Israel acquitted Eyad al-Hallaq’s killer – then Ben-Gvir called his mom a terrorist

Yumna Patel

Mondoweiss  /  July 7, 2023

An Israeli district court acquitted the border police officer who shot and killed Eyad al-Hallaq, a Palestinian autistic man in 2020 who was unarmed and running away from police.

An Israeli court has acquitted the Israeli border police officer that killed a Palestinian autistic man, three years after the shooting that caused international outrage. 

The Jerusalem District court ruled on Thursday that the officer, who was initially charged with reckless manslaughter, acted in “self-defense” when he shot and killed 32-year-old Eyad al-Hallaq. 

Al-Hallaq was on his way to a school for people with disabilities on May 30, 2020, in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem when he was chased down by Israeli police. At the time, police claimed Al-Hallaq, who had autism, was acting “suspicious,” and that he had a weapon, causing the officers to shoot him. It was later proved he was unarmed. 

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In the court’s decision on Thursday, it described the killing of Al-Hallaq as a “tragic mistake”, saying the officer “made a split-second decision in a dangerous situation,” Al-Jazeera reported

The court added that the officer, whose identity has remained concealed to the public, was acting in “good faith” because he allegedly believed Al-Hallaq to be an “attacker.”

Following the court decision, video footage posted to social media showed Al-Hallaq’s mother, Ranad, screaming in despair inside the courthouse, reportedly crying: “you are all terrorists, my son is under the ground.”

Al-Hallaq’s father, Khairi Al-Hallaq, told reporters, “The court basically told the police — do whatever you want to Arabs [Palestinians]. You won’t get punished for it.”

Videos posted to social media the day after the court hearing on Friday, July 7, showed Rana Al-Hallaq confronting a group of Israeli demonstrators, including far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. Though Mondoweiss could not discern what was said in the exchange between the two, according to Ramy Abdul on Twitter,  Ben-Gvir yelled, “get out of here, you terrorist” to Al-Hallaq’s mother. 

Reacting to the court’s decision, Ben-Gvir said “hero soldiers who protect the State of Israel with their lives will get a hug and full backing from me and from the Israeli government.”

According to Haaretz, the border police officer will return to the force and go to a “commanders’ course in a few weeks.”

Contradictory claims 

Throughout the investigation court case, Eyad al-Hallaq’s parents have accused Israeli investigators and prosecutors of being lenient on the officer, and that he should have been charged with murder, rather than manslaughter, which carried a maximum sentence of 12 years.

The indictment against the officer, which was filed in 2021, detailed how the accused officer shot Al-Hallaq in the stomach as he was cornered with his back against the wall, hiding behind a dumpster. The officer shot Al-Hallaq a second time in the chest as he lay on the ground wounded, killing him. 

The officer claimed that he “suspected that Al-Hallaq was a terrorist” because he was wearing black gloves and a black face mask — which was not unusual given that it was just a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic — and “stopped several times and looked back as he was walking.”

Al-Hallaq was on his way to school in the early hours of the morning and was reportedly frightened by the group of Israeli border police in the area, who called on him to stop. CCTV footage showed Al-Hallaq running away from the officers, looking frantically behind him as the officers chased him. 

In his testimony, the officer also claimed that he feared for the life of a woman in the area, saying he was “certain Al-Hallaq was a terrorist on a shooting spree and was about to murder a woman.”

According to Haaretz, the officer said that after Al-Hallaq entered a shed used for storing trash, the officer “heard a woman’s screams”, saying, “from where I stood, the terrorist was about to murder the woman. There was awful screaming,” he said. “As I saw it, I was saving this woman.

The woman turned out to be the teacher of Al-Hallaq, and the sole witness to the shooting. She said that she was yelling at the officers not to shoot Al-Hallaq, telling them that he was disabled. She said the officers ignored her pleas and shot him anyway. 

Shortly after her son’s killing last year, Ranad al-Hallaq recounted similar events to Mondoweiss, saying that her son was “curled up in fear” hiding behind the dumpster, crying “I’m with her, I’m with her,” pointing to his teacher. 

“She [the teacher] saw what was happening and was yelling at the police to stop, saying that he has special needs,” Ranad said. “But they didn’t stop, and kept yelling ‘terrorist!’ in Hebrew.”

Israeli police and soldiers are rarely held accountable for crimes committed against Palestinians. According to a report by Israel’s state comptroller in May, 1.2 percent of complaints against officers in 2021 resulted in criminal indictments.

Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel has condemned Israeli police and security forces for not following appropriate open-fire procedures, saying that the “absolute immunity” that officers receive in investigations of misconduct results in “very light trigger fingers amongst both police officers and private security guards when it comes to Arabs [Palestinians].”

Yumna Patel is the Palestine News Director for Mondoweiss