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More Confusion Arrives in Hebron Incident

Video of an assault on an Israeli border guard emerges

Adam Chandler
December 18, 2012

Less than one week ago, a 17-year-old Palestinian teenager named Mohammed Salayme was killed in Hebron by a female Israeli border guard. And until yesterday, that seemed to be the lone incontrovertible fact about the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces claimed that Salayme had threatened and attacked border guard with a gun that turned out to be fake, which then became the widely disseminated narrative that even Palestinian media reported. A picture of the fake gun surfaced on Twitter, posted by one of the IDF spokespeople who tweeted “Pretty sure (even where I grew up in NY)realistic toy guns outlawed in many places due2 such incidents. looks real2 me”

The following day, after riots had broken out over the death, Salayme’s uncle told Agence France Presse that the fake gun part of the story wasn’t real and other relatives added that Salayme was simply on his way home from buying himself a birthday cake when he was shot. That story made its way from AFP to the various clearinghouses for anti-Semitic conspiracies to the New York Times, which lumped the uncle’s statement into a blog post that bizarrely gave the accounts of Reuters, Haaretz, and the Electronic Intifada equal weight.

Meanwhile, the border guard’s identity was revealed online and a picture of her was posted by Palestinian activists on Facebook, where it was declared that she was wanted for “murder.” In her subsequent remarks to the press, the border guard explained (amid death threats) that she had no regrets about doing her job and keeping her partner from danger, which quickly became distorted as a soldier’s heartless bragging. The head of Columbia University’s Palestine Studies program called the soldier a “terrorist” in a Facebook post.

Riots in Hebron carried on into second and third days and troubling reports of Israeli abuse of journalists made the rounds.

All of this changed late last night, however, with the release of the (grisly) security video capturing the incident. It’s difficult to see much because of the darkness, most importantly, whether or not Salayme has a gun (other publications apparently have writers with better vision than me). But what it does show, quite clearly, is that Salayme clearly and viciously attacks a border guard before being shot.

Going forward, that should be the starting point for conversations about this terrible episode.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.