Analysis: A tale of two riots: October 2000 and October 2007

The Or Commission shed light on Israeli-Arab discrimination, yet the problem still exists 7 years later.

pekiin riots 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
pekiin riots 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
In the case of Peki'in, "I have the impression that the police did exactly the opposite of all the recommendations we made in the Or Commission of Inquiry report into the October 2000 riots," Tel Aviv University Professor Shimon Shamir told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. Shamir, a member of the commission, agreed to speak to the Post, but emphasized that he did not know all of the facts yet and that his impressions were based on media reports of the events in which 27 policemen and 10 residents of the Druse village were hurt. Two of the villagers were seriously injured; one of those was hit in the stomach with a live bullet. "We made clear recommendations in the report," Shamir continued. "However, the police did not follow them. For example, we wrote that when there was a tense situation inside a village, the first thing the police should do is talk with village leaders and not enter it with force. Using force is a recipe for escalating the problem rather than solving it." Furthermore, he continued, "there should be no such thing as opening fire with live ammunition against civilians. If the police feel they have to shoot to defend themselves, they should leave the village, wait for matters to calm down, and then go in." In Peki'in, the police made precisely the same mistakes they made in October 2000, Shamir continued. "They sent in a large force for no reason. By doing so, they turned a small problem into a gigantic one. The aim must be to contain the problem, not escalate it." Shamir pointed out that these mistakes had been made in the Northern District, the same region where the police made its mistakes in October 2000. "I feel very frustrated," Shamir continued. "None of our recommendations and conclusions were implemented. I had the feeling the police had learned a lesson, but now I see that they are making the same mistakes all over again. They don't try to establish a dialogue. If you have a problem with an entire village, send in a delegation, don't go in with force." The Or Commission report devoted much space to the ongoing discrimination against the Arab population and the resulting frustration it created. Seven years later, these same problems were still at work in Peki'in, said Shamir. "What happened there was an expression of the ongoing frustration and the social problems in the village, such as lack of control over the younger people. We know all the factors in the villages in the North. Given the reality, the question is what methods we should choose to handle problems that arise." Shamir added that he was certain the fact that the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department had closed the files in all 13 shooting fatalities during the October 2000 riots had influenced the events in Peki'in. The commission had recommended that the PID open investigations in all 13 cases. "In our report, we concluded that the police had been too quick to pull the trigger. I can't imagine that the fact that no policemen were charged with the October 2000 killings, even though we had clear indications of who had opened fire in some of the cases, did not influence the police in Peki'in. They know it is permissible to shoot," he said. "We had written that efforts must be made to educate the police that when they enter an Arab village, they are not entering enemy territory," he said. "The police went into Peki'in as if it were Gaza."