Outrage in Israel Over Perceived Police Brutality
Israeli officers accused of racism in killing of autistic Arab man, but the problem is bigger than that
PHOTO: Israeli Jews protest after police shoot dead a Palestinian man with special needs.
The killing of 32-year-old mentally disabled Palestinian Iyad Hallak has been heavily criticized in the Israeli media. While walking to his special needs school in the Old City of Jerusalem on Saturday, Hallak caught the attention of Israeli Border Police stationed at the Lion’s Gate.
According to authorities, Hallak appeared to be holding a suspicious object that resembled a gun. Officers shouted for him to halt, but Hallak panicked and began to run. This made the officers even more suspicious, and they opened fire.
A Border Police commander later said that he shouted for his troops to hold fire, but in the commotion of the situation they apparently did not hear him.
The incident drew condemnation from across the country and the political spectrum.
Newly-installed Public Security Minister Amir Ohana conveyed his condolence to the victim’s family, and promised a thorough investigation leading to a just resolution. He added that tragic incidents like this are not uncommon given the tense situation in Jerusalem. “Police officers often have to make fateful decisions in just a few seconds, precisely because they are so often attacked by Palestinians in Jerusalem,” Ohana stressed.
On Sunday, Jewish protesters in Jerusalem demanded that the officers involved in the killing be sent to prison for their brutality.
Some Israelis charge that such police behavior is routine. This is especially true of Arab Members of Knesset, who maintain that Israeli security forces are far too quick on the trigger when it comes to Palestinians.
But the police also face similar accusations when it comes to other communities in the Land. Last year, Solomon Teka, an Israeli youth of Ethiopian descent, was shot dead during a violent confrontation with an off-duty police officer. And how often do we hear of Orthodox Jews slandering Israeli police officers as “Nazis” over their aggressive approach?
The tense environment in which we live often pushes people to react hastily, which is not always right. I have many police officers as friends and I know that they take their job seriously and try to act responsibly with the authority entrusted them. People make mistakes, it’s in our nature. What matters now is how we and our leadership deal with those mistakes.