Seeds of Peace alumni rally for October riots victims

Demonstration was signal to Arab community of Israel that Jews just as outraged by Mazuz's decision, one protester said.

october 2000 riots 88 (photo credit: )
october 2000 riots 88
(photo credit: )
Some 40 people demonstrated in front of the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem on Tuesday, demanding that it reopen the investigation into the October 2000 riots, in which 13 Israeli-Arab civilians were killed by police. The protest was organized by graduates of the Seeds of Peace movement, which lost one of its members, Asil Asala, in the riots. According to eyewitnesses, Asala, who did not participate in the clashes, had been wearing the movement's T-shirt when he was chased by police and shot. He was 17 at the time. Noa Epstein, a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem - as well as a member of the youth movement during Asala's year - said the demonstration was a signal to the Arab community of Israel that Jews were just as outraged by Mazuz's decision. "It is unthinkable that you have 13 people in their graves, 13 Israeli citizens shot by Israeli police, and no one is held responsible," Epstein said. The demonstrators also sent letters to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, writing that if the victims of the shooting had been Jews, the investigation would not have been closed. "We are losing the moral ground to claim Israel is a democracy," they wrote. "We ask the prime minister and the attorney-general, how do you intend to deal with the mounting frustration in the Arab sector? Can't you see that it's tearing the country apart?" Epstein said. She said they had many questions about the investigation of the deaths. "The officer who most probably shot Asil refused to undergo a polygraph test, so they just let him go," she said. "We realize that there are many more problems in the investigation, such as the refusal of the families to have the bodies exhumed, but we believe that much more can still be done." Mazuz made the decision last week to close the investigation against the policemen involved. "The incident involved the use of operational judgment in an emergency situation," Mazuz wrote in his ruling. He also said forensic evidence was legally insufficient to press charges. Critics pointed out that the criminal investigation had started only after the commission of inquiry submitted its findings - two years after the events.