Police Kill an Autistic Man in Jerusalem’s Old City- The Story of Eyad al-Hallaq
BY: Saif Shahin
On the 30th of May 2020, just five days after the murder of Geroge Floyd, the world witnessed another tragedy. Eyad al-Hallaq- a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man- was shot dead by Israeli police officers in a garbage room near the Lion's Gate in Jerusalem’s old city.
Hallaq studied and worked in Elwyn El Quds- a special needs school in the old city of Jerusalem. During his daily walking commute from his home in Wadi al Joz to Elwyn El Quds, he had to pass through a police checkpoint at Jerusalem's Lion’s Gate. He passed through this checkpoint daily for six years without any problems. To avoid any unnecessary incidents with the Israeli police, he carried a certificate issued by the special needs school that stated in both Hebrew and Arabic that he was a person with special needs. Additionally, Hallaq carried a National Insurance Institute card that stated that he had a 100% disability. He even had a caregiver accompany him during his commute to prevent any unnecessary incidents.
As Hallaq was passing through the police checkpoint on the day of the incident, officers on duty “became suspicious when he (Hallaq) reached for his phone in his pocket”. As attacks on Israeli police are not uncommon in Jerusalem, officers ordered Hallaq to stop. Hallaq began to panic as he had allegedly not understood the officer's shouted commands. As a result, he fled into a garbage room.
As Hallaq ran, the police officers opened fire and chased Hallaq and his caregiver into the garbage room. Although his caregiver allegedly screamed “He’s disabled” and Hallaq cried “I am with her”, officers to kept a distance and opened fire on Hallaq.
As per an official Israeli police statement about the incident: “They called upon him to stop and began to chase after him on foot. During the chase officers also opened fire at the suspect, who was neutralized."
According to a local television station, a senior officer ordered a halt in fire. However, one of the officers continued to fire, firing a total of about six or seven shots from an M-16 rifle. The officer allegedly did so “because he saw that Hallaq was still moving.”
Hallaq’s dead body was later searched and was found to be unarmed.
Protests arose in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Bethlehem to demand justice for Hallaq. Benny Gantz, Israel’s alternate prime minister, publicly apologized during the weekly meeting of Israel’s cabinet. “We are really sorry about the incident in which Eyad Halak was shot to death and we share in the family’s grief,” Gantz said. “I am sure this subject will be investigated swiftly and conclusions will be reached.”
As of now, weeks after the incident, justice has still not yet been served. One of the officers has been released while the other has allegedly been on house arrest.
As Jerusalem’s old city is filled with surveillance cameras, Hallaq’s family had filed a petition to release the footage of Hallaq’s death. They believed that this would aid in their search for justice. Their wishes were not answered for, however, as “an Israeli court struck it down last week following a police request.”
Supporters of the officers claim that Palestinian attacks on Israeli officers are not uncommon, hence the officers were justified in their actions. Some pro-police advocates claim that the officer who refused to follow the senior officer’s commands did so in an act of self-defense as the officers suspected Hallaq to be carrying a weapon.
On the other hand, Since Hallaq was killed based on pure suspicion and with no valid evidence, pro-Palestinian activists view the killing of Hallaq as a case of murder. They believe that this is another incident of Israeli police using excessive force against Palestinians.
As Israeli police have long been accused of using disproportionate force against Palestinians, whether it be by killing suspects who could have been arrested, or employing unnecessary lethal force, many pro-Palestinian activists have compared the killing of Hallaq to recent events in the USA. As a result of this, many have been using the hashtags #Palestinianlivesmatter and #PalestineTooCantBreathe on social media. This has been controversial, however, as many argue that while Palestinians do suffer systemic inequalities, the Palestinian cause differs greatly from the Black Lives Matter movement.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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