Several hundred Jewish and Arab Israelis protested in Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Jerusalem on Wednesday evening following bloody clashes earlier in the day ahead of house demolitions in Umm al-Hiran in the Negev.
Police officer Erez Levi and Beduin resident Yacoub Abu al-Kiyan were killed in the incident. Police said they shot the latter after he intentionally rammed his car into security personnel, but residents of the village have denied that it was an attack, contending that the man lost control of his vehicle after being shot by police.
Incensed both by the court-ordered demolitions of the illegally built homes, as well as by the police’s version of events which was swiftly adopted by the media, demonstrators assembled under the heading “Emergency protest: Stop killing civilians, stop demolishing homes, stop the demolition of Umm al-Hiran.”
The demonstrations were organized by peace and civil rights groups including Standing Together, the Negev Coexistence and Civil Equality Forum, the Coalition of Women for Peace and the Recognition Forum, alongside the Joint List, Meretz and Hadash.
In Tel Aviv, MK Dov Henin (Joint List) and MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) addressed the crowd.
In Jaffa, a protest was put on by a group called the Clock Tower Activists.
The protesters called for a comprehensive and impartial investigation of the circumstances that led to the deaths of Abu Kiyan and Levi. The groups also called upon the media “not to repeat uncritically the highly tendentious and inflammatory accounts disseminated by police and government spokesmen – which are contrary to the eyewitness testimonies of Jews and Arabs present on the scene.”
Dr. Yeela Raanan of the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages was at the scene on Wednesday morning from before the police arrived. “They came with a will to harm,” she told The Jerusalem Post, still feeling the effects of the pepper gas that was sprayed at her.
Abu Kiyan was not a terrorist, but ran over police after they had already killed him, Raanan said. “I know this man... he is a gentleman, gentle and smart.”
Describing “horrible” scenes of the demolition of houses that morning, she accused the government of acting against its own citizens and the Hebrew media of incorrectly calling a man killed on his way to work, a terrorist. “I don’t understand why the media repeated these lies,” Raanan said. “I am so full of pain from what they are doing in Umm al-Hiran and for the feelings of my friends who are told they are not good enough to stay there.”
Activist Moran (family name withheld) told the Post she was furious. “The government and police came to destroy homes at sunrise, even before it was light, and there were a lot of personnel and they were very aggressive and violent,” Moran said. Though she wasn’t present at the fatal incident, she said she has been at similar events and has no doubt that the police are lying. “Things got out of control and two people died... and then they blamed the local people for their own mess that they, the police, caused and the Israeli Jewish public just gets a blink of it from the police spokesperson,” she said, saying that the public was quick to call the incident a terrorist attack.
“The public buys their lies. I am sure the police is lying. I have been in a lot of situations like this and I know they are using their force in a harmful way and I know they are deceiving the public,” she said. “They are demolishing homes of Arab citizens of Israel without any interference.
“They don’t destroy Jewish houses – even the Amona [outpost in Samaria] is still under negotiation,” she said. “We want to reach the Israeli public and to say we don’t accept this.
We are Israeli, Jews and Arabs, and we will not stay at home. We will raise our voice.”
Nadav Bigelman, an activist with Standing Together, said, “We are here to say that Jews and Arabs are standing together and are against the violence and against the demolitions, and that we have a responsibility to build a proper and good country for all of us.”