Some murder cases are so full of lies, that every attempt to hide them from public view only brings more attention to the crime. Such is the case of the extrajudicial execution three years ago of Israeli Bedouin citizen Yaqub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an.
Though the case itself is three years old, revelations concerning police lies, investigative flaws and other misconduct keep appearing. In the last week, Josh Breiner of Haaretz has revealed details of the investigation showing that medical personnel left al-Qia’an to bleed to death from police gunshot wounds. While this was generally known, Breiner’s documentation of investigation materials caused human rights organizations to petition the Ministry of Health to reopen the case.
Before getting to the latest developments, let me recap the killing. On January 18, 2017, Israeli police came to demolish some houses in the “unrecognized” Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, as part of an ethnic-cleansing operation creating space for a Jewish settlement to be called ‘Hiran’, shot the Bedouin citizen Yaqub Mousa abu al-Qia’an and left him to bleed to death. It is important to point out that this took place in what is considered ‘Israel proper’, and that it involves Israeli citizens, not occupied subjects.
Al-Qia’an was a teacher who was attempting to drive away from the village at slow speed (10 KM per hour) with his belongings, as the Israeli police were raiding the village at pre-dawn hours – he did not want to be there as the raid happened. Nonetheless he was shot while driving slowly, in the leg and the back. The shot to the leg apparently disabled his control just as the car reached a slope, and the car went rolling down at moderate yet accelerating speed, running over 1st Sergeant Erez Levy who was pronounced dead a few minutes later. Al-Qia’an was left to bleed in the car, which had come to a stop at the bottom of the hill, for about 20 minutes. This, despite the fact that there were three mobile intensive care units on location, two police doctors and other medics. The forensic examination of his body concluded that Al-Qia’an did not die as a direct result of the shots, but from bleeding.
“The deceased died of a failure to receive medical treatment,” said Dr. Maya Forman of the forensics unit that performed the autopsy. “Had he received treatment he apparently would not have died.”
The police and state narrative in the immediate wake of the event was full of lies. The initial assumption that guided it all was that this was a “terrorist ramming attack”. Yet video evidence put together by Forensic Architecture that showed the real chain of events pointed very clearly to a police blunder, in which unwarranted shots indirectly caused the death of their own officer, and the failure to provide medical treatment eventually caused the death of al-Qia’an.
Israeli-Palestinian lawmaker Ayman Odeh, who was himself targeted by the police at the scene with rubber-coated bullets (the police also lied about that), shared Forensic Architecture’s excellent video analysis, to which the police responded with mockery:
@AyOdeh, strategic editing will not alter reality. Footage of the attack proved an intent to murder policemen. It has one name: Terror. No video clip which skews the details can change that.
Police and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan carried on with the inciting “terror” narrative for over a month, although it was clear also to the Israeli Shin Bet investigators within a couple of days, that this was no “terror” case. Haaretz last week:
The testimonies led Shin Bet investigators to an unequivocal conclusion: Police conduct on the ground and the shooting at Abu al-Kiyan and his car led to policeman Levy’s death by Abu al-Kiyan’s car crashing into him. The Shin Bet’s involvement in the case was halted within 48 hours, and the investigation was handed over to the Justice Ministry unit that investigates police.
That case was closed by the State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan two years ago – he found no wrongdoing.
Developments last week
Last Monday, Josh Breiner of Haaretz published details of the investigation including medical personnel testimonies, which were contradictory, and raised questions about the veracity of a doctor’s testimony:
“Immediately after the shooting Abu al-Kiyan (Qia’an) was left inside the car, wounded but alive. The distance between him and the medical personnel was about 10 meters. The police doctor and medics went to treat the police first. A few minutes later the doctor pronounced Levy’s death. She said she didn’t see Abu al-Kiyan but the medic who was next to her said they both saw him, and were not asked to provide him with any medical treatment.”
The statement confirms a general policy amounting to extrajudicial execution of Palestinian (or what Israelis mostly call ‘Arab’) suspects. This policy of shoot-to-kill (or leave-to-bleed) has been advocated by Israeli political and security leadership, especially following events of October 2015, where some Palestinian youths took on lone-wolf stabbing attacks, often against soldiers. When former Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström suggested that official agencies should investigate whether such a policy exists, a former Israeli educator suggested she should get the ‘Bernadotte treatment’ (assassination), writing in the pages of the Sheldon Adelson funded paper Makor Rishon.
So the doctor claimed she didn’t see al-Qia’an. The investigators were dubious, asking:
You arrive at a place where everyone is under pressure, a policeman is wounded, another is dead, you didn’t ask how he was killed?
I heard they said there was a car that ran over the officers or that they were hurt by gunfire, none of them told me there was another wounded person in the field. I only dealt with the police officers. For the duration of 50 minutes that I treated them, they didn’t mention another wounded person. Only at around 10:30 [five hours after the two killings] I heard that there is another casualty and a dead driver who ran over the cops. I didn’t see him. I’m 100 percent certain.
But the medic who was with the doctor had a different recollection:
About 15 minutes after completing the treatment of the police, I saw the attacker’s car, [with] a body that was half outside of it. I didn’t treat him nor did I see any medic approach him to treat him. From the way it looked I thought he was dead.
You see, he was assumed to be an “attacker”, and that changes everything. Indeed, the medic added:
Sad, it’s easy to talk now but in the field the signs were that it was an attack.
In other words, if it’s an “attack”, that is “terror”, then the rules change. You can’t expect medical personnel, indeed not even doctors who took the Hippocratic Oath, to treat a terrorist, and everyone knows that an Arab is a terrorist until proven otherwise.
Even the investigators didn’t believe the paramedic:
You are lying when you say you didn’t notice him. Erez’s death was pronounced five minutes after you got there, and then you went to treat another officer, but you couldn’t evacuate him and there was still someone bleeding to death, who if you would have stanched the bleeding, you would have saved his life. Your response?
Maybe. I didn’t notice him at all.
Haaretz also notes that “members of the medical team blamed senior officers in the field for not ordering them to treat Abu al-Kiyan”. As if you need to be ordered to treat a mortally wounded person. No, you need to insist on his treatment. But then again– a terrorist.
Following the Haaretz report
Following Breiner’s report in Haaretz, the human rights organizations Adalah (Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) and Doctors for Human Rights approached the Health Ministry and demanded that disciplinary steps be taken against the police doctor and against another police doctor who arrived at the scene later and did not provide al-Qia’an medical treatment. The Police Internal Investigations Unit had earlier decided not to question the Doctor under caution as a suspect in the case.
In response to their petition, Medical Professions Ombudsman Dr. Boaz Lev said:
We have gone thoroughly through the investigative materials and heard the involved doctors. We did not assess that there was substantial responsibility in the medical sense and treatment was not denied from the deceased in a deliberate way… we did not find basis for the claim that the doctors were aware that there was an injured or dead person in the area, and his death was made known to them in the aftermath.
The two human rights organizations responded:
The response constitutes a consent to behavior which is contradictory to the basic duties of medical teams in such an event. Their curious and sudden response to our petitions after publication of investigation materials, together with their lining up with the Police Investigations Unit which led to the closing of the case, raise grave concerns regarding the commitment of the Health Ministry to control of the ethical conduct of medical personnel.
Saving lives is supposed a sacred duty. But in Israel, while all citizens are supposedly equal, some are more equal than others. And an ethnically-cleansing Jewish policeman’s life is worth infinitely more than an Arab’s life, even if the Arab is being ethnically cleansed and shows no resistance. And so, the Arab is the terrorist, the ethnic-cleanser is the hero, and to hell with Hippocrates.
H/t Ofer Neiman, Edith Breslauer