PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER
THE INVISIBLE DEATH OF IAIN HOOK
You probably heard about the latest tragic suicide bombing in Israel. You probably did not hear about the equally tragic death of Iain Hook. Unlike the Israeli deaths, Hook’s murder last Friday was not big news here in the U.S.
It certainly was big news for Hook’s employer, the United Nations. Hook, a senior manager for the U.N. Relief Works Agency in Jenin, was the first U.N. official to be killed in two years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Amazingly, the U.S. media gave his death little notice. The journalistic double standard is alive and well, it seems.
The story did make it onto page 34 of the Washington Post: "Israel Army Radio reported today that an initial investigation into Hook's death showed that an Israeli soldier had shot him as he came out of an alley from where Palestinian gunmen had been firing earlier, mistaking a cell phone he was carrying for a hand grenade. An army statement released later today said two soldiers fired at Hook inside the U.N. compound because he had an object that appeared to be a gun."
The Israelis were not coordinating their story very well. Their second statement said that the gun battle had not yet ended. And they overlooked one detail: Hook was not just inside a clearly marked U.N. compound, but inside a trailer, when he was shot. Was he brandishing the threatening gun / grenade / cellphone out the window?
The U.N. says the Israelis delayed an ambulance summoned to evacuate Hook. Not so, says Israel. Their army sent an ambulance right away, but that when it arrived he was already dead. Woops, another detail overlooked: an Irish relief worker saw Hook brought into a hospital alive, over an hour after he was shot.
The Irish worker, Caoimhe Butterly, wrote a moving eyewitness account that is worth reading in detail. On Friday morning, November 22, she was arrested by Israeli soldiers and taken to a place where she saw about twenty Palestinian men being beaten severely. She continues:
"After I was interrogated, I asked permission to remain with the men, hoping to minimise the violence. When I refused to leave, I was forcibly dragged away, pulled down the road, and told that if I returned to the area I would be shot.
"At the United Nations compound, I spoke briefly with Iain Hook, who said he was trying to negotiate with the soldiers for women and children to go home. He came out of the UN compound waving a blue UN flag, and the soldiers' only response was to broadcast with their microphone in English, "We don't care if you are the United Nations or who you are. F*** off and go home!" He insisted that he wanted to provide safe passage for his forty Palestinian workers and himself using legal means.
"After this, I met a group of children who told me that a ten-year-old friend of mine, Muhammad Bilalo, had been killed and three children had been wounded by tank fire, one of whom sustained brain damage. So I went to where the children were gathered, and the tanks were firing on them erratically. I implored them not to shoot live ammunition at unarmed children. A soldier raised his upper body and his gun out of the hatch of the second vehicle and began shooting. I was shot in the thigh. When I fell they continued shooting in my direction. No ambulances were allowed into the camp, so I was carried on a makeshift stretcher to where a Red Crescent ambulance could reach me. While I was in the Emergency Room of Jenin Hospital, Iain Hook of UNRWA was brought in. He died a few minutes later.
"Having been present in the Camp all morning, I can testify that any Palestinian fighters had stopped shooting a good two hours before either of us was wounded. When I passed the UN compound in the morning, it was surrounded by Israeli Army snipers and soldiers who were shooting erratically into the Camp. Two people were killed and six wounded. I was not caught up in any kind of crossfire as the Israeli Occupation Forces are falsely stating, and I don't believe that Iain was either."
The murder of Butterly’s 10-year-old friend was not even mentioned in the Washington Post article. That is understandable. Such a routine daily happening is hardly news. But you would think that the murder of a UN official, protested vehemently by his U.N. colleagues, would get headlines. It didn’t.
Thanks to our mainstream media’s double standard, the Israeli army’s most outrageous actions remain largely invisible. There is no public outcry, because most Americans assume that all the unjustified killing is done by Palestinians. Why shouldn’t they, since that’s what they are told every day. Who do the Israelis have to kill to make it as newsworthy as another suicide bombing in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? Maybe if Kofi Annan went to Jenin . . .
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