The Arab-Palestinian national minority in Israel marked, on Saturday October 4, the 21st anniversary of the October 2000 protests in which 13 young Arabs were killed by Israeli police.
The protests in Arab cities and towns in northern Israel broke out days after then-defense minister Ariel Sharon’s entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem accompanied by hundreds of Israeli security personnel, a deliberate provocation which sparked the Second Intifada. During the demonstrations in the north of the country, 13 Arab youths – 12 citizens of Israel and one Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who joined one of the protests – were fatally gunned down by police, with scores being wounded.
The week of violent confrontations in October 2000 between the police and Arab masses was investigated by the Or Commission which found in its September 2003 report that Arab citizens suffer systemic discrimination in Israel. The commission leveled criticism at the government for failing to give fair and equal attention to the needs of Arab citizens of Israel and claimed that frustration with this discrimination had led to the outpouring of frustration in the October 2000 demonstrations.
Last Saturday’s ceremonies commenced at cemeteries in which the victims of the police violence are buried, and were followed in the afternoon by a march in the city of Sakhnin, participants of which included mayors of Arab cities and towns, representatives of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, and other political leaders. Among those attending was Joint List MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash) who commented via Twitter that “The Israel Police continue to see Arab citizens as enemies… we will not allow the Police to engage in political repression instead of protecting human lives.”
Empty Plans that Lead to No Change
Saturday’s demonstration also represented the latest call for lives devoid of crime for Israel’s Arab citizens, after this year’s 100th murder victim from the community was attacked in crime-related violence on Friday night, October 1. Maharan Mougrabi, 40, was run down by a vehicle and then mortally shot in Haifa late on Friday, dying of his wounds on Saturday at the Rambam Medical Center in the northern city. “100 Arab citizens have been murdered since the beginning of the year; 100 victims of unchecked raging crime,” Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) wrote on Twitter. “For the past few months, we have been hearing about plans, preparations and operations conducted by the police. If so, why is this the bloodiest year in recent memory? We have no patience for more plans and declarations – We demand immediate action to save lives,” she wrote.
The chairman of the High Follow-Up Committee, former Hadash MK, Mohammad Barakeh, said in an interview that anyone who has been following developments since October 2000 would see that since then violence and criminality in the Arab community have taken on “monstrous proportions.” “The government just talks about empty plans that don’t lead to any change on the ground,” Barakeh alleged.