Palestinian lives do matter by Yvonne Ridley

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A demonstrator displays a placard reading: ‘Palestinian Lives Matter’ during a pro-Palestinian protest in Berlin on May 19, 2021 [JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images]

Around the same time that international footballer Christian Eriksen collapsed on a football pitch on Saturday during Denmark’s opening Euro 2020 match against Finland, Ibtisam Kaabneh collapsed and lay dying at an Israeli military checkpoint in Qalandiya, north of occupied Jerusalem.

Eriksen’s collapse was headline news, with dramatic real-time footage of him being resuscitated by medics as his teammates gathered around to block the intrusive camera shots. In occupied Palestine, meanwhile, Israeli police and occupation security forces strolled casually and callously around Kaabneh’s body. No attempts were made to resuscitate her; there were no tears or visible signs of remorse as the life of the Palestinian woman ebbed away.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading ‘Palestinian lives matter’ during a demonstration in support of Palestinians following last week’s attacks in Gaza by Israeli armed forces, in Sarajevo, on May 22, 2021 [ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP via Getty Images]

Eyewitnesses say that police officers shot and wounded Kaabneh and left her to die. When they did shield her body from onlookers it was only to cover up the results of their murderous brutality. They even closed the traffic barrier, preventing vehicles and pedestrians from passing by.

The world’s media caught Eriksen struggling for life as his partner Sabrina Kvist Jensen was seen running onto the pitch from her grandstand seat. Onlookers were visibly moved to tears.

There was no global media at that Israeli checkpoint in Qalandiya, though; no live footage; nothing to see here, except another Palestinian life wasted by another Israeli bullet. Only a brief, grainy video taken at a distance by an onlooker caught Ibtisam Kaabneh’s lifeless body. It was uploaded later by the local Wafa News.

The Israeli occupation forces issued a terse statement saying that a Palestinian woman carrying a knife had run toward the Qalandiya checkpoint and was shot dead by a private security guard after she ignored calls to stop. It’s an all too familiar narrative that is rarely challenged. Israeli security forces, state or private, seem to be incapable of disarming and arresting Palestinians deemed to be a threat. They shoot first but don’t even bother asking questions later. The truth is that they have simply no interest in doing so. Why arrest someone when you can just kill them? One less Palestinian “terrorist” to worry about.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club advocacy group shed a little more light on the dead woman. It emerged that she had previously served 18 months in an Israeli prison after being arrested in 2016. I would like to know more about Kaabneh’s life, but I can guarantee that I will not be reading about it in the mainstream Western media. She had no celebrity value attached to her name and so, in their fickle world, she is — was — of no interest.

So on Sunday morning, while the world’s front pages and headlines focussed on Eriksen and his personal drama, the wasted life of Ibtisam Kaabneh was barely a footnote in the foreign news. I only discovered her name courtesy of Ahdaf Soueif’s Twitter account, which sent me searching for more information.

The Egyptian author and political commentator wrote: “The woman the Israelis shot at Qalandiya Checkpoint earlier today has died. She is Ibtisam Kaabneh, a 28-year-old mother from Aqbet Jabr Camp in Ariha. Ms Kaabneh had spent 18 months in Israeli prisons. The photo is of her release in January 2018.”

So there we have it. Two young lives converging briefly but with very different media exposure. Eriksen is a few months older than Kaabneh was. He is still headline news as controversy rages over whether broadcasters should have continued filming as medics battled to save his life. Further debate centres on over whether European football’s governing body UEFA should have allowed the match to restart and play out the remaining 55 minutes of the match, which Finland won 1-0.

I am happy to tell you that the Inter Milan and former Tottenham Hotspur star midfielder is alive and well. The headlines are still there, and no doubt there will be regular medical bulletins on his progress until he leaves the hospital. Mercifully, he is sitting up in his bed sending out thanks via the mainstream and social media to his many well-wishers.

In occupied Palestine, though, Kaabneh is dead and buried; her death will soon be forgotten. The questionable narrative about the killing will remain unchallenged, and 12 June will only be remembered in coming years as the day that a great footballer suffered a cardiac arrest during a Euro 2020 match.

In the topsy-turvy world of media values, headlines and judgment there is something wrong when the importance of one life is elevated so much higher than that of another.

The Zionist state of Israel would like nothing more than for us all to forget that Palestinian lives do, in fact, matter just as much as anyone else’s; and that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to resist the occupation and return to their homeland. It is important we do not forget this, even as we celebrate the recovery of a popular footballer. Alongside Christian Eriksen, we must remember Ibtisam Kaabneh and the hundreds of other Palestinians whose lives have been cut short over the past few weeks alone in the longest and most brutal military occupation in modern times. Say it again: Palestinian lives do matter.

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Disclaimer: Palestinian lives do matter by Yvonne Ridley - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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