'Police trigger-happy at Arabs'

Mossawa Advocacy Center says cops need to stop seeing Arabs as the enemy.

The family of Baka al-Gharbiya resident Mahmoud Ghanem joined with the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in accusing Israel Police of having a "jumpy trigger finger" after Ghanem was shot to death by a police officer on Monday. Police initially reported that Ghanem, 24, aroused the suspicion of officers attempting to prevent car thefts in Pardess Hanna's Dekalim neighborhood. According to officers on the scene, Ghanem tried to run over one of them. Police said that in response, the officer shot Ghanem in his upper body, killing him. Ghanem's family said Mahmoud had gone with friends to Pardess Hanna to enjoy a night out, and added that the vehicle in which he was driving had been purchased from a Hadera car dealership two weeks ago. According to the family's attorney, ownership of the car had not yet been transferred under Ghanem's name. The shooting was immediately referred to the Justice Ministry's Police Investigative Department (PID). Due to the ongoing investigation, police could not comment further on the incident. Mossawa Center spokeswoman Abir Kopty said following the shooting that "police officers need to get away from the perception of Arabs as the enemy, which allows them to have a light trigger finger during any contact with Arabs." In the past 12 months, two other Arabs have been shot and killed by police under allegedly questionable circumstances. In November, Samir Rivhi Da'ari of Isawiya was shot by a policeman who also claimed that Da'ari attempted to run him over after police suspected him of stealing a car. Following that incident, Justice Ministry spokesman Ya'acov Galanti said there was "grave suspicion" that the shooting, which spurred a night of rioting, was wrongful, adding that if this proved true, the border policeman involved would be indicted. An autopsy carried out at the L. Greenberg Forensics Institute at Abu Kabir determined that Da'ari was shot in the back, with the bullet exiting his body through his heart, raising questions about the police version of events, officials said. Less than two months later, Nadim Milhem, 28, was shot and killed in his house in Wadi al-Kassab in the Arara region. Police said he was shot after he pulled a stolen hand gun on officers during a search of his house. But Milhelm's relatives claimed they saw him sleeping in the house, and that police kicked and beat Milhelm to wake him, shot him at point-blank range and then delayed his medical treatment. Then-internal security minister Gideon Ezra promised that the PID would also investigate that incident. According to the Mossawa Center, 33 Arabs have been killed under questionable circumstances by security forces since 2000, including the 13 killed during the October 2000 riots.