Malek Issa, 9, lies in a pediatric ward in Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem. His left eye was destroyed and will presumably never regain function. He also suffered skull fractures and brain hemorrhaging. A policeman shot him in the face with a sponge-tipped bullet, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah on Saturday. Eyewitnesses said the shooting was not preceded by clashes or incidents of stone-throwing.
Apart from a handful of left-wing Knesset members and one Jerusalem council member, no Israeli politician has seen fit to weigh in on the event. One can only imagine the uproar had a different child, Israeli and Jewish, been injured in such a way by a police officer.
Over the past week, hundreds of Israelis have come to the aid of Malek’s family, donating tens of thousands of shekels in order to safeguard the boy’s future. In contrast to those Israelis, we’ve learned, regrettably, not to expect anything from Israeli politicians. The unwritten rule is that an Israeli politician must not express any grief for the pain of Palestinians, even if they’re children, even if they’re innocent, especially during an election season. But at such a time we can demand of one individual to rise above the petty considerations of the election campaign and his public image. Jerusalem’s mayor, Moshe Leon, must demonstrate leadership and courage and go to the hospital to visit Malek.
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Leon is a complicated man. Last week he displayed public cowardice when he refused to stand behind the plan to build a business center for Palestinians, after the Jewish neighbors from the Har Homa neighborhood expressed their objection to it – an objection based on open racism. This week he displayed public courage when he ordered a six-month suspension of home demolitions in Isawiyah, in a bid to draft, in coordination with the residents, a master plan to rehabilitate the neighborhood.
Now he has a duty to take another courageous act – to go and visit Malek Issa in the hospital. The visit doesn’t have to be accompanied by political statements and not even by criticism of the police. He can make do with a humane, leadership gesture to a 9-year-old Jerusalem boy whose life was forever changed in one second. Do this, Leon, and prove that you are, as you declare, the mayor of all Jerusalem’s residents.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.