Arabs fuming day after general strike held over Rahat deaths

“There is a feeling that any officer can do what he wants to Arab residents,” the head of the Mossawa Center said.

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January 21, 2015 22:13
1 minute read.
Israeli policemen detain an Arab youth during clashes in the southern town of Rahat

Israeli policemen detain an Arab youth during clashes in the southern town of Rahat. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Arab citizens were still seething on Wednesday, a day after a general strike and violent protests over the death of two Arab men in incidents involving police.

“There is a feeling that any officer can do what he wants to Arab residents,” Jafar Farah, the director of Mossawa – The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview.

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Farah accused the Jewish public of displaying “a lack of solidarity,” claiming that if officers killed two Jewish citizens – “something that you never hear of” – there would be strong pressure for action against the police.

These kinds of events create more violence and conflict, deepening “the growing tensions between Arabs and state institutions,” he said.

Every few months there is an episode with the police where an Arab is killed or injured, Farah said.

Officers shot and killed Sami al-Jaar, 20, during a drug raid in the Beduin city of Rahat, north of Beersheba, on Thursday, triggering protests.

“Police were in danger and they opened fire,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

At Jaar’s funeral on Sunday, Sami Zayadna, 45, died as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets toward thousands of angry mourners. Police said he had a heart attack. Locals said Zayadna died of gas inhalation and hailed him as a “martyr.” The results of an autopsy are expected soon.

Police deny any excessive use of force in dealing with Arabs and point to the diversity in Israeli society, where Arabic is an official language and an Arab serves on the Supreme Court.

Amir Abo Kwedr, a Beduin activist, told the Post that police violence against Arabs is a continuing reality.

“There is a pattern. When talking about Arab citizens, the police have their finger on the trigger,” he said.

Bedouin citizens are discriminated against in Israel and have the worst economic situation, Kwedr said.

“Pressure is increasing” and “anger and tensions are high and any small incident can make things explode,” he added.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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