(November 3, 2020 / JNS) The case of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr., fatally shot by two police officers in Philadelphia on Oct. 26, is the latest in a long line of controversial killings in the United States committed by “men and women in blue” against African-American suspects. This incident, like previous ones, sparked violent protests and the looting of shops for miles around.
The rioting got so bad that the Pennsylvania National Guard was called in, and a curfew was imposed on the city.
Though the investigation into Wallace’s death is ongoing—and the officers’ body-cam footage is being examined—the automatic assumption on the part of liberals of all skin colors was that Wallace was a victim of the systemic racism in the country in general and among police in particular. But the details that have emerged tell a different story, albeit a tragic one.
Wallace, according to his grieving family, suffered from a mental illness for which he was taking medication, and on the afternoon that he was killed, he was in midst of an acute episode. Admirably, his parents tried to discourage riots on their son’s behalf.
Their main complaint was that the police officers, who were on the scene responding to a call about a man assaulting an elderly woman, were armed with guns, but not equipped with less-deadly tasers. That his mother and father feel this way is understandable.
But the fact is that Wallace was out of control and waving a knife, which the officers repeatedly told him to drop. Nevertheless, as protocol and ethics require, they were put on desk duty for the duration of the investigation. If their actions are determined to have been out of line, they will be forced to bear the consequences.
Since May 25, when African-American George Floyd was suffocated by a sadistic Minneapolis police officer, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been exploiting what are often complex confrontations between police and perpetrators to further a political agenda. Many members and followers of the movement are so radical that they take offense at the mere suggestion that “all lives matter.”
Like their fellow leftists of all identities, they also engage in intersectionality, attracting other groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), whose raison d’être is victimhood. It’s a good opportunity for all concerned to bash Israel, while fighting for other forms of so-called justice.
This is how the lie about the pernicious influence of the Israeli military on American law enforcement was concocted. Though it’s true that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, U.S. police and first-responders have participated in joint training exercises with their Israeli counterparts, BLM and SJP claim that police brutality in America is the fault of the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police.
That this utter falsehood is believed by anti-Israel journalists and activists is not surprising. But in the wake of the countrywide and global George Floyd protests, even the city council of Durham, N.C., voted to ban the IDF from training its police force.
This is both shocking and ludicrous. The IDF’s “Purity of Arms” code states that “the soldier shall make use of his weaponry and power only for the fulfillment of the mission and solely to the extent required; he will maintain his humanity even in combat … [and] shall not employ his weaponry and power in order to harm non-combatants or prisoners of war, and shall do all he can to avoid harming their lives, body, honor and property.”
If this were merely a dusty document, it could be dismissed. But it is applied so stringently that it has endangered the lives of IDF and police officers erring on the side of caution.
A perfect example comes to mind that is relevant to the story of Wallace, yet with a different ending. On Oct. 20, 1990, a Palestinian laborer went on a stabbing spree in the Jerusalem neighborhood where he had been working as a handyman for Jewish families he came to know well. With a 15-inch knife in his hand, he first slashed to death an 18-year-old female soldier heading to the bus stop near her home to return to her base.
Shouting Allahu Akbar, he proceeded to murder another passerby and wound a 13-year-old boy on his way to school. At that moment, Charlie Shlush, an off-duty member of the Israel Police’s counterterrorism unit, had just left his house with his pregnant wife in tow. Hearing the screams of the victims, Shlush drew his gun and ran towards their attacker, ordering him to halt. When the assailant did not comply, Shlush fired a warning shot into the air.
When this did not prevent the killer from continuing to charge, Shlush then shot him in the leg. When that didn’t stop his rampage, Shlush shot him in the other leg, and he fell to the ground.
Believing the terrorist to be “neutralized” and the danger to have passed, Shlush approached to arrest him. But the “subdued” stabber had another knife, which he had kept hidden. It was with this weapon that he murdered Shlush, leaving his widow to give birth before the shivah, the Jewish week of mourning, was over.
There is no way of knowing what would have happened last week in Philadelphia if the two police officers under investigation hadn’t killed Wallace. Perhaps they would have met the same fate as Shlush and other Israelis following rules that frequently conflict with real-time circumstances.
A police force, like the society in which it operates, cannot be judged by the fact that it has bad seeds in its ranks, but rather by the degree to which it tolerates them. Contrary to the propaganda promulgated by BLM and those whom it dupes, the United States is not systemically racist. Nor are most of its “men and women in blue,” many of whom are black, deserving of scorn for drawing their weapons. Doing so is part of their thankless and risk-filled job.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”
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