To Neutralize

Unlike in the case of their Jewish counterparts, when it comes to offending Arab drivers, the Israeli Border Police would rather kill than arrest.

If a policeman had witnessed the hit-and-run accident that took the life of cyclist Shneor Cheshin on Friday, would he have killed the driver after catching him? Of course not. But on Friday, June 11, in broad daylight in the middle of a residential neighborhood, a policeman killed a driver who ran into - but did not kill - pedestrians: police officers on foot.

Ziad Jilani

The killing was buried immediately in the giant cemetery called "of no interest to the Israeli public." Why? Because all this happened in a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem (Wadi Joz ), and because the driver's name was Ziad Jilani.

Until his case is decided in court, Tal Mor is rightfully deemed "the suspect in Cheshin's killing." But Jilani was treated to a lightning trial: He was convicted on the spot of intending to carry out a terror attack because the people hurt by his car were Israeli policemen. They chased him as one chases someone defined as a terrorist, while shooting (first in the air, but then in a way that endangered passersby. In fact, a 5-year-old girl sitting in a parked car was injured ).

And then, when he was lying on the ground shot, according to witnesses, he also took two bullets to the head. That is, between the second the man was indicted for intending to run people over in a terror attack, and until the moment a gun was allegedly pressed right up to his head and the trigger pulled, the Border Police on the scene were victims, witnesses, prosecutors, judges and executioners.

The Border Police spokesperson wrote to Haaretz: "Citizens have been killed and dozens injured by vehicle terror attacks that occurred in Jerusalem from 2008 to 2009. The lives of other innocent citizens were saved thanks to the intervention of police, Border Police combatants and civilians who neutralized the perpetrators and prevented more killing. The latest running-over incident ... only by a miracle ended without combatant fatalities. In this case as well, the perpetrator was neutralized after he tried to flee the scene against the law."

When Jilani fled his vehicle into a dead-end alley, did he endanger the lives of civilians? Did the police fear that the Palestinian (after all, they were certain he was not Jewish ) would harm Palestinians in the heart of that Palestinian neighborhood, so they had to "neutralize" him? Who knows, maybe so. Perhaps that was the reason they fired at him when he got out of his car and they chased him, lest he pull a pistol or an assault rifle out of his pants and attack innocent passersby, Palestinians like him.

Down the alley, near his uncle's house, there were no police at the time who could be endangered by a potential weapon or an explosives belt. When he was already lying prone on the ground, apparently injured in his leg, back and arm, were the approaching police still afraid he would draw a rifle and kill them? So that's why they did not bother handcuffing him?

They call the Border Police "combatants," going around the streets of East Jerusalem with their long rifles and helmets. Against whom and why are they doing combat there, between a butcher shop, two vegetable stores, a laundry, a car-repair shop and a sidewalk that serves as a playground?

Israeli police, whatever they are called, are sent to the streets of East Jerusalem as enforcers of government and municipal policy. It is that same policy of intentional discrimination that has brought 65 percent of the 303,429 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem below the poverty line (double the number of poor Jews in the city ) and 74 percent of Palestinian children below that line.

The police serve the government that since 1967 has expropriated 24,000 dunams (8,000 acres ) of land from Palestinians and over the years has built more than 50,000 housing units on it - for Jews only. Police accompany the bulldozers that demolish homes built, for lack of choice, without permits.

It should come as no shock that police feel hostility toward them in the occupied city. Perhaps that is the reason they did not stop and think: It might have been a brake malfunction, the man might have lost his senses or not have been aware of police and border police procedures for opening fire. The reasons Jilani ran into the police could have been brought to light in court.

But they chose, allegedly, to return him to his family with his face imploded after being hit by two bullets, apparently fired into his right cheek. The bullets did not even have a place to come out because, lying there, his left cheek was on the asphalt. Neutralize means eliminate.