At least 71 Palestinians were injured during a funeral procession after Israeli police used tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.
In addition, 13 people were hospitalized, six police officers were wounded, and 20 Palestinians were arrested.
The funeral was for Walid al-Sharif who died Saturday of complications from a head injury he suffered on April 22 after Israeli police engaged with protesters in Jerusalem.
According to al-Sharif’s family, he was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet and died from injuries he sustained from the fall.
As if violence at a funeral was not appalling enough, the same scene played out just days before when Israeli police were involved in an incident at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh.
Abu Akleh was a Melkite Greek Catholic and a Palestinian American who was most known through her work as an Al Jazeera reporter for over 25 years.
She was shot in the head while covering a raid on the West Bank city of Jenin last week. Al Jazeera claims it was due to a bullet fired by Israeli forces, while Israel says investigations are ongoing.
Captured video shows the police attacking pallbearers, almost causing them to drop Abu Akleh’s casket. The images of both incidents are shocking.
In response to the incident at Abu Akleh’s funeral, Catholic leaders in Jerusalem accused Israel of disrespecting the church by disrupting the proceedings.
Their joint statement went on to say that the incident “is a severe violation of international norms and regulations, including the fundamental human right of freedom of religion, which must be observed also in a public space.”
The White House called the captured video “deeply disturbing” and stated, “We regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession.”
Unfortunately, Israeli police appear to think collecting Palestinian flags is important enough to endanger the public and disturb a sacred moment.
It is one thing to limit people’s movement and set up layers of security marked by endless check points. It is another to disrupt an event as meaningful as a funeral.
Funeral rites and rituals are characteristic of any community, taking on elements of culture, religion and communal emotions. Disrupting such rituals is to attack the culture itself.
Sadly, these are not isolated events, as Israeli forces used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas at a March 9 memorial service for Ammar Shafiq Abu Afifa, a 21-year-old who had been shot and killed by Israeli forces March 1.
Three were injured and dozens suffered respiratory problems from the gas. Victims were mostly students as the service was held at Kadouri Technical University in North Hebron.
That same day, a child was wounded by Israeli gunfire following a funeral procession for Ahmad Hikmat Saif in the northern West Bank town of Burqa. Saif was shot during a protest march calling for support of political prisoners held by Israel just days before.
Last year, on July 29, 2021, Israeli soldiers killed Shawkat Khalid Awad who was part of a protest during the funeral of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy who had been killed by Israeli forces.
All of this compels us to pause and take stock of what is happening.
Funerals and memorial services are intended to remember the dead, comfort grieving families and help communities make sense out of grave loss.
In these incidents, they became a battle ground. The stillness of these sacred moments was riddled with gun fire. Instead of the calming scent of incense and flowers, the air was fouled with tear gas.
This is dehumanizing, and a grave offense to disrupt those mourning the dead. Palestinians have a right to bury their loved ones in peace.
I am not an expert on the ongoing dispute between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority. Yet, I do know there has been misunderstanding, atrocities and political scheming for a century, with deep-seated animosity and mistrust on both sides.
Palestine in the 20th century has been far more violent than it was for 400 years under the Ottoman Empire. While everything was not perfect and conflict occasionally arose, Jews, Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics lived in the land together. It was multi-ethnic and multi-religious.
How did we get to a place where hatred and tensions are so high that violence in sacred spaces and during sacred moments is becoming commonplace? How has animosity become so great that a parent cannot mourn their child without fear of losing another one?
This type of violence must stop, and it will only come to an end if the international community takes note of what has been happening and speaks out.
Senior Staff Chaplain and Clinical Ethicist at the Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.