The death of Iyad Hallaq, an autistic Palestinian man, who was shot dead by two Israeli police officers sparked several unrests in Jerusalem. Iyad Hallaq of age 32 was walking to his school of special needs in the Old City of Jerusalem. According to the statement given by the police officers, Iyad was wearing gloves which made them suspect he possessed a weapon. Iyad, who was diagnosed with low functioning disorder, had limited communication skills. Due to this out of panic, he fled, and the police personnel started firing. He tried to hide behind a dumpster where he was shot dead. It is suspected that one of the police officers might have kept shooting despite receiving orders from his commander to halt.
Following this event, the family’s house was searched without any consent for possible weapons. Later on, the family requested a Palestinian representative to be present during Hallaq’s autopsy. The family alleges that this representative was denied entry. The police sealed off the Old City and reported that the Police Internal Investigations Department would be taking over the investigation of the case.
Mansour Abu Wardieh, the victim's cousin, said the family is not optimistic about the police investigation and fears that the police would end up twisting the facts. This lack of trust in the police authorities could be attributed to the fact that firstly the police have shown their disregard to the family by their actions mentioned above and secondly, in the last ten years Israeli security forces have killed more than 3,400 Palestinians but have only been convicted five times.
These numbers prove that Iyad’s killing is just the tip of the iceberg of the atrocities faced by Palestinians that live under the Israeli occupation. Iyad’s case has created a trigger for the Palestinian Arab minorities in Jerusalem to channel out their frustration. The killing has not only been condemned by Palestinians, but also by Jewish Israelis and international figures. The protests against police brutality after the killing of George Floyd have been gaining momentum and protests in Jerusalem began to draw parallels between these two cases. The protests in Jerusalem resounded with several slogans like ‘Palestinian Lives Matter’ alongside the ‘Black Lives Matter’ slogans.
Though the demonstrations united the Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews, it comes as little relief to the family and for Arab minorities. It was after more than a week that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke silence on this matter. Middle East Monitor reported the exact comments of the prime minister “What happened to Iyad Hallak is a tragedy. This was a man with disabilities, autism, who was suspected – and we (now) know wrongly – of being a terrorist in a very sensitive venue”. While the prime minister's comments fell short of an apology the Defence Minister Benny Gantz offered a public apology.
While the family and protestors remain un-optimistic about the justice being delivered insights shared by an Israeli Parliament member Ahmed Tibi, seem to shed some light on why Hallaq was killed. According to Tibi, Arabs and Palestinians were intentionally killed without any concrete reason, and for long this has been the policy of the Israeli forces. B’Tselem, a human rights organisation based in Israel said that most killings of Palestinians “were a direct outcome of Israel’s reckless open-fire policy, authorised by the government and military and backed by the [Israeli] legal system.”
The whole system in Israel seems to be designed to discriminate against its Arab minorities. Various senior political officials have openly spread hate against these minority communities. They have also encouraged their soldiers and police forces to kill Palestinians even if they have the slightest suspicion of them being a threat. It is a systematically built system that has subjected Palestinians to abuse and harsh punishments immemorial.
More than 150 instances were recorded between the span of October 2015 and January 2017 in which Israeli security forces have shot Palestinians under suspicion of carrying weapons. However, video footages or witness accounts have raised questions in many cases regarding the necessity of force. Repeatedly cornering these minorities have led to the death of 33 Israelis in the hands of Palestinian assailants in the same period. Hence this use of lethal force has had devastating effects on both the communities. Regulation of force by armed personnel and unbiased, neutral approach is required to curb down this violence. The authorities must also create rules that clearly define the boundaries for force used by armed personnel, and the state should actively denounce hate speech and illegal lethal force to avoid cases like that of Hallaq repeating.