Al Haj Suleiman al-Hathaleen was a shepherd in the West Bank and a well-known anti-occupation activist. Suleiman was a small man with no weapons. He resisted the occupation through civil disobedience. While Israeli bulldozers destroyed the homes in his neighborhood, he stood in peaceful defiance with a Palestinian flag and his shepherd’s staff. Ali Velshi met Haj Suleiman on his last trip to Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank at the end of 2019.
Two weeks ago, Israeli forces entered Haj Suleiman’s village of Umm Al-Khair and began confiscating unregistered Palestinian cars. Haj Suleiman did what he had done for decades: he peacefully resisted. Then he was run over by a tow truck, under contract to the Israeli police. Witnesses say the tow truck driver and their police escort simply fled the rural village. They did not render aid to Haj Suleiman. They did not even call for an ambulance. Al Haj Suleiman al-Hathaleen never emerged from his coma, and died of his injuries this week.
Suleiman was a man with little to his name, except for his land, his village, and his ability to stand up to an illegal occupation. This small man with just his words and his staff, was a thorn in the side of the Israeli occupation, because he had become a symbol of the resistance, and an emblem of the Israeli occupation.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Subsequent to their initial statement about the incident, Israeli Police released a second statement that counters what eyewitnesses reported. Here is the second statement in full:
“During enforcement activity against mashtuba (unregistered) vehicles, carried out by police forces together with a tow truck in the service of the police, near the village of Umm Daraj, a violent disturbance by rioters who are local residents broke out against the forces.
The movement of the tow truck and of the police vehicle was blocked, and stones were thrown at the police officer and at the tow truck driver in a way that endangered the force.
In response, an IDF fighter who was posted in the police vehicle fired into the air. As the forces moved to leave while stones were being thrown at them, one of the rioters jumped on the tow truck, fell to the ground and was hurt. In the situation that was created, in which a militant mob concretely tried to harm the force in question, it was impossible to stop and assist the injured person.
The Israel Police and the IDF take a very grave view of this attempt to harm the security forces and hamper routine activity, and will act with determination to impose governance.”