Several thousand people marched in Sakhnin on Monday to protest the failure of the state to prosecute anyone for the death of 12 Israeli Arabs – and one Palestinian – 12 years ago.

The march was held on the 12th anniversary of the riots that broke out in Arab cities and towns across the north in October 2000, as an outgrowth of the start of the second intifada.

The protesters carried Palestinian flags and black banners of mourning, as well as posters that read: “The blood of the martyrs is dear to us” and “We shall not forgive the killers.” Hundreds of Arab students stayed home from school on Monday to attend the march.

“If the government fails to do justice – we shall. If it fails to punish the criminals – we shall,” MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta’al) told the crowd. “We shall not forgive and forget. The Arab public holds the Israeli government accountable and demands an apology by the prime minister and the prosecution of the murderers.

“The killing of 13 Arab citizens who came out to protest and were shot only because of their national identity will remain a blemish on the face of the Israeli government as long as the murderers go unpunished,” Sanaa said.

Commemoration ceremonies were held in various cemeteries in the communities where the 13 were killed. But unlike in previous years, the Monitoring Committee of the Israeli Arab Leadership did not call a strike, angering the family and friends of some victims.

In one village in the North, Arrabe, protesters locked up the cemetery’s gates to prevent members of the committee from visiting the grave of Asel Asleh, a 17-year-old student who was killed when police used lived ammunition against protesters.

Many Israeli Arabs charge that Israeli police would never have fired on a crowd of Jewish protesters. There is widespread disappointment that none of the security forces involved in the shootings, which occurred over several days, were prosecuted.

The Or Commission report, which was established to investigate the events of October 2000, found a pattern of government “prejudice and neglect” toward Israeli Arabs leading up to the explosion of violence, and was critical of the police’s use of excessive force to quell the riots.

Other protests were held in several major cities and villages on Monday, including Nazareth, Kafr Kana, Umm el-Fahm and Rahat.

The newspaper Al-Ittihad, in conjunction with the communist party al–Jabha, said on its website that the protests were particularly important given the “mounting fascism and racism in the official Israeli establishment and among the general population.”

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