FRIENDS AND RELATIVES carry the body of Yacoub Abu al-Kiyan during his funeral in the Beduin village of Umm al-Hiran..
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
The Justice Ministry’s unit that investigates alleged police wrongdoing will soon publish its findings about last month’s tragic incident in Umm al-Hiram.
The findings will refute the initial false claim, made an hour after the incident by the police commissioner, Roni Alsheich, and the public security minister, Gilad Erdan, that it was a terrorist attack.
The findings will expose three worrying Israeli tendencies: the police’s hypocritical double standard treatment of Israeli Arabs versus Israeli Jews; the culture of lies embodied in the police force; and the practice of Israeli politicians to portray almost any violent incident involving Israeli Arabs – be it a demonstration or a civil protest – as a “terrorist act.”
During an extensive police operation in the middle of the night in the Beduin village in the Negev Desert to demolish illegal homes on January 18, policemen killed a local teacher, Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean, who was driving his car. As a result of the shooting a police officer, Erez Amadi Levi, was killed when Abu al-Kaeean’s car crashed into a group of policemen. Despite the initial claim that by Alsheich and Erdan that Abu al-Kaeean was suspected of supporting ISIS and intentionally tried to kill members of the police force, it seems that after being shot he lost control of his vehicle.
Unlike in other Western democracies, where politicians respect the judiciary and police due processes and refrain from comments before inquiries are completed, Israeli politicians, mainly from the Right, violate all basic principles and rush to conclusions that suit their ideology. Instead of holding their tongues, they land themselves in embarrassing situations; nevertheless, they rarely apologize.
But the more fundamental issue is the reality in which Israel has a police force that treats people from different sectors differently. A few weeks before the Umm al-Hiram incident, the police were sent to demolish houses in Amona, an illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank. They arrived in daylight, carried no weapons, and were instructed to be sensitive and considerate. This showed that if the police really want perform their duties as expected in a democratic state, they can. This kind of a police double standard is not confined to the treatment of Arabs.
The police have shown that when it comes to other weak and less privileged Jewish minority groups, such as Ethiopian Jews or the ultra-Orthodox, they arrive at the scene with an aggressive attitude.
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All these could be understood though not justified if at least the police had been drawing lessons from past events. But they don’t. In 2000, the police used excessive force to disperse Arab protesters who blocked the main road of Wadi Ara. The incidents resulted in the death of 12 Israeli Arab protesters and a Palestinian, shot by policemen using live ammunition. Following the tragic events, a governmental commission of inquiry recommended that the police change its approach.
Seventeen years later, it seems that the lessons were not drawn. It was said about the House of Bourbon that they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
The same holds true for the Israeli police and government when it comes to the Arab minority.
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