Mohammed Barakeh, chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, has called on the international community to intercede in internal Israeli matters to defend Arab-Palestinian citizens, as violence continues to the flare up across the country. Barakeh, a leading member of the Communist Party of Israel and former MK for Hadash, said the international community must “intervene immediately to protect the security and human rights of our community.”
“In recent days, Palestinian citizens of Israel (PCIs) have been victims of intense violence at the hands of the Israeli police and extreme right-wing Israeli citizens, vigilante groups, including settlers,” he said. “We urge you to intervene immediately to protect our community from violent attacks and human rights violations by both state and private actors, and we ask that you use all measures to compel Israel to take immediate steps to protect PCIs and to stop the violence against them.”
Call for International Intervention and a General Strike in Israel
The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, the supreme political body representing Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel on a national level, has issued the following statement published in All Arab appealing to the international community to come to the defense of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and in parallel has called for a daylong general strike today, Tuesday, May 18, by all Palestinian communities in Israel.
In recent days, Palestinian citizens of Israel (PCIs) have been victims of intense violence at the hands of the Israeli police and extreme right-wing Israeli citizens, vigilante groups, including settlers. What started as a state-sanctioned crackdown on assemblies of Palestinians in East Jerusalem – including barring Ramadan celebrations in the plaza of Damascus Gate and suppressing protests against the expulsion of Palestinians from the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah – has escalated into a further violent chain of events. Israeli forces have raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque, attacking and injuring hundreds of worshipers during Ramadan prayers; police restricted access by PCIs to Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque; soon afterward, demonstrations by PCIs against oppressive Israeli policies in East Jerusalem and in Gaza spread across Israel. The Israeli police violently suppressed and dispersed these peaceful demonstrations, injuring and arresting dozens of people in cities including Haifa, Nazareth, Jaffa, Acre and Lod. In the northern region, on May 11 alone, police reported 151 arrests of protestors, with at least 66 people brought to court to extend their detention. The brutal state-sanctioned violence against peaceful protesters only intensified the demonstrations, eventually culminating in a number of violent clashes with police forces. In parallel, tensions escalated in the Gaza Strip, with Hamas firing rockets in response to Israeli police raids on Al-Aqsa, which were met with massive Israeli airstrikes on Gaza killing over 100 people, including 27 children, over the last four days.
Palestinian citizens of Israel are an indigenous, national, homeland minority that number around 1.6 million people or 20% of the population of the state. They are a vulnerable minority that faces state discrimination and racism in all fields. The Netanyahu governments in power over the last 12 years have worked consistently and progressively to de-legitimize their citizenship rights.
Israeli Jewish vigilante groups, some of whom are settlers from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), have banded together and taken it upon themselves to attack PCIs and their property. In Lod, an armed Jewish civilian shot dead an unarmed Palestinian citizen protestor, Mousa Hassouneh, on Monday (May 10). The following day, Israeli police clashed with mourners at the funeral, resulting in a major escalation of violence in the city, and the declaration of an emergency, with a curfew enforced only on PCIs. On Wednesday (May 12), organized extreme right-wing Israeli-Jewish settler groups, including armed individuals, spread out to multiple mixed Arab-Jewish cities including Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, Lod, and Ramleh. These mobs began roaming the streets, chanting “death to Arabs,” and looking for Palestinian citizens and families to attack. Multiple documented attacks against PCIs and Palestinian-owned property have been shared on social media platforms. Israeli television broadcasted a Jewish mob mercilessly beating a Palestinian citizen in the city of Bat Yam. These attacks went unhindered by Israeli police present at the scene. Naturally, these attacks created deep anger among the Arab youth that led to some individual cases of attacks on Jewish Israelis and their property. Unlike the incitement by Israeli government officials, Arab leaders called to immediately halt these attacks, which do not represent the community’s popular struggle.
Complicity of Israeli Police & Incitement by Politicians
Videos shared on social media platforms and broadcast on television show incidents in which Israeli police appear to have given backing to the Jewish mobs, including armed civilians, as they roam the streets with the clear goal of attacking PCIs. Israeli politicians have further fueled vigilantism by baselessly referring to Mousa Hassouneh’s murderer as having “apparently” acted in self-defense, without offering any evidence. Moreover, the Minister of Public Security, Amir Ohana, stated that, “The arrest of the shooter in Lod and his friends, who apparently acted in self-defense, is terrible. Law-abiding citizens carrying weapons multiply the power in the hands of the authorities, for the immediate neutralization of threat and danger.” Ohana went on to suggest that the shooter should not have been arrested in the first place. As mass organized violence against PCIs has spread across the country, police officers failed to protect them. In fact, in multiple cases police forces were seen accompanying Jewish Israeli mobs, while violently suppressing local Palestinian initiatives to protect their otherwise defenseless communities, as happened in the Wadi al-Nisnas neighborhood of Haifa on Wednesday (May 12). On May 13, numerous Jewish Israeli vigilante and settler groups issued notices on social media with times and locations for gatherings in ethnically mixed cities, and called on participants to bring their weapons in order to attack Arabs. The law enforcement authorities are well-aware of these groups.
Appeal: Defend the Safety & Human Rights of the Palestinian Community in Israel
These current events constitute the worst case in memory of Jewish-Arab violence in Israel. The Palestinian citizens, collectively, are afraid for their lives. This fear is intensified as the bodies that should be affording protection and enforcing the law, appear to be shielding the Jewish Israeli vigilante and settler groups. Based on the above, and given that the Israeli law enforcement authorities have failed to effectively protect Palestinian citizens from mob violence at the hands of Jewish Israeli citizens, we, the representatives of Arab citizens of Israel, call on the international community to intervene immediately to protect our community from violent attacks and human rights violations by both state and private actors. We ask that you use all measures to compel Israel to take immediate steps to protect PCIs and to stop the violence against them.