Palestinian protesters 311.
(photo credit: AP)
TEN YEARS AGO, IN OCTOBER 2000, ISRAELI JEWISH society was stunned as Arab Israeli citizens rioted for five days across northern Israel. Giving vent to tensions that had been escalating in the wake of the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada and expressing long-simmering resentment, the demonstrations revealed the depth of Arab citizens’ support for the Palestinians living over the Green Line and their disillusionment with Israeli society.
As rioters attacked symbols of state sovereignty, blocked major roads and torched forests, police forces responded with snipers and tactical forces, killing 12 Arab citizens and one Palestinian from the Gaza Strip; one Jewish citizen was killed by rocks thrown on the coastal road, presumably by rioting Arabs.
Most Arabs perceived the riots as civil disturbances and the decision by the police to use lethal ammunition against the protesters left them feeling even more enraged and alienated from the Israeli political system and society, while many Jews were left feeling frightened and betrayed by the violence.
After initially stonewalling, the government, headed by then-prime minister Ehud Barak (Labor) established the Orr Commission to investigate these events. In September 2003, the Orr Commission released its findings, in which it criticized the police for the use of excessive force and determined that Arab citizens suffer discrimination. The commission criticized successive governments for failing to treat Arab citizens fairly and equally and offered a series of recommendations to correct the injustices that were, the commission found, at the root of the riots.
To date, almost none of the recommendations of the Orr Commission have been implemented.
“The writing was on the wall then, and is still on the wall now,” warns Prof. Elie Rekhess, professor of history and the Visiting Crown Chair in Middle East Studies at Northwestern University, and one of the leading experts on the Arabs in Israel. “With all due respect to Hamas and Iran, the relationship with the Arab minority in Israel is the real existential problem facing the State of Israel in the years to come.”The Jerusalem Report: How did the events of October 2000 impact on Israeli society?