NOTE: I apologize to readers for posting such a graphic image here. I do not normally do so. But under the circumstances I do not want to cover this story without people seeing what really happened to Ziad Jilani.
Three weeks ago, an Israeli border police officer shot and killed Palestinian Ziad Jilani execution-style after a hit and run accident involving a squad of four police officers. After first reporting the police version of the incident that Jilani was a terrorist attempting to kill police, the Israeli media, in the person of Amira Hass, put forward a far more credible report claiming that a border policemen approach a wounded Jilani who was lying in the street and shot him in the head from point-blank range.
The Justice Ministry has begun an internal investigation and Jilani’s body has been exhumed and an autopsy will be done. As part of the investigation, the murder scene and entire incident were reconstructed. During this event, the shooter admitted, according to Haaretz’s report (Hebrew), that he shot Jilani at point-blank range. He claimed, however, that he believed Jilani was a terrorist and killed him because he feared he was wearing a suicide vest. Further, he claimed he fired to protect the lives of innocent bystanders.
There are a few problems with his account. First, by approaching Jilani so closely he could clearly see he was NOT wearing such a vest. Second, proper training for such an incident (and common sense) demand that an officer not approach a potential suicide bomber at close range so as not to be blown up if a detonation occurs. In other words, only a suicidal Israeli policeman would get that close to a potential bomber (or a policeman who knew the victim was NOT a bomber). Third, it should’ve been clear from Jilani’s two previous wounds (one in his back) that if he did have a suicide vest, these bullets would’ve detonated it. Fourth, no border policeman would care for the lives of the Palestinians living in Wadi Joz where the killing occurred. In fact, several residents went to Jilani’s assistance before he was killed and according to their accounts they were beaten by the police and shoved aside.
This is all a pack of lies spread like manure by the Israeli border police, one of the most brutal, homicidal of all Israel’s police and military forces. They are always spoiling for a fight and relish them when they come their way. It would be just like them to escalate a minor car accident into a cold-blooded murder.
The Border Police spokesperson presented a laughable response:
This incident showed all the signs of a terror attack. We take great pains to educate our officers about the purity of arms. It’s simply not possible that a soldier who did not sense danger would shoot someone at point-blank range.
In a far more credible statement, the lawyer representing Jilani’s surviving family told Haaretz:
This was a car accident and nothing more. This isn’t someone who boarded a bus with a bomb and they attempted to shoot him in the head to prevent him from harming others. Under no circumstance would it be permissible to shoot him at point-blank range. Without any doubt, this was murder.
Jilani’s widow is an American citizen. As such, she is entitled to the services of the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem. Alas, the consulate’s response has been lackadaisical and sullen at best. After an inquiry from Jilani’s sister, a U.S. citizen living in California, Congressman Brian Bilbray wrote to the consulate. The response by Consul Debra Towry was typical CYA bulls(&t. She claimed falsely that a list of attorneys was offered to the family. The truth is that the family was forced to hire its own attorney with no help whatsoever, and certainly no list proffered, from the consulate. The consul noted in her letter to Bilbray that a consular representative attended the first legal hearing into Jilani’s death. This is true. But they only did so after the widow begged them to do so. Note in the consul’s letter to Bilbray she refuses to commit to attending future hearings:
…We [will] try to attend future hearings whenever possible.
In fact, the consulate continually told the widow there was nothing they could do to help her. This is a response that Palestinian-American U.S. citizens are used to getting from our diplomats in Israel.
After the murder, the police canvassed the neighborhood and confiscated any video footage documenting it. That will certainly never be seen again. However, and possibly unbeknownst to the authorities, there is footage they didn’t manage to get. I have not seen it yet. But I have been advised that it presents a powerful graphic and visual record of what really happened. Rodney King anyone? Of course, the difference between the two incidents is that in Los Angeles there was a conscience that could be troubled by the beating. In Israel, there is no such thing. The number of Israelis who will be shocked, scandalized or even troubled by this murder is very small. The majority will justify it as an unfortunate necessity given the terror war Israel confronts.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.