Blind to Justice?

By way of follow up to my earlier post about the killing of Iyad Hallaq (or Iyad Hallak), the Times of Israel has some rather disturbing news:

Click image to go to Times of Israel article

How likely is it that one security camera was not turned on? How likely is it that all the security cameras covering this incident were not turned on? I stress that I am not speaking from a position of informed opinion, so I could be wrong. However, I believe it to be highly unlikely that there was no video coverage of this killing. Does it seem sensible or logical or likely to you? Why have such an extensive network of security cameras – that have been well used in the past – if you are not going to turn them on?

I would like to hear from anyone knowledgeable in these areas – perhaps someone who has been on security patrol in and around Jerusalem – to learn more about the situation on the ground and whether this ‘no video available’ line is indeed likely to be hogwash or otherwise.

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a previous incident where it’s been said that security cameras (all of them!) were not turned on.

If I am right, this is a nasty cover-up. If I am right, this is scandalous.

While I would dearly love to think an independent investigation would get to the root of the matter, I regret I am skeptical. If the authorities are being so brazen as to lie about the availability of the video evidence, what chance is there of justice for Iyad Hallaq either through the courts or by an independent probe?

Truly this is a black stain upon Israel.

[If it was the case that security cameras were not turned on, do you think that means anyone is going to be disciplined for that shocking state of affairs? No, I don’t think so either.]

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On the 23rd of June 2020, Ahmad Moustafa Erekat was shot to death by Israeli Border Police at a checkpoint near Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem.

The authorities reported it as the outcome of a terror attack, Erekat having deliberately driven his car at the checkpoint, injuring one of the soldiers and then he exited the vehicle with the intention of attacking other police.

His family, understandably, were angry and upset. PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat – the dead man’s cousin – was quoted as saying:

“Israeli soldiers shot dead Ahmad Erekat from Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, on his sister’s wedding day…Ahmad was rushing through a checkpoint to bring his mother and sister from a beauty salon in Bethlehem.”

Erekat also said:

“My cousin, the nephew of my wife, was executed, murdered in cold blood and Netanyahu bears responsibility…”

Apparently the deceased Erekat was also due to get married in the near future.

Trying to view this objectively, it did seem strange that someone in that position would conduct a suicide mission. Not impossible, but unusual. Then a video surfaced of the dead man having some kind of internal crisis, denying that he was an Israeli informer, suggesting that he had shamed his family and was depressed. That made the situation less unusual, taking these things at face value. (For example, I believe there’s a dispute about when his video was made.)

The bottom line: a shooting with two opposing narratives as to what happened.

Then the Border Police released the security video of the incident. It doesn’t look like anything else other than a terror attack. (But do look at it and make your own mind up.) That video cleared the police, brought public interest to an end, and left the deceased’s family to mourn his death, facing the unpalatable truth that he had committed suicide by cop. Whatever formal investigation that will (or should) take place, is likely to be heavily influenced by the video evidence.

So far, so routine (regrettably).

On the 30th of May 2020, a 32 year old autistic man – Iyad Hallaq – was shot to death by the police in the Old City of Jerusalem. The police claimed that they thought he was holding a gun. His family said the only thing he was holding was his phone. Further, after the initial shooting, he was not dead. He managed to get away to hide in a nearby garbage room. There, apparently he was killed despite his care giver telling the police he was autistic, he didn’t understand, and she had the papers to prove it.

The bottom line: a shooting with two opposing narratives as to what happened.

Compare and contrast with the Erekat case.

First, Iyad Hallaq had no PLO connections. To put it another way, his family has nobody in a position of power and influence to fight for them.

Second, the Border Police did not release the security video or, indeed, any video. This Haaretz article (behind a paywall) makes it clear that there should be video coverage of the incident, but if it exists someone in authority has it and isn’t releasing it.

Third, it appears the evidence from the two police involved as to what happened differs in at least one material respect.

The border policeman who shot Hallaq had finished basic training only weeks before. He has said he suspected that Hallaq was planning an attack because he was wearing gloves; the officer says he opened fire after Hallaq made a suspicious move.

The officer’s commander insists that he told the new recruit to hold fire, but the younger policeman says he never heard such an order.

To be clear, I am making no judgement about what happened when Iyad Hallaq was killed. I wasn’t there and I don’t know. I also well appreciate that the security forces have to make snap decisions in moments of crisis when their lives or the lives of innocent civilians could be at risk. In addition, the way of the world is that accidents and misunderstandings happen. None of that matters.

What matters is that the authorities owe it to Iyad Hallaq and his family and all the citizens of Israel to fully disclose what happened, to release any and all video, and to ensure there is a full and independent investigation into his death. The delay so far has been shocking and cruel enough. The police should do the right thing, even if it means that they are portrayed in a bad light. Their continuing failure is an unforgivable  blight on the state.

(Note: It might be said that the video is being retained for the purposes of an investigation. That shouldn’t stop it being released. After all, Erekat’s video was released almost immediately. Any excuse on this front is unacceptable.)