IDF releases video clip from violent arrest of Budrus teen

Image from video taken during the arrest of Abed Al-Rahem Awad in Budrus, May 2013 (video: IDF Spokesperson)
Image from video taken during the arrest of Abed Al-Rahem Awad in Budrus, May 2013 (video: IDF Spokesperson)

Earlier this week I reported here on the violent arrest of 19-year-old of Abed al-Rahem Awad from the Palestinian village of Budrus. Soldiers broke open the Awad family’s house doors before dawn on Sunday and dragged Abed al-Rahem down the stairs as his family members tried to release him from their hands. Several family members were beaten, including two females who ended up hospitalized; grenades were thrown into the house and considerable damage was done to their property. Several months ago, soldiers shot to death at close range Abed’s younger brother, Samir, as he was trying to cross the separation barrier near his village – an incident which is formally still under the investigation by the army.

A friend of the Awad family told me on Tuesday that “the entire family is in a state of shock, I haven’t seen them like this, even after the killing of Samir.”

This morning, I received the IDF’s response, along with a short clip from the arrest:

An initial examination reveals that during the arrest of a wanted man Saturday night, in his home in Budrus, south of Qalqiliya, family members violently resisted the arrest, which included the use of knives and shards of glass. In order to carry out the arrest, the [army] force responded as [the situation] required, in self-defense, while minimizing the danger to the soldiers and family members. It was noted that two soldiers were lightly injured. The circumstances of the incident continue to be investigated.

Here is the clip the army released. It was shot through the helmet camera of one or two soldiers:

Like all IDF clips in recent years, the full video was never released and all we see are three segments, several seconds each, in slow motion. The clip backs the version reported by the Palestinians, according to which the boy’s sisters were trying to prevent the soldiers from taking him. At least two of the girls are indeed seen waving knifes in front of the soldiers. According to testimony given to B’Tselem before the IDF clip was released, one sister threatened to cut herself if her brother is taken, but there is no way of confirming this.

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I would like to add a few personal observations here. The reason the IDF sent me this partial video is because in the eyes of its very efficient Spokesperson’s Unit, the video includes damning evidence – the family is clearly resisting arrest and there are indeed knifes in the scene. We don’t know what happened before and after those shots, and also not in between the edited cuts, but in the eyes of most observers, this should be enough justification for the violence. Still, I’d like to invite readers – especially those who tend to prefer the IDF version as a rule of thumb – to try and imagine those very same seconds from a Palestinian perspective. We are talking about a family who just had one son killed in an incident that even the army considers “problematic.” In the middle of the night, soldiers – with masked faces and guns in hand – break their doors open, rush upstairs and drag their other son out of bed and down the stairs. Can we blame the sisters for trying to free him from their hands?

Furthermore, these are people who have lived under Israeli military control their entire lives. Their relations with the authorities are very different from anything we can imagine, because ‘the law’ views them as enemies. There are no warrants involved when a Palestinian is wanted for interrogation, but rather the procedure seen above. And as far as we know, the charges against Abed are very minor – participating in protest and throwing stones at soldiers. How would we react if we were in the Awad family’s shoes – or that of any other Palestinian, for that matter?

Take another look at the expressions on the faces of Abed and his sisters in the final seconds of the clip. For me, this video, which is supposed to justify the behavior of the army, actually speaks volumes on everything that is wrong in the occupation.

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