Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Killing of Jerusalem man begs inquiry (yup, another one)

I am a few days late on this news item, but I thought it was worth getting out to those of you who aren't swimming in Israel/Palestine-related news, like yours truly.

First a summary from the Israeli daily, Haaretz:

A Palestinian driver was shot and killed in Jerusalem Friday after running over two Israeli border patrolmen, with an apparent intent to kill.

The man reportedly hit two the two policemen in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz, with reported light injuries sustained by both victims.

According to police officials, the driver drove on a short distance, and then proceeding to flee the scene on foot. Police officers called on the suspect to stop, and opened fire at him once it was clear he had ignored their instructions.

And here's the problem, usually the story stops here. People will pick up the NY Times tomorrow and read a one paragraph blurb on the attempted 'terror attack,' turn to their seat mate on the airplane and utter, "those people are still fighting over that worthless, arid piece of land in the middle east. Arabs are still trying to run over Jewish policemen. The fighting will never end over there."

That's why it's important that there are people not taking the Israeli official account of incidents at face value (see the recent Israeli monopoly of the media following the Freedom Flotilla incident which resulted in the murder of 9 Turkish activists at the hands of Israeli navy commandos).

The man killed was named Ziad Al-Julani, 38, he was the father of 3 girls.

Ziad was driving through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Al-Joz, when he came across a flying checkpoint, one of the many checkpoints that Israeli soldiers erect unannounced that only stay in place for a temporary time and purpose. This particular flying checkpoint was placed in Wadi Al-Joz following Friday prayers.

The Palestinian press agency, Maan, interviewed eyewitnesses (oddly, taking their account as well, instead of solely swallowing and regurgitating the official Israeli line):
Sa’d Hamed As-Silwadi, from Silwan and the father of a child injured during the shoot-out, told the center he parked his car beside a butchery and saw Al-Julani driving toward the Al-Hadmi neighborhood in Wadi Joz, where he was killed.

He said he saw Al-Julani get out of his vehicle when he was first shot by Israeli forces. A relative of Al-Julani tried to help him, As-Silwadi said, but was kicked by Israeli forces. As-Silwadi returned to his vehicle to find his five-year-old child with a rubber bullet wound to the neck and head, and rushed him the Maqased Hospital on the Mount of Olives.

Ahmad Qutteneh told the center he saw Al-Julani running from four members of Israel's Special Forces, approaching him and opening fire at close range. "Then I saw one of them come near him and shoot him in the face and body," Qutteneh told the center.

Mahmud Othman Al-Julani, 34, his cousin, told the center that he was home when the incident happened, near the site of Al-Julani's death, he said. "I went out of the house to see him laid on the floor, 15 meters away from me. When I tried to help him they [Israeli forces] beat me with sticks," the center quoted him as saying.

Others told the center the shooter was seen "dancing beside the body singing and cheering 'I killed an Arab, I killed an Arab'."
Palestine Monitor also interviewed teenage boys who were in the street at the time of the shooting:

Nawras, age 14, who lives on the street and witnessed the shooting.

Nawras tells us standing at his front door meters away from the street when he saw Israeli soldiers shooting at Al-Julani’s vehicle. He reported that when Al-Julani reached the corner he left the car and four soldiers shot at him, hitting his lower back. Al-Julani fell to the ground, and the soldiers gathered next to him. One soldier shot him three times in the head, according to the boy. When a neighbour tried to assist Al-Julani, the soldiers beat him back with their guns. Nawras also said that they hit some women as they blocked off the street and searched Al-Julani’s vehicle.

Here is an account from Iman Al-Julani, Ziad's sister, who laments over the incident:
My brother told his wife in the morning that he will go do his prayers at Al-Aqsa and after that he will visit his uncle and cousins before he comes back to take his American wife and three beautiful daughters to dinner. He did his Friday prayers and was on his way to visit his uncle in Wadi Al Jouz [in East Jerusalem]. He was surprised as he turned into a small street that there was a checkpoint and a confrontation between stone throwers and the Israeli special forces. His car was being hit with stones, and everybody thinks his car went out of control while he was avoiding the confrontation. No body knows if he hit anybody or not while his car went out of control, but all of a sudden one of the policeman shouted that he was trying to kill them and they started shooting at him in the car.
He was shot in the arm already when he got out of the car and he was trying to avoid more shots to himself so he started running towards my uncle’s house. He was shot in the back and leg and fell on the ground shouting asking for help from my cousins and others. People tried to come help him but they were beaten with bats and would not let anybody near him. My brother was still alive but flat on the floor and totally unarmed but one of the policeman came with rage and came close by and put the gun in my brothers head and shot him point blank in the face twice and another in the belly.
My cousin came at that time and realized it was my brother and he went running to him to try to save him since he was still breathing. The same policeman came and hit him in the head with his rifle and busted his head open. He then pointed the gun on his head wanting to shoot him too but his mom and other women intercepted and got beaten up with bats. My brother was still breathing and the ambulance was trying to get to him but the policemen just left him on the floor to die and would not allow anybody to help him. The policeman that killed my brother supposedly rejoiced killing an Arab and the others gave him a pat on the back and clapped for him. Finally the Red Crescent did not listen to the Special Forces and decided to risk it and go help my brother. My brother was on the ground for 15 minutes which could have saved his life if he got immediate medical attention. My brother died in the ambulance in my cousin's arms.

The LA Times at least had the journalistic integrity to present the official Israeli narrative and the eyewitness accounts:

According to the official Israeli account, Joulani attempted to run over police officers on an East Jerusalem street, prompting them to open fire. Police described the incident as an attempted "terrorist attack." Some officers were said to be "lightly wounded."
But family members say Joulani was caught in the wrong place and the wrong time between police and rock-throwing Palestinian youths. They say a rock hit his car, causing him to swerve and accidentally side-swipe a police car.
According to witnesses, Israeli police immediately opened fire, hitting Joulani in the arm. He still managed to drive to an open area, pull over and get out. But police officers continued to shoot, seriously injuring him. According to witnesses, he was killed with a shot to the head at close range.

I wonder when the world will stop buying the lies. I wonder when we will stop believing that it's TOTALLY conceivable that any Arab (or maybe even any brown-skinned) man is ready, willing, and able to kill people at the flip of a switch. When will when absolve ourselves and one another of the sins of Islamaphobia and the belief in the inevitability of collective punishment.

The al-Julani family says that Ziad was looking forward to taking his daughters out to dinner after Friday prayers.

Our silence is complicity.

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