Several Members of Knesset arrived in the Israeli-Arab city of Sakhnin on Saturday afternoon to join an event commemorating the “martyrs” of the October 2000 riots, in which 12 Israeli-Arab civilians were killed by police forces across Israel.
The riots were a series of protests in Arab cities and towns in northern Israel that broke out days after then-defense minister Ariel Sharon’s ascent to the Temple Mount and the outbreak of the Second Intifada. The protests quickly escalated into rioting by Israeli Arabs throughout the country and counter-rioting by Israeli Jews. During the riots, 13 Arabs – 12 Israeli-Arabs and one Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who had been demonstrating in Israel – were killed by the police.
The demonstration, organized by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Affairs, also called for lives devoid of crime for Israel’s Arab citizens, as the 100th person from the Israeli-Arab community was killed for crime-related reasons on Friday night.
Deputy Knesset Speaker and Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi stated on Saturday morning that six Joint List MKs would be participating in the event marking 21 years since the riots.
“The demonstration will take place in the shadow of the 100 people murdered this year [in the Arab sector] and the more than 1,600 killed since October 2000,” his statement read.
Joining him was MK Ofer Cassif of the Joint List’s Hadash faction, who commented on the event via Twitter, saying that “the Israel Police continue to see Arab citizens as enemies... we will not allow the Police to engage in political repression instead of protecting human lives.”
היום נציין בסח'נין 21 שנים לאירועי אוקטובר, 21 שנים בהם הלקח לא נלמד.משטרת ישראל ממשיכה לראות באזרחים הערבים אויבים בניגוד מוחלט לעקרונות הדמוקרטיה ואף למסקנות ועדת אור. לא נאפשר למשטרה לעסוק בדיכוי פוליטי במקום בהגנה על חיי אדם.#חיי_ערבים_חשובים— Ofer Cassif עופר כסיף (@ofercass) October 2, 2021
The Ra’am Party announced on Thursday that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had canceled a visit to Umm el-Fahm, which he had scheduled for Friday, at the party’s request due to a planned commemoration of the “martyrs” of the October 2000 riots.
“Tomorrow, Friday, is memorial day to the Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque riots,” Ra’am said in a statement in Arabic, referring to October 2000.
“This is a very important national event in the history of the Arab community and Umm el-Fahm,” the party announced. “In order to respect this important memory and the memory of the martyrs, and in order to concentrate efforts in a proper manner – both in coping with the coronavirus that has spread lately in the Arab community, and in order to uphold the national events that are important to us, while maintaining national unity, and in a proper manner to our nation and to the city of Umm el-Fahm – Ra’am requested that PM Bennett’s visit tomorrow be postponed. The request was approved and the visit was postponed to another date.”
The visit had originally been planned at Umm el-Fahms’ Clalit Health Services branch in order to promote vaccinations, as the Israeli-Arab community has the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
Bennett’s spokesperson Matan Sidi was quick to issue a clarification.
“The visit was canceled due to expected demonstrations and security arrangements,” he said. “This is the reason, and this alone.”
Ra’am head Mansour Abbas then posted a clarification of his own.
“The Prime Minister’s visit to Umm el-Fahm that was scheduled for tomorrow and was postponed was meant to promote vaccines in the Arab community,” Abbas said.
“The prime minister postponed his visit after it became clear that this goal would not be achieved. Any attempt to link the prime minister’s considerations to other factors is unfounded and inappropriate in my view. The message that Ra’am sent out about the visit’s postponement expressed its view only,” he said.
The Likud denounced the decision.
“There is no humiliation that Bennett will not endure for his political survival which is dependent on Mansour Abbas,” the party said. “To cancel a visit due to ‘commemoration of the martyrs’ is a disgrace that will go down in history.”