So, Taysir Hayb will be a free man next month. The IDF Sergeant, found guilty of manslaughter after shooting British “peace activist” Tom Hurndall in 2003, is to be released after serving five years of his eight-year sentence.
But the Hurndall family’s “anger and shock” at Monday’s announcement is not, says Sophie Hurndall, Tom’s sister, directed at the soldier who fired the bullet, but rather at the IDF and Israel as a whole: “To be honest, it’s about the system. Not the man himself. This man who shot Tom was the same age as him. He is both the victim and the killer. He is part of a system that proactively encouraged soldiers to target civilians.”
That is bollocks, Ms. Hurndall (as anyone who has served in the IDF can testify).
I was back in England at the time of the shooting of Tom Hurndall (right), in the Gaza town of Rafah, at the height of the Second Intifada, in April 2003. I was also there throughout his nine-month coma, until his death, aged just 22.
And, during the Hurndall family’s protracted UK media campaign against Israel, I was continually forced to question my capacity for empathy for feeling so little about their obvious (and natural) suffering. In fact, the only thing that the Hurndalls’ campaign did move me to do – although, in the end, I didn’t (for which I am now glad) – was to drop a letter into their north London home (close to mine), with my condolences, but also telling them that Tom had absolutely no business being there in the first place.
And this week’s comments by Sophie Hurndall – who works for Medical Aid for Palestinians – have only served to remind me of just how I felt (or, rather, didn’t) seven years ago. No, my heart has not softened with the years.
While I, of course, take no joy in the tragic death of Tom Hurndall, the time has come for his family to take a good look at themselves, too, and to ask certain painful questions about the decisions and actions of their son and brother, and about how they may have influenced or prevented them:
- What right did Tom Hurndall have to interfere with IDF operations – his declared goal was to blockade tank patrols – at the height of the Second Intifada, in the then war zone of Gaza?
- Did he possess any comprehension whatsoever as to the entirely justified purpose of those operations (i.e., to protect Israeli citizens)? Or did he, maybe, view Hamas and Islamic Jihad as some kind of benevolent presence that Israel could simply ignore? Perhaps, for him, Jewish lives – as opposed to Palestinian ones – were just unimportant?
- Why did he choose to be a “peace activist” in the only democracy – or, at least, the only country that can reasonably claim to be one (as even Israel’s enemies could not deny) – in the entire Middle East? Why not in one of the many Islamofascist, or other, tyrannies the world over?
- And, anyway, as a self-proclaimed “human shield” – purportedly of children (endangered only because they themselves are used as such by Palestinian militants) – did Hurndall not succeed in his stated purpose?
Without in any way condoning the actions of Sergeant Hayb (right), to whose intent only he was privy, one wonders how long Tom Hurndall would have survived in Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, attempting to impede the operations of British or American forces there: How long would it have taken before an irate – or, perhaps, ever so slightly unhinged – squaddy, in the “pressure cooker” of a war zone (which Gaza was no less), thought “F*ck this! I have had quite enough of this interfering little prick”?
To me, Tom Hurndall – like Rachel Corrie just before him – is not the hero that he is so often portrayed to be. He was, rather, a very misguided young man, appearing to suffer from the misapprehension – even more popular these days, and shared by his family – that Israel’s war against Islamofascism is a gratuitous rather than strictly necessary one, and that Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants are, somehow, not really dangerous.
“We have had to deal with cover-ups and lies and a total lack of accountability throughout, and this is in line with that – it’s symptomatic,” continued Sophie Hurndall on Monday.
Bollocks, once again.
Sergeant Hayb was tried and convicted (if following several months of pressure from the Hurndalls). Would Tom Hurndall’s death in Iraq or Afghanistan (as described above) have resulted in a similar outcome? I very much doubt it. And under an Islamofascist dictatorship, such as the one Hamas is establishing in Gaza, the Hurndalls would still be trying to discover how and why their son ‘disappeared’, and whether he is still alive . . . while, all the time, his dismembered body was lying at the bottom of some well.
Of course, the fact that Sergeant Hayb is a Bedouin rather than a Jew has all been rather inconvenient for the Hurndalls, forcing them to modulate their rhetoric to the media over the past seven years.
On the other hand, the Jewish state is a much larger, easier, and – in these dark days – popular target than the particular motivations and reactions of a 20-year old, non-Jewish soldier.