230,000 sign petition for new 2000 riots probe

Israeli Arab leaders seek independent commission that would include participation of international experts.

Barakei 248 88 (photo credit: Knesset )
Barakei 248 88
(photo credit: Knesset )
Israeli Arab leaders are collecting thousands of signatures to pressure the government to establish a neutral, independent commission to investigate the deaths of 12 Israeli Arabs and a Palestinian during October 2000's riots in the Galilee. The petition is an effort to counter Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz's January decision to not indict police officers involved in the riots due to "insufficient evidence." Some 230,000 signatures have been collected so far and organizers plan to deliver the petition to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres in October, said MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash), whose party has spearheaded the effort with other Arab organizations. They will start soliciting signatures of Israeli Jews and prominent members of the international community in the coming days. "There are 13 people who were killed, who are already dead and buried. Someone has to be responsible," Barakei said. "The government and the police and the attorney-general have proven that they cannot and aren't prepared to investigate themselves." The Israeli Arab leaders are seeking an independent Israeli commission of inquiry that would include the participation of international experts and help put those responsible on trial, he said. During the October 2000 riots, police used live ammunition to disperse protesters who threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police and civilians while rallying in support of the second intifada. A Jewish motorist was killed when his car was stoned and several police officers were wounded. None of the demonstrators was found to have used guns. The Orr Commission, set up by then-prime minister Ehud Barak's government, said in 2003 there were structural deficiencies in the way security officials responded during the demonstrations. It also recommended personnel action and/or criminal investigations against a number of government and police officials. In addition, the commission found that three Arab Knesset members had incited violence at the time. Hassan Aslah, a resident of Arabe in the Western Galilee who lost his 17-year-old son Aseel in the events, said he was hopeful the new petition would lead to the prosecution of those responsible. The petition proved that the Israeli-Arab community would not accept the state's decision against indictments, he said. "For a long time, we felt alone in the battle," the supermarket owner said. Now "we feel that our people are behind us."