It is easy to kill and get away with killing.
A former hitman I got to know well while writing a book years ago about Canada’s nefarious spy service once made that stunning admission to me.
It was stunning because the middle-aged man with a monotone voice, slim build, wispy white hair, and quiet, almost elegant demeanour, seemed, at first impression, to be a harmless, petty thief who stole to raise enough money to survive until his next score.
Only later, as his trust in me deepened, did he share the sinister secret that he had killed other hoodlums on the orders of a prominent Mafioso family he had ingratiated himself to during one of his many stints in prisons across Canada.
I did not burrow for details because, frankly, I did not want to know the details. But I knew he was not prone to the kind of bravado and hyperbole crooks often engage in to impress or inflate their lawless resume.
Still, he told me he would never harm a quarry’s family, particularly their kids. I believed him, knowing full well that Mafia “codes of honour” that bar women and children from being murdered are a sentimental, Hollywood-propelled fiction.
The squalid fact is that Mafioso goons have repeatedly killed women and toddlers, some as young as three-year-old, who were shot in the head before being incinerated in burned-out cars.
The hitman and the Mafia came to mind as I read about the murder of yet another Palestinian child, instantly erased by one of a ruthless crew of gangsters masquerading as “soldiers” who populate the Israeli military.
Truth is that the Mafia and the Israeli military have a lot in common: life – including the budding lives of children – is considered cheap and disposable in the pursuit of their base, parochial instincts and interests. And the fantasy that the Mafia abides by an honourable “code” that, despite its heinous modus operandi, affords it a measure of “perverse credibility” is as obscene as the Western-media-manufactured myth that the child-murdering Israeli military is the “most moral army in the world”.
The difference is that when the Mafia kills kids, outrage and loud calls to bring the inhuman culprits to justice are de rigueur. But when the Israeli army guns down and mutilates Palestinian boys and girls with armour-piercing bullets and stealth-like drones – again and again and again – the response, if any, among Western capitals and editors is usually of understanding, acceptance and overt, if sometimes grudging, approval.
The death of 12-year-old Hassan Abu al-Neil on August 21, a week after he was shot in the head while standing on what remains of Palestinian soil in Gaza by a government-trained hitman sporting a military uniform is more proof that, for Israel, it is not only easy to kill Palestinian children, but just as easy to get away with it.
Hassan was executed. The Israeli hitman (aka “sniper”) who plucked him out of a crowd of Palestinians simply exercising the right to resist their occupation had to know that Hassan was a child. A picture purportedly of the boy reveals a small, thin figure with a radiant smile and a thick wave of black hair and large, ungainly ears – the unmistakable signs of youth.
And yet the hitman trained his sophisticated weapon’s scope on Hassan’s head – not an arm or a leg – but his head. It was a “kill shot” meant to tear through flesh, skull and bone with disfiguring and lethal accuracy.
Anyone capable of knowingly and intentionally killing a child from a safe, comfortable distance has forfeited the privilege of being called a human being. The decrepit void of that “soldier’s” evaporated soul must have been occupied, long ago, by malignant malice and corrosive hate that permitted him to “whack” a child with a sociopath’s ease.
That is one possible explanation. Another, equally nauseating interpretation is that, like the “soldier”, many common Israelis and their apologists abroad, are convinced that Hassan and many other Palestinian children who have been shot in the head and stomach or dismembered while playing football on a beach, deserved their fates.
Israel and its cynical allies have tried – drip by drip – to drain Hassan and the other slaughtered Palestinian children of their humanity with the sick, incessant accusation that they were willing, malleable “tools of terrorists” or “rock-throwing terrorists”. They, in effect, invited their violent and sudden deaths.
It is a predictable calumny and an indecent lie.
The responsibility for Hassan’s murder rests with the Israeli hitman who shot him and Israel’s diseased, irredeemable army of military and political “godfathers” who, like the Cosa Nostra henchmen, deem children to be legitimate targets.
Unlike Mafia-hired-killers, Hassan’s Israeli hitman will never be held to account. The farcical “investigations” the Israeli military launches on occasion into the litany of Israel’s state-sanctioned killings of Palestinian children are a pathetic pantomime designed to exonerate its stable of hitmen in fatigues by fixing blame on the boys and girls it murders. All the while, the so-called “international community” nods or shrugs in unconscionable agreement.
So, it is left to Hassan’s mother to mourn and keep his crisp, clean school uniform tucked away and the T-shirt he was wearing the day he was killed close by as a bloodied keepsake to remember her son.
In late August in the aftermath of the suicide bombing that killed more than 60 Afghans and 13 US servicemen in Kabul, US President Joe Biden met the grieving American families.
Biden reminded them of his sad history with loss. In 1972, his first wife, Neilia, and 13-month-old daughter, Amy, perished in a car accident a week before Christmas. Decades later, his son, Beau, succumbed to brain cancer.
Reportedly, Biden said: “You get this feeling like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. There’s no way out. My heart aches for you.”
Hassan’s mother, family and friends have been sucked into a black hole of longing, hurt and despair. It is the same black hole of longing, hurt and despair that too many other Palestinian mothers and fathers have had to endure and cannot emerge from whole.
I wonder: Does Biden’s heart ache for them, too?
Their pain and suffering are not the searing, debilitating by-products of an accident or an inoperable tumour. They are, instead, the awful consequence of the deliberate, calculated acts of Israeli cowards who know they can kill Palestinian children with impunity.
Stripped of their sullied uniforms, Israeli soldiers are unrepentant thugs who, like their ugly Mafioso brethren-in-spirit, should be hauled before the dock to come face-to-face with the anguish their crimes against humanity have wrought – again and again and again.
Of course justice will not be done since, for too many Israelis and much of the craven “international community”, these degenerate hitmen are “heroes”.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.