Was the Hourami Goldfish an al Qaeda Suspect?

“I can tell you unequivocally what the policy is,” explained Israeli Minister Ephraim Sneh in August, 2001 with regard to Israel’s assassination policy. “If anyone has committed or is planning to carry out terrorist attacks, he has to be hit. It is effective, precise, and just.”

This policy has, in fact, been used to justify the assassinations of many Palestinians é from charismatic second-in-command PLO leader, Abu Jihad, to Palestinian dentist, Dr. Thabet Thabet, who was known for bringing Palestinians and Israelis together for roundtables. Assassinations are simply part of Israel’s war on terror, the Israelis say. While unsupported Israeli claims have often gone unchallenged by the international community, it is one of the more recent killings that perplexed me personally. I am referring to the gruesome mutilation of the Hourami goldfish during Israel’s recent invasion of the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

So far, the facts of the crime are as follows: The Israeli soldiers came to the five-story building “Hanina” on the outskirts of the West Bank City of Ramallah. They told the Palestinians that they would be able to get food at 2am. This would also be the approximate time of the departure of the soldiers, but the IDF also warned that they would be back.

The soldiers did leave and the tanks rolled away. When the Hourami children returned to their apartment, they found that their pet goldfish had been removed from its tank. It was lying on the floor, cut in half.

Could it be that the Hourami goldfish had suspected links to al Qaeda? Or did the goldfish serve as a middleman for future Hamas or Islamic Jihad operations? At the risk of damaging a promising career in freelance journalism, I decided to continue my own investigation into the killing.

My research uncovered startling facts about goldfish. For example, did you know that although there are many varieties, all goldfish actually belong to just one species: Carassius auratus. Because of this, goldfish are similar in their behavior, required care, and habits.

Hmmm, behavior and habits. I thought back to all the goldfish I met throughout my life. They definitely all seemed to be happy-go-lucky. Just happy to munch their goldfish food and blow bubbles. But then, I came across a resource that seemed to corroborate the dangers that the Israeli soldiers must have sensed. Dangers that surely compelled the soldiers to kill. According to the website, “Goldfish are quite intelligent . . .”

Ohmigosh! The suspense was building, and I read on. “Goldfish are quite intelligent . . . and will recognize the person who feeds them. They will show they know you by swimming rapidly back and forth when you are near the tank or splashing.”

I must be missing something, I thought, because the Israeli soldiers “never” kill unless their lives are in danger. Despite countless hours of research, I could not find evidence supporting the need to kill a goldfish for the sake of self-defense.

Could the mutilation have been a mercy killing, I wondered? According to one goldfish expert, “Goldfish are sensitive to bumps and loud noise. The tank should be kept where the fish will be spared from excessive noise or thumping (stereos, speakers, etc.). A fish that is swimming around with jerky motions or jumping may be frightened! Even tapping on the glass can frighten your goldfish.” Uh oh. That last lesson is a little late, but better late than never.

OK, back to the investigation . . .the Israeli soldiers were merciless in their destruction and vandalizing of Palestinian property. Undoubtedly, there must have been lots of noise between all of the children screaming and the blades cutting into tin walls. The goldfish must have been going out of its fish mind.

Nah . . .the mercy killing reason just doesn’t make sense in the whole scheme of things.

Recently, Yerushalayim’s Giora Ayalon asked Hebrew University Professor and renowned expert, Martin Van Creveld, about his thoughts on the Israeli army’s behavior in the face of recent Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers.

“People turn into zeroes, people become idiots, ” said Van Creveld. “In this war you can’t be both smart and right, you can’t be both strong and smart. It doesn’t go together. Choose.”

I guess the Israelis made a lot of choices in the recent invasion. The killing of the Hourami goldfish was apparently one of them.

So was the killing a smart decision? Was it a right decision? And what is the morale of the story? If one believes in re-incarnation, just hope that you don’t come back as a goldfish in the West Bank during Israel’s “war on terror.” It is clear that the IDF leaves no stone or fish unturned.

This case is closed.

Sherri Muzher, who holds a Jurist Doctor in International and Comparative Law, is a Palestinian-American activist and free lance journalist.

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