Scene of Jerusalem shooting. (Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post )
This is grim. Earlier today an Israeli-Jewish man in a bathroom near the Western Wall was killed by police after shouting “Allahu akhbar,” God is great. According to police foreign press spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the guard who killed 46-year-old Doron Ben-Shalush did so because he suspected danger after hearing the two Arabic words near a place that Jews pray, and then unloaded fire. Ben-Shalush was found with 10 bullets in him and died on scene.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Ben-Shalush had been pronounced dead at the scene. He said the guard, whose name has not been disclosed, had told investigators he had suspected the man was a Palestinian militant.
‘The fact he shouted Allahu Akbar, that seems to be why the security guard drew his weapon and fired a number of shots at him,’ Rosenfeld said, adding that the incident was still under investigation and there was a gag order on some details.
Rosenfeld added that there is a gag order on some of the circumstances because an investigation is underway. Though, at first glance it is a clear case of mistaken identity/racial profiling: the officer took the Israeli man as Palestinian, and that seemed to warrant enough threat to kill him. This is a very unfortunate end to what was likely a day of either prayer or tourism at the Jewish holy site.
Sadly, this is not the first case of mistaken identity that has led to Israeli-on-Israeli violence. Months ago some Israel Defense Forces milling outside of a settlement were attacked by a Jewish rightist. The soldiers were undercover, dressed as Palestinians, and the costumes fooled the settlers who then descended down a hilltop to attack the presumed Palestinians. It was a snafu. Settlers attacked soldiers, soldiers beat the settlers and in the end many arrests were made.
Less humorously, a Mizrahi-Israeli friend of mine, an Arab Jew of Iraqi background, has numerous tales of being pulled aside and questioned, only to be let go after the police realize his black hair and beard are on the body of the “right” kind of religion. More recently a photographer friend of mine was arrested last month while covering a demonstration in Jerusalem. When the police let him go, they told him his detention was a “mistake.” They thought he was Palestinian.
With such a context of shooting (or hitting, or arresting) first and asking questions later, something as grave as an accidental death was bound to happen. Of course Palestinians themselves are victim to such quick draw patterns, but their deaths seem not to get the same acknowledgment. Notably, earlier this year border police officer Nofar Mizrahi killed Mohammed Salayme, a 17-year old Palestinian, in Hebron, believing him to be armed. In the end Salayme was exonerated as being unarmed. Yet the prideful Mizrahi did not recant her actions. “[I]t didn’t change how I felt about it. I’m happy this ended with no injuries on our side and I’m sure any other officer in my situation would have done what I did,” she said to the Jerusalem Post.
Over the past eight months I have been to the funerals of six Palestinians. One was a friend who passed due to disease, but the others all had their lives cut short for ridiculous incidents like today’s murder. I have watched a family bury the body of a teenager whose violent death came after he was judged to be horsing around too close to the security barrier.
I don’t know why Ben-Shalush cried “Allahu akhbar,” but I’ll go out on a limb and say I don’t think he expected a response as if he were a bank robber. But really, it’s not that he was treated like a bank robber, he was treated much worse. Like a racialized other, like a Palestinian.