'Racist incidents on the rise in Israel'

Report by Arab advocacy group Mossawa says attacks on Israel Arab citizens up 10-fold in past year.

Jerusalem Arabs 248.88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jerusalem Arabs 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
There was a dramatic rise in the number of "racist acts" by Jews against Arabs in Israel as well as a lesser but still significant rise in racism against Jews by all sectors this past year compared to the previous year, according to a report by the Haifa-based Mossawa-The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel. There were 70 attacks on Arabs or Arab property by Jewish citizens from March 2008 to March 2009, a 10-fold increase from the previous year, according to the 2009 Mossawa racism report that was based on field research and police reports. Most of the attacks resulted in damage to persons and/or property, it said. The latest report includes the October 2008 riots in Acre, where several Arab homes were attacked or burned. About 80 people in 15 cases were forced to leave their homes as a result of the attacks, including some who still had not returned as of March, the report said. "We want people to know that racism is getting worse. It's not just against Arab citizens; it's against the whole community. We have racism against Jews, Russians and Ethiopians," said Hanan Yousef, the organization's media coordinator. The report, released last month, documented physical attacks and what it described as incitement and discriminatory laws and practices in the private and public sectors. Most of the victims were Arab citizens, it said. "The war in Gaza earlier this year, and the national elections in February 2009 were the main fuel for the current increase in the incitement against Arab citizens," Mossawa said in a statement. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in his first speech in his new position, on March 31, that he was committed to the Declaration of Independence "as a whole, including the promise for complete equality between all the citizens of the state, regardless of religion, race or gender. Our concern will be for all the citizens of Israel: Jews, Arabs, Druse, Muslims, Christians and Circassians." To Arab citizens, Netanyahu said, "You will find me a loyal partner in your integration into Israel's society and economy. I believe in this aim, and I will act in this direction." The prime minister has also announced the establishment of a subcommittee to deal with minority issues, a spokesman said on Monday, and has appointed a minister for minority affairs, Avishay Braverman. Mossawa also documented 17 cases of Arab citizens who have been attacked or injured by police or security forces while using racial slurs against them, an increase of 300 percent from 2008, the report stated. Some of the most severe cases led to the opening of investigations by the Police Investigations Department in the Justice Ministry. The report cited the July 2008 death of a 26-year-old Negev Beduin, Sabry al-Jarjawi, who was beaten, along with a friend, by two plainclothes police officers after they found them in a vehicle near the Ashkelon coast and suspected them of drug possession. The policemen said they were physically assaulted by one of the two men, a claim Jarjawi's friend disputes. After he was beaten, Jarjawi fell into a coma and died a month later. The police file was closed based on the assertion that there was a lack of evidence to convict the officers, the report said. Forty-two Arab Israelis have been killed by police from 2000 to 2008. In only one incident, a police officer was convicted for killing an Arab citizen. "We believe that it is the duty of citizens and civic institutions to push the authorities to work by all means available to them, including increasing awareness, education and the judiciary to begin to root out this phenomenon," the report states. During Operation Cast Lead, "an increase was recorded in the frequency of police violence and number of detentions." The police reported that 700 Arab citizens were arrested during the month of the Gaza war, with only a small number of them being issued indictments. In addition, Mossawa recorded a 150% rise in racist acts (from 6 to 14) against Jews perpetrated by all sectors from March 2008 to March 2009 compared to the previous year, directed largely at Ethiopian and Russian immigrants. For example, two Ethiopian men were severely beaten by three persons, including the director of the insurance company Delta, as they left a night club. The perpetrators reportedly said, "We hate blacks like you." Three young Ethiopians who tried to rent an apartment in the Dan region were told "that we don't rent our homes to people of Ethiopian ethnicity," it said.