Arabs Alienated (Extract)

Extract from an article in Issue 22, February 18, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. 'Arabs are being treated as if we were enemies of the State' Attorney Ali Haider, co-executive director of Sikkuy, the Association for Advancing Civic Equality in Israel, warns about increasing rage and alienation among Israel's Arabs In late January, Attorney General Menahem Mazuz announced that no police officers were to be indicted in connection with the killing of 12 Israeli Arabs and a Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip, during the violent events of October 2000 in Israel's northern Galilee region. The ruling, which was largely expected, followed a decision by the Justice Ministry's Police Inves- tigations Department, published in September 2005, to close the case due to lack of evidence supporting criminal charges against any of the officers involved. In his official announcement, Mazuz noted that, in addition to evidentiary problems that stem from the long period of time that has passed since the incident, "we had to take into consideration the fact that the incident involved on-the-spot judgment in an emergency situation, under circumstances that don't justify casting criminal blame." The decision was immediately denounced by Arab and Jewish individuals and organizations. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel argued that Mazuz's decision was based on criteria that are appropriate for responding to an enemy entity and that the perception of Arab citizens as enemies is "inadmissable." Hassan Asel, whose 17-year-old son was shot, told the Israeli press that the decision was "to kill my son all over again." Attorney Haider says that the attorney general's decision is a "disaster for long-term relationships between the Arab sector and the State of Israel." The Jerusalem Report: Who should bear responsibility for the deaths of the Arab citizens? Ali Haider: The government of Israel bears full responsibility for these deaths, because it was the government that sent the police. And it is that same government, through its Attorney General, that now says that no one - not even the policemen who pulled the trigger - should bear any responsibility for anything that happened. But don't the Arab leaders bear some responsibility, too, because they helped to incite the riots? These were not riots - they were demonstrations. In a democracy, citizens are allowed and even have a responsibility to demonstrate when they believe something is wrong. It was the police who turned these into riots, when they opened fire. The State of Israel does not seem to believe that its Arab citizens have the right to demonstrate. The Orr Commission [the official commission of inquiry established by the government to investigate the events of October 2000] called on the government to initiate projects to further equality within the Arab community; it called on the political leaders and cabinet ministers who were responsible to leave office; and it called on the Police Investigations Department to investigate these deaths and bring the guilty parties to justice. The government has not implemented any of these recommendations. It is not only shirking responsibility and denying the rights of its Arab citizens, the government is ignoring the recommendations of the commission that it appointed. Extract from an article in Issue 22, February 18, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.