Bearing Personal Responsibility

Haaretz Editorial
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Protesters against police violence after the killing of Eyad Hallaq, in Jerusalem on May 30, 2020.
Protesters against police violence after the killing of Eyad Hallaq, in Jerusalem on May 30, 2020. Credit: Emil Salman
Haaretz Editorial

Eyad Hallaq, a 32-year-old Jerusalem resident, was shot to death on Saturday morning by police officers in the Old City. Hallaq was a disabled Palestinian man, and an initial investigation finds he was on his way to the school where he received therapy when he was killed.

The police spotted him and asked to check him. He misunderstood, panicked and fled. Hallaq managed to run a few dozen meters and then tried to hide in a garbage room when a police force came, spotted him and shot him. Witnesses said they heard at least seven gunshots. He died on the spot, his body was taken for an autopsy and the unit that investigates police launched an investigation.

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Hallaq is the third civilian shot to death in the past month under questionable circumstances. In each and every case the victim was a disabled person shot either due to a misunderstanding or hastiness on the part of the shooter, the police or guard. A month ago, Shirel Habura, a mentally unstable man, was killed in Rosh Ha’ayin after attacking a police officer with a knife. Habura was shot multiple times even when he no longer posed a threat. Two weeks ago Mustafa Younis, a man who had a psychiatric condition, was shot and killed by guards at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer after attacking a guard with a knife. In this case as well it appears that the incident could have been resolved without Younis being killed.

But the case of Hallaq is the most serious of all these shootings. As opposed to two other instances, Hallaq had no knife nor any other threatening object. As of publication, the police has not provided any evidence nor even claimed that Hallaq had endangered the officers or anyone else. His only crime was not understanding what the police officers had asked of him and then panicking.

It seems that this time there was a lethal combination of police having a light trigger finger and the Jerusalem district police’s discriminatory policies toward Palestinian residents of the city. This violence is at the very least supported by the silence by those in charge of law enforcement and the department that investigates police. Only last week the investigators shut two files, one in which a police officer was documented cruelly beating a Palestinian resident, and the other being a case where a Palestinian woman was seriously wounded in the face by after an officer struck her with the butt of his gun. In addition, an investigation into 9-year-old Malek Issa’s loss of an eye by a sponge bullet fired by police has gone on for months.

We saw an example of support for violent officers with itchy trigger fingers just last week when Public Security Minister Amir Ohana wrote that any person who attacks an officer “bears personal responsibility” for what happens. Now it’s time for Ohana to condemn this case and for the police to examine how they train officers. The investigations unit must conduct a swift and efficient investigation and put those responsible on trial.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.