Israel Must Put an End to Bedouin Village Blood Libel

File photo: Israeli policemen stand guard next to a vehicle that rammed into a group of policemen in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, Israel, January 18, 2017.

Israel must apologize formally to the family of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan and compensate it for his death. The state must also retract the blood libel it spread about the teacher from Umm al-Hiran. All this is required by the release of the final conclusions of an investigation into the January 2017 eviction of the village’s residents, during which Abu al-Kiyan and Erez Levi, an Israeli police officer, were killed.

An analysis of footage from police body cameras, the cameras of journalists and left-wing activists at the scene and from a police helicopter supports the conclusion reached by the Shin Bet security service and the Justice Ministry department that investigates alleged police misconduct: Contrary to the claims of then-Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Abu al-Kiyan did not intentionally hit Levi with his car, in a terror attack. The analysis also supports Hadash-Ta’al Chairman Ayman Odeh’s contention that he was hit by a sponge-tipped bullet at the scene after the incident.

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“Our analysis shows unequivocally that this wasn’t a terror attack or anything resembling one,” said Prof. Eyal Weizman, whose Forensic Architecture agency at Goldsmiths, University in London, investigated the incident. Weizman explained that Abu al-Kiyan hit Levi with his car because he lost control of it after being shot and wounded. As a result, Abu al-Kiyan bled to death, without any of the policemen lifting a finger to help him. This fact underscores the importance of the incident with Odeh, Weizman added, “since he and other activists were nearby and sought to reach [Abu al-Kiyan] to give him first aid, which could have saved his life.”

The Justice Ministry department at one point recommended that one of the policemen who opened fire be questioned as a criminal suspect in Abu al-Kiyan’s death, in light of evidence obtained from the Shin Bet. But that recommendation was rejected by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who apparently caved in to pressure from the police commissioner after Alsheich doubled down on his baseless accusation that Abu al-Kiyan was a terrorist.

Weizman blamed the Justice Ministry department, saying that had its personnel “dealt with the evidence the way we dealt with it, they would have seen clearly that the police were responsible for the deaths of Abu al-Kiyan and Erez Levi, as well as for Odeh’s serious injuries.” Instead, he continued, “What we saw was an ongoing attempt to manipulate the evidence, including by not handing over evidence.”

Given the results of this investigation, Israel must officially clear Abu al-Kiyan of all guilt and apologize to his family for the false accusations hurled at him. It must also compensate the family for the fact that he was shot, wounded and bled to death without being offered medical care that might have saved his life as well as for the smearing of his reputation and his memory, which exacerbated the crime of his killing. Finally, it must investigate everyone involved, both those who fired and those who perpetrated the cover-up, and see to the prosecution of everyone responsible for the scandalous handling of this painful affair.

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