Hundreds of Israeli Arabs Protest Police Inaction in Northern Community, Blocking Roads

Demonstrators bearing signs that read 'apartheid police' gathered to protest against the police's failure to curb violence in the community after a local was murdered Saturday

Demonstrators march in front the Israel Police headquarters in Ramle, central Israel, October 15, 2019.
Moti Milrod

Hundreds of people demonstrated against violence in the Israeli Arab community on Sunday in the northern Israeli Arab village of Ara, located in the Wadi Ara area.

The demonstration came in the wake of the murder of a 21-year-old resident of the village on Saturday, and as part of a wider movement protesting the Israel Police's failure to curb violence and widespread illegal weapon possession in the Israeli Arab community. 

Demonstrators march in Wadi Ara protesting violence in the Arab Israeli community, on Sunday, October 13, 2019.

The slain local, Muhammad Adnan Hamdan, was laid to rest on Sunday and after the funeral mourners gathered on Wadi Ara road and blocked it to traffic.

The protesters, among them many women, held signs bearing slogans that read "Apartheid police" and "No to violence." Some shouted: "We went out to the streets without fear, and against the powerlessness of the police." A group of young demonstrators carried an empty casket and chanted: "We don't want to carry another victim."

The Israel Police sent reinforcements to the scene, but have thus far avoided confrontations with protesters. 

Hamdan was the 74th Israeli Arab murdered this year. Village residents said that the killing was part of a dispute between two families. After his death, two homes belonging to the Jazmawi family in the village were set on fire. Police brought in 13 local residents for questioning under suspicion of owning illegal weapons and thousands of illegal bullets. 

Hanan Asli, a resident of the nearby Kafr Qara, arrived to the protest holding a sign that read: "Enough to murder and enough to spilling blood" as well as an olive branch. "There's a large presence of mothers here who are worried and afraid for their children, so the pain is real and the calls to action are real," she said. "We as parents and mothers have an important role to play, but the struggle against crime – it's the job of the police."

Fatma, a resident of Arara, came to the demonstration with her 12-year-old daughter. She said that her child has not been sleeping well for weeks now out of fear. "Every night there are incessant shots fired and it's quite scary," she said.

A child holding a sign which reads 'Apartheid police' at an Israeli Arab protest in northern Israel, October 13, 2019.

Ahmad Badran, who hails from the village of Ain al-Sahla, was among those who carried the empty casket at the protest. He explained that they did so in order to convey a message to both the police and the public security minister. "Any one of us can be in this casket tomorrow if they don't stop the criminals," Badran warned. "We bear responsibility, but it's first and foremost the police's job." 

The local council and schools in the town were on strike Sunday in the wake of Hamdan's murder. The decision was made in an emergency meeting of the Ara-Arara Regional Council on Saturday. At the end of the meeting, a rally was held. Among the speakers at the rally were Mayor Mudar Yunis, Chairman of the High Arab Monitoring Committee Muhammad Barka, and Joint List MKs Yousef Jabareen and Osama Saadi. The speakers urged the police to act promptly and decisively, saying they feared the same local feud could cause more victims soon.

Interim Police Commissioner Moti Cohen announced plans to increase police presence in the areas of concern in the wake of the protests. He said Border Police would establish three new headquarters in the Haifa area and post 600 more officers there.

A Haaretz inquiry has revealed that the rate at which indictments have been filed in cases involving the murders of Jews in 2019 is double than those involving Israeli Arabs.

Indictments have been filed in 30 percent of the cases concerning murder of Arabs – 22 of 72 killings – compared with 58 percent of the murders of Jews – 21 of 36 cases.

Police figures also show that the percentage of indictments in murder cases involving the killing of Arabs has been on the decline in 2019. While it was 30 percent this year, it stood at 40 percent in 2018 and at 38 percent the year before.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said that he condemns the violence in Arab society. "We all must act responsibly and cooperatively" to fight it, he said, adding that he had secured a commitment from the police and the Public Security Ministry on "the deployment of additional forces and stepped up enforcement."