Whose responsibility?

Arabs riot in Umm el-Fahm, October 2000

Arabs riot in Umm el-Fahm, October 2000

News item:

The State of Israel has agreed to compensate seven families of the October 2000 riots fatalities.

According to an agreement reached Wednesday between the Northern District Attorney’s Office and relatives of seven out of the 13 Arabs killed in the riots, the state will pay each bereaved family NIS 1,100,000 [about $298,000]. The deal requires a court’s approval, and according to Army Radio, nullifies any future legal claims the families might have against Israel.

During the 10 days of riots, the 13 men were shot and killed by police and other security forces at various locations in the Galilee, and a Jewish motorist was killed in a crash after his car was stoned on the coastal road near Jisr e- Zarka.

At the beginning of 2008, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz announced that no police officers would be indicted in connection with the killing of the men during the riots. The largely expected ruling, which was decried by Israeli Arabs, followed a decision by the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department in September 2005 to close the case due to lack of evidence.

The riots at the start of the Second Intifada sparked renewed concerns among Jews that the country’s 1.4 million Arab citizens were a fifth column. In September 2003, the Or Judicial Commission of Inquiry found that both the government and the police, taken by surprise by the rioting of Israeli citizens, failed to handle the situation properly.

The police, who were heavily outnumbered, later said they had not had enough nonlethal crowd dispersal gear.

The about 800-page Or report was highly critical of the police, and most likely some policemen would have been indicted if it had been possible to connect particular officers with the shootings.

In all-too-typical fashion, the report included a mea culpa:

The establishment did not show sufficient sensitivity to the needs of the Arab population, and did not take enough action in order to allocate state resources in an equal manner… The state did not do enough or try hard enough to create equality for its Arab citizens or to uproot discriminatory or unjust phenomena. Meanwhile, not enough was done to enforce the law in the Arab sector, and the illegal and undesirable phenomena that took root there. As a result of this and other processes, serious distress prevailed in the Arab sector in various areas. — quoted in Ha’aretz

The ‘riots’, which were the Israeli Arab — or ‘Palestinian citizen of Israel’, as they increasingly prefer to be called — side of the Second Intifada. Here is an excerpt from an Israeli account of events:

Yaffo, the southern part of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, was cut off, for a day or two. You couldn’t get to Bat-Yam via Yaffo, the shorter route, when coming from inner Tel Aviv. You had to go right round, through Holon. Even when the road was opened, people were afraid to drive that way.

The riots in the north of the country were the worst. Main roads leading to the north of the country were sporadically blocked by rioters, effectively cutting off the north from the rest of the country. People were scared to go home.

Jews living in secluded villages and small towns in the north were afraid that they were going to be attacked (Bish reminds me that people traveling on slip roads leading to secluded villages and small towns, such as Lotem and Misgav, in the Galilee, actually were attacked by their longtime Arab neighbors, who they had formerly seen as their friends, and the Jewish inhabitants were placed under protective curfew).

A man was killed from a stone thrown at his car, while he was driving along highway #2, the main road from Tel Aviv to Haifa, near the Arab village of Jisr a-Zarqa, a bit north of Hadera. Thus the road connecting the main Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa seemed to have become as dangerous as roads leading to remote West Bank settlements.

There was a decided feeling of alarm and emergency. It felt like the terrible 1948 war was coming alive again before our eyes. Would we have to travel in armed convoys from now on, in the middle of the country, like we did back then? The whole country was in shock. Suddenly people realized how dangerous the Israeli Arabs could be if they chose, and it looked like they were choosing.

Here’s another:

And pogroms these were in all ways. Jews were attacked and beaten everywhere. The entire Galilee and other parts of Israel became scenes  reminiscent of the late 1940s, where Arab gangs blocked roads, laid siege to Jewish towns, beat Jewish families randomly, grabbing random passing Jews out of their cars, stoning every Jew they could find, murdering at least two Jews inside Israel. These were not Palestinians living across the Green Line, but second and third generation Israeli Arabs, with their European standards of living, health and education levels, and their Scandinavian-style social welfare benefits…

Throughout the country, small teams of Israeli police were confronted by hordes of thousands of violent Arabs, throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at them, and sometimes shooting guns. Armchair commentators today insist that the police should have exercised infinite tolerance and patience at the time, but such people have never been confronted by a mob of thousands of screaming violent pogromchiks.

Three of the Arab fatalities occurred in the Arab town Umm el-Fahm. At least one of them was due to the snipers of the Israel Police counter-terrorism unit, YAMAM. Arab sources claim that they were sent to suppress the demonstrations, or even to ‘take out the leadership’. But this is nonsense. I spoke to a member of YAMAM, who told me

There were thousands of rioters and a much smaller number of riot police who tried to contain them. The riot police are mostly unarmed — they have shields and clubs, maybe the officers have pistols, but they’re mostly unarmed. The YAMAM snipers were sent to protect the police, to keep them from getting killed.

In one case [in Umm el-Fahm], the police were lined up against the front of a building, a two-or three-story building. One Arab was on the roof and he had a long metal bar or pipe. He was prying loose big concrete blocks from the wall in an attempt to make them fall on the police below. Anyone hit would have been killed, or at least severly injured. That’s why he was shot.

Our rules of engagement were not to fire unless someone’s life was in danger, and that’s what we did.

This appears to describe the shooting of Misleh Hussein Abu Jarad on October 2, 2000, at the entrance to Umm el-Fahm.

Despite its apparent desire to lay the primary blame on Israeli officials, police and ‘discrimination’, the Or Commission also cited incitement by Israeli Arab leaders, including MK Azmi Bishara (who has since fled Israel, accused of treason for helping Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon war) and MK Abdul Malik Dehamshe. And there was another familiar name:

On September 18, 2000, two weeks prior to the outbreak of violence, more than 35,000 Israeli Arabs attended the seventh annual Northern Islamic Movement “peace” rally on the theme: “Al Aksa [Mosque] is in Danger,” hosted by Um el Fahm Mayor Sheikh Raed Salah. While the Or Commission declined to recommend legal action against Salah despite proven inflammatory statements before and during the crisis, he is currently [2004] in Israeli police custody for allegedly passing large sums of money to the Hamas terror group. Salah reportedly told the crowd, “the Islamic world has exclusive rights to all the holy sites in Jerusalem and Israel has none.” The crowd responded with the chant, “In spirit and blood, we shall redeem Al Aksa.” Islamic affairs expert Dr. Guy Bechor noted that the entire rally took place as an act of incitement against the very existence of the State of Israel. — Dan Diker, Lessons from the Or Commission

Salah, of course, was the driving force behind the recent demonstrations around the Temple Mount. It’s interesting to note that the 1929 ‘riots’ — which many prefer to call ‘pogroms’ — in which hundreds of Jews were murdered, were incited in a similar way. Today, Salah plays the role of Haj Amin al-Husseini, who then accused the Jews of wanting to take possession of the Temple Mount and destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque:

The Islamic Movement’s tendency to throw fuel on the fire of Arab-Jewish tensions dates back many years. Salah was accused by the Orr Commission – set up to investigate the October 2000 Israeli Arab riots – of praising violent acts and demonizing the State of Israel in his speeches.

In 2003, Salah and a number of other suspects from the Islamic Movement’s northern branch were convicted of abetting Hamas, communicating with a foreign agent, and membership of a terrorist organization. Salah was imprisoned for a year and a half.

In 2007, Salah cited anti-Semitic blood libels in his speech, accusing Jews of using blood in the preparation of foods.

This past June, he addressed Muslim students at the University of Haifa who are members of an Islamic-Movement-affiliated group on campus known as IKRA, and claimed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was seeking to “build the Temple” on the Temple Mount. Calls for Muslims to rally to protect the Temple Mount from so-called “Jewish threats” have become a staple of Salah’s rhetoric. — Jerusalem Post

By compensating the families of ‘victims’, who were actually participating in an insurrection, the government of Israel unfortunately accepts the contention of the Arab community that the responsibility for their death lies with Israel. But there is a great deal of evidence for a different thesis:

The October 2000 riots were to a great degree the result of incitement and ideological radicalization of the Israeli Arab sector by local Arab political and religious leaders, the Palestinian Authority, the Islamic Movement in Israel, and foreign radical Islamic groups. — Dan Diker, Lessons from the Or Commission

If anyone can determine the names of the seven whose families will receive compensation, I would like to know them for further research.

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One Response to “Whose responsibility?”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I would just like to put this Arab rioting in a certain context. It occurred when the state as a whole was under threat from increasing Palestinian terror.
    The acts of violence by the Arab community were acts of treason.
    This article contains the most extensive documentation of the incident I have seen. And I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion i.e. The Israeli Government should not be admitting its responsibility for what it is not responsible for. The Israeli Government is doing so, my guess is, simply to get the matter off the public agenda.
    So it is not Justice which is served here at all.