Hundreds of Jews and Arabs demonstrated against police violence on Saturday evening, May 30, in West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv following the brutal killing of Iyad al-Hallaq, a young Palestinian man with autism who was shot dead by officers in Jerusalem’s Old City earlier in the day.
In Tel Aviv, over 200 people protested outside the city’s police headquarters while over 150 left-wing activists, including Hadash and Communist Party of Israel activists, marched on Jerusalem’s King George Street with red flags. The demonstrators held signs that read “Palestinian Lives Matter” and “Justice for Iyad, Justice for George,” in reference to George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd’s death has sparked mass demonstrations in cities across the United States.
Al-Hallaq, 32, was on his way to the special education school he attended and worked at near Lion’s Gate in the Old City when Border Police officers began pursuing him, claiming he had been holding a weapon. Al-Hallaq reportedly fled and hid behind a nearby dumpster, where the police officers shot and killed him. No weapon was found at the scene of his death.
Hadash MKs condemned al-Hallaq’s killing, likening it to what occurred in Minneapolis. MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List alliance, said he feared that any police investigation would likely result in a cover-up. “We must make sure the police officers are put in jail and at the same time remember that while they pulled the trigger, it was the occupation that loaded the weapon,” Odeh said in a Sunday morning interview broadcast on Reshet Bet radio. MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) said, “For all those who are outraged about the murder in the United States, look closely — an entire nation is suffocating under occupation without being able to breathe.” According to MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List), al-Hallaq’s death was “murder by police” because of far-right government incitement. “The case today in Jerusalem can only be defined as murder by police,” Cassif tweeted. “The incitement from the corridors of the government has done its best and now every Palestinian is a terrorist until proven otherwise. Minneapolis is here,” agreed MK Youssef Jabareen (Joint List).
Towards Annexation, the Violence of Occupation is Escalating
Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hanan Ashrawi, said Sunday that Israel is on a killing spree, having committed at least two acts of cold-blooded and unjustified murder against defenseless Palestinian civilians in less than 24 hours. “In the past few days, Israel has escalated its rate and scale of crimes against Palestinian civilians. In the past twenty-four hours, Israeli occupation forces have committed two acts of cold-blooded and unjustified murder against defenseless Palestinian civilians, including an autistic man killed this Saturday in Jerusalem. The latest execution-style killing brings to at least 21 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces in such senseless acts of violence since January,” Ashrawi said. “The escalation of Israel’s crimes and violations coincides with concrete steps on the ground in preparation for the looming formal annexation, which is the ultimate and final act of land grab and mass displacement in Israel’s colonial project. Murders, land expropriation, home demolitions, and other acts of structural violence are on the rise.”
Shawan Jabarin, director of the Al-Haq human rights group, told WAFA Palestinian news agency that the recent four shootings by Israeli forces that took place during the past two days in Ramallah and Jerusalem are evidence that murder of Palestinian civilians was a tolerated practice by the occupation forces. He said the Israeli policy of tolerating the killing of Palestinians was a result of the fact that the Israeli army or police officers know very well they will not be prosecuted or held accountable. “The accusations and allegations by the occupation are ready [in advance]. Data shows that most of those who were killed could have been arrested, but the occupation insisted on killing them,” he remarked. Jabarin stressed that the Israeli occupation’s policy is based on zero accountability and full impunity, and that the killing of the Palestinian is a daily, ordinary and tolerated practice, which reflects the spirit of discrimination and racism inherent in the Israeli occupation’s regime.
Police Implement Racist-Inspired Violence against Asylum Seekers
Demonstrators in Tel Aviv also protested against police violence directed at African asylum seekers last Monday, May 25. In that incident, riot police violently arrested two Eritrean asylum seekers while they sat outside a grocery store in south Tel Aviv. The police were caught on video manhandling both the asylum seekers as well as a group of residents who tried to intervene. The police brutality in Tel Aviv came just days after newly-appointed far-right Public Security Minister Amir Ohana toured the neighborhood on his first day on the job, where he met with racist activists who demand the deportation of African asylum seekers from Israel. In the days following, the police reportedly increased its activities against asylum seeker-owned businesses in the neighborhood of Neve Sha’anan.