Thousands of Israeli Arab protesters massed Saturday afternoon and evening along the main street of the Galilee town Kafr Kanna, protesting what they called state terror in the death of a 22-year-old local man, Kheir al-Din Hamdan, on Friday night. The mayor of the town, Majhad Awadeh, and the chairman of Hadash, MK Mohammad Barakeh, called the killing “murder in cold blood.”
A large protest rally was held in the village on Saturday to protest the shooting, and at its conclusion clashes erupted between stone-throwers and a large contingent of police stationed nearby. The High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel has announced a general strike and has called upon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. The committee has also called upon Arabs in the north of Israel to take to the streets in protest of what it described as an unlawful killing.
Mayor Majhad Awadeh and Hadash chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh participated in the protest, as did other MKs from Hadash. Speaking from Kafr Kana, MK Barakeh told reporters that such an incident would never have happened in a Jewish community in Israel. “This was an execution,” he said.
A short, edited surveillance video of the incident, which surfaced Saturday on the popular Israeli-Arab news website Panet, shows the sequence of events. In it, Hamdan is seen attacking a police van, banging on its windows. An officer gets out of the van and, as Hamdan is seen retreating, shoots him. Hamdan writhes on the ground, before police drag him into the van. He was taken to hospital where he died of his wounds.
“It’s murder in cold blood. It’s state terror that exposes the false democracy,” Mayor Awadeh said. “They treat us like residents under military rule, they treat us like enemies.” He continued: “We expect the Public Security Minister to immediately dismiss the regional police chief as well as the responsible officers from the unit which entered our village this morning. Every child and every Arab who saw this video has been hurt by it. We expect a committee of investigation to be convened and we intend to act within it to achieve legal recourse. We will not remain silent about this crime which was committed by people who are supposed to uphold the law.”
Nidal Ottman, a leading Hadash activist and lawyer who heads the Coalition Against Racism, called the killing another instance of the police’s “trigger happy attitude” towards the Arab public in Israel. With dozens of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel dead at the hands of policemen over the past 15 years, “it is high time the police change their approach towards Israel’s Arab public,” said Ottman.