Israeli Arabs Lead Convoy in Protest Over Bedouin's Death, Home Demolitions

Participants demand the government return the body of a Bedouin man shot and killed in clashes in northern Israel over illegally built constructions.

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh speaks in front of the Knesset at a demonstration against home demolitions in Arab communities, January 23, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israeli Arabs took to the roads on Monday to protest the fatal shooting of a Bedouin man during clashes with the police last week and the state’s ongoing demolition of illegally built homes in their communities.

A convoy of over 200 vehicles snarled traffic on the main highway leading to Jerusalem as it slowly headed for the government compound in the capital.

The vehicles, most of them driven by residents of the central city of Kalansua and Bedouin from the Negev, created a massive traffic jam on Route 1 outside of Jerusalem, near Abu Ghosh. Joint List Knesset members Ahmad Tibi, Jamal Zahalka and Ayman Odeh, the party’s chairman, joined the convoy.

In the afternoon, around 200 protesters demonstrated at Wohl Rose Park next to the Knesset and demanded the release of the body of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, the man shot and killed during clashes in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran on Wednesday. Meretz lawmakers also attended.

The protest convoy to Jerusalem, Jan. 23, 2017. A police officer directs vehicles in the convoy.
Lior Mizrahi

According to police, Abu al-Kiyan deliberately ran over two policemen, killing one and injuring another. However, eyewitnesses say the driver was first shot by police, causing him to lose control of his vehicle, which then ran over the two policemen.

Two convoys, each numbering dozens of vehicles, set out from Kalansua and Shoket Junction in the Negev, respectively, in the morning. The police had reported traffic disruptions on Routes 6 and 3 as a result. The convoys met at Latrun before continuing toward Jerusalem.

Participants from Kalansua told Haaretz that drivers refused police attempts to raise the speed of the convoy, which was deliberately traveled at well below the speed limit. Drivers said that if any member of the convoy would be arrested, he or she would simply hand over the keys of the vehicle to the officer.

Odeh called on the public to join the convoy and to demand the resignation of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

“The police should immediately release the body of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan,” Odeh said. “We won’t allow the police to keep demolishing and destroying the lives of families and the very possibility of coexistence in this country. Join us in the demand that every child in this country have electricity, running water and an educational system.”

“We are coming out in our cars in droves to stop hatred and incitement,” Tibi said. “We are coming out in droves to liberate the body of the victim Yakub Abu al-Kiyan.” Zahalka added that the Arab public “will not be silent until the absolute cessation of demolition and the provision of appropriate master plans for Arab communities. There is a housing shortage, and the government demolishes instead of building.”