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Hundreds of “investigations” in a decade, whitewashing and absurd punishment
Hundreds of “investigations” in a decade, whitewashing and absurd punishment

Eyal Sagiv, B`Tselem Data Coordinator via

On 30 May 2020, Israeli Border Police officers fatally shot 31-year-old Iyad
al-Halaq, a Palestinian from Wadi al-Joz in East Jerusalem. The young man,
who was on the autistic spectrum, was on his way to the Elwyn Al Quds Center
for individuals with disabilities, which he frequented daily. Al-Halaq fled
from the officers and entered a garbage room on the street. There, lying on
the ground, he was shot to death. Warda Abu Hadid, his caregiver at Elwyn,
screamed again and again at the officers, “He’s disabled! He’s disabled!” –
trying to explain that Iyad didn`t understand the situation and wasn`t
carrying a weapon, pleading with them not to shoot him.

Is there anything left unsaid about the killing of al-Halaq? The incident
sparked unusual media and public outrage in Israel. Rarer still, the prime
minister and alternate prime minister expressed their sorrow. The Department
for the Investigation of Police swiftly launched an investigation,
supposedly to examine the officers` conduct.

This killing may be special, but it is not exceptional. Since al-Halaq had
special needs, he was not posthumously “convicted” of “terrorism”. This
charge, which is automatically levelled at almost any Palestinian killed by
Israeli security forces, is used to retroactively justify the shooting –
even if the individual did not pose a threat that required deadly force.

A photo of al-Halaq looking aside with a plant in his hand has gone viral,
making his killing impossible to ignore

Yet everything that came before that day and will surely continue – the
wanton open-fire policy, the sweeping support from authorities, inflammatory
statements by senior officials, decisions not to open investigations or to
obfuscate ongoing ones, the punishments both rare and absurd – are the rule
rather than the exception. It is this rule that ended in yet another
egregious killing.

Israel’s occupation regime disregards the lives, dignity and very humanity
of Palestinians. This messages trickles down from the government to the
soldiers and the police officers on the ground. Every now and then, a
particular incident holds up a mirror to all the proponents of this policy,
forcing them into feeble expressions of sorrow. Yet they soon return to
their routine of incitement and indifference towards the lives of

Eyal Sagiv, B’Tselem Data Coordinator

Whitewashing and Absurd Punishment
More of our work in the past two months:
Another name in the long list of victims is Zeid Qaysiyah (17), a resident
of al-Fawar Refugee Camp. Qaysiyah was killed by sniper fire during a
military incursion into the camp. After he heard the commotion, he went up
to his roof to watch. When he approached the edge of the roof, Qaysiyah was
hit in the face by a “two-two” (0.22 caliber) bullet fired by an Israeli
sniper. He collapsed and was pronounced dead a short while later. The
talented, creative boy who used to sing at every gathering he attended and
dreamt of becoming a famous singer will never sing again. The IDF
spokesperson was quick to announce that the MPIU had opened an investigation
into the egregious killing. Yet as noted above, these investigations are
part of Israel’s whitewashing mechanism – in this case, carried out by the
MAG Corps. This policy enables the lethal, unlawful and immoral shooting of
Palestinians to continue unchecked, as no one is held accountable – whether
it is the soldiers, their commanders, those who formulate the directives or
the officials who then cover up the acts.
Why did the soldiers suppressing the weekly protests in Kafr Qadum shoot
holes in water tanks that residents put on their own roofs? The shooting,
undoubtedly approved by the commanders on the ground, conveys the military’s
deep disregard for vital Palestinian property (especially during a pandemic,
which requires strict hygiene, including frequent handwashing). Since the
beginning of April, we have documented 24 cases of soldiers shooting at
water tanks. By doing so, they stripped residents already suffering water
shortages due to Israeli policy of vital water reserves, and caused them
significant financial damage. Every water tank costs about 500 NIS (~125
Such an “initiative” can only be dreamed up by an occupying force oppressing
civilians and denying their rights for decades. The Israeli military holds
monthly training exercises in a Palestinian neighborhood in initial stages
of occupancy. Soldiers run around the neighborhood firing crowd control
weapons (even though there are no crowds to “control”) and search inhabited
or vacant apartments in order to “train”. They leave behind a trail of
ammunition and filth, intimidate the few families living in the complex and
damage private property. Hard to believe? Here`s a glimpse of what is going
on unchecked in the al-‘Ofoq neighborhood near Nablus.
Every day, thousands of Palestinian laborers enter Israel without a permit.
Israel`s policy leaves them little choice: on one hand, permits are almost
impossible to obtain; on the other hand, Israel is preventing the
development of an independent Palestinian economy, making jobs scarce. The
Israeli authorities are perfectly aware of this bind, which primarily
benefits the state by creating a cheap, disempowered workforce. Since the
beginning of May 2020, we have documented four incidents in which soldiers
lay in ambush by the Separation Barrier, waiting for Palestinians to try and
cross, and shot them in the legs. In another case, soldiers severely beat a
15-year-old, breaking his arm and causing abdominal hemorrhaging.
It happened again and again: on 2 May, 5 May, 19 May, 20 May, 1 June, 3
June, 9 June… While Israel is using the annexation plan as currency for
political influence with the U.S., the routine of demolition and
confiscation continues as usual in the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem and the
South Hebron Hills. In June, Israel demolished 30 Palestinian homes
throughout the West Bank (not counting East Jerusalem) – the same number
demolished throughout the entire first five months of 2020. In May and June,
we documented demolitions and confiscations of 18 homes, leaving 84 people,
43 of them minors, homeless. In East Jerusalem, the municipality demolished
17 structures in two months – 12 of them torn down by their owners after
receiving a demolition order. This left 67 people, 40 of them minors,
homeless. The wave of demolitions and confiscations that swept through these
areas did not make headlines. One article on the demolitions was published
in Haaretz.
This month, we told the story of one Gazan factory – the Sharaf Gas-Pipe and
Metalworks Factory. We joined its owner and interviewed two of the employees
waiting for a phone call to summon them back to work, their monthly wage a
distant memory. The Sharaf Factory is one of many Palestinian businesses
that have collapsed due to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. This policy
has robbed many Palestinians of their livelihood, driving them to full
dependence on humanitarian aid organizations.
On May 2020, together with 14 other human rights organizations we expressed
our solidarity with our colleague from Amnesty International, Laith Abu
Zeyad. We jointly demanded that Israel lift the movement restrictions
barring him from leaving the Occupied Territories. Israel is preventing Abu
Zeyad from entering the country so as to make an example of him. This is
indicative of Israel’s increased persecution of human rights organizations,
which includes blacklisting and censorship. Imposing draconian restrictions
and denying millions of Palestinians freedom of movement have been inherent
to Israel’s occupation policy for 53 years. The harassment of Laith Abu
Zeyad is an integral part of this story.
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