outrage, the desire for accountability, and the need for justice that her family and community must have felt.

As if the blockade, humiliations, regular military assaults, hunger and isolation from the world were not enough, here was a young woman - a nurse - doing what she could to attenuate the suffering of those around her, assassinated point blank, while tending to the wounded.

In truth, the physical danger she represented - a factor Israel often claims to be the reason for their assassinations - was non-existent.

Instead, the problem for the apartheid state was what she represented.

Najjar became a threat because she was supporting countless wounded Palestinian protesters who marched every consecutive Friday since 30 March to demand their right to return to the very homes Israel had expelled them from in the 1948 Nakba.

Israel has long aimed to eliminate any potential leaders or figures around whom movements could rally

She allowed the thousands of men and women, who were shot, tear gassed, or exhausted to heal, recuperate and carry on. According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, 223 paramedics have been injured and 37 ambulances targeted in the demonstrations. Another paramedic, Moussa Abu Hassanein, was also shot two weeks earlier.

Furthermore, Najjar had become a recognisable figure in the demonstrations.

Her mother
recounted how her daughter, "would be out every Friday between 7am and 8pm. She was in the field doing her work, healing the wounds of the injured". She added, "my daughter was a brave paramedic who was never scared of the Israeli snipers."

In its continuous attempts to quell developing movements among Palestinians, Israel has long aimed to eliminate any potential leaders or figures around whom movements could rally. 

Najjar was fast becoming one such woman. She appeared more and more in the media, making her a potential 'face of the movement', an image for the international community to associate with the masses in struggle, and a person around whom Palestinians might rally. This is what made her dangerous.

Read more: Israel and Palestine: Making the victim the criminal

Sabreen al-Najjar explained that she knew her daughter was a target for Israeli snipers, "The explosive bullet was directly shot in her chest; it was not a random bullet".

Given the Israeli army's tactics, and early
admission via twitter that it knows "where every bullet landed" it is difficult to believe Israel's statement following international outpouring of grief and anger over Najjar's murder, that this was in fact a mistake.

If Israel sees leadership forming, it will do whatever it takes to quash it

Moreover, Israel is no stranger to such targeted assassinations. If it sees leadership forming, individuals becoming figures of a movement and a voice that reaches people beyond the borders it has illegally erected, it will do whatever it takes to quash it, even if it does violate international law.

For example, during the Second Intifada, Israel became increasingly accustomed to deploying the tactic of 'targeted assassinations', through which it aimed to eliminate the Palestinian leadership and decapitate the resistance.

Under the guise of fighting terrorism, and doing away with any semblance of due process or basic justice, hundreds of public figures were summarily executed by the Israeli army across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

If this approach reached fever pitch during the Second Intifada it was not a new development either. Israel had long pinned Palestinians for assassination across the world. The murder of the cartoonist and political activist Naji al-Ali in London in 1987 is but one example among many.

Palestinian leaders are also done away with in other ways.

Azmi Bishara for example, who had become the most prominent leader of the Palestinian struggle for freedom within the borders of the Israeli state from the late 1990s onwards, and who reminded the world that despite the Oslo framework Palestinians within Israel remained committed to their liberation, was vilified and effectively exiled.

Accused of being linked to Hizballah while out of the country, Bishara was unable to return, as the charge of treason would have led him to an immediate - and possible life-long - incarceration. Unable to trust the Israeli justice system, Bishara turned to exile, from which he still has not been able to return.

The incarceration of Palestinians also serves as a method for repression and isolation of activists

In addition, the incarceration of Palestinians also serves as a method for repression and isolation of activists.

Young men and women are picked up and held - often without charges of judgement - for years in Israeli jails in an attempt to break both their spirits and those of their families.

Around 6,500 Palestinians are currently languishing in Israeli prisons and detention centres. Of those, 424 are held in administrative detention. The world watched in horror a few months ago as 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, alongside many of her family members, were arrested and jailed, in a further attempt to break the determination of the Palestinian youth in resistance.

Given this context, it is therefore not surprising that international activists and figures in the BDS movement are increasingly smeared and undermined through media campaigns and disinformation. The beheading of political movements is a tried and tested approach of the Israeli military, which it is now exporting to a non-military context.

The death of Razan Al-Najjar, alongside the death of 123 Palestinian protesters and the thousands of injured to whom she tended, is part of Israel's attempt to teach the people of Gaza, yet again, that any resistance, any opposition, any attempt to fight back will be brutally and mercilessly crushed.

The regularity of the massacres in Gaza shows also, that a people under siege, kept on the edge of starvation, and left without much hope, continues to fight back against its colonial oppressor regardless, and to demand its rights - to dignity, to justice, to return.

Just as repression, murder and occupation do not deter the Palestinian people's fight for liberation, and just as Razan al-Najjar was not deterred in her tireless work, the struggle to isolate Israel - as long as it continues to deny the Palestinians their basic rights - should not be deterred by the difficulties of the moment.

As the slogan goes, there is only one course of action: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.  

Malia Bouattia is an activist, a former president of the National Union of Students, and co-founder of the Students not Suspects/Educators not Informants Network.

Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.