Human Rights Watch Calls for UN Probe of Jewish-Arab Violence in Israel's Lod

Report alleges over-policing of Arab residents during May's widespread violence, which saw destruction of places of worship, looting and mob attacks

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Police patrol the city of Lod.
Police patrol the city of Lod. Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Seven months after riots rocked Israel amid the deadly fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip, a Human Rights Watch report released on Wednesday is calling on the United Nations to investigate discriminatory policing practices in the central city of Lod, one of the flash points in civil unrest between Jews and Arabs.

The report accuses Israeli law enforcement agencies of excessive force in dispersing peaceful Arab Israeli protesters, as well as responding "half-heartedly and unevenly" to violence against Arabs committed by Jewish ultra-nationalists.

One of Israel's mixed cities home to both Jews and Arabs, Lod was the site of widespread destruction, looting and violent mobs in May. Houses of worship were destroyed, Israelis arrived from across the country to join in the rioting and numerous Lod residents were killed. Trust between the city's Jews and Arabs has eroded to a record low.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 Lod residents, among them municipal officials, victims' relatives, witnesses and human rights workers. Video clips depicting the violence shared to social media were also analyzed and geolocated, leading HRW researchers to urge a UN investigation into apparent police discrimination and whether inflammatory comments by local officials incited violence.

Omar Shakir, HRW's Israel and Palestine director, who was deported from Israel in 2019, said that police agencies' "discriminatory response underscores the reality that the Israeli state apparatus privileges Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians."

In the immediate aftermath of the rioting across Israeli cities, over 90 percent of those indicted were Arab, drawing criticism from rights groups.

Earlier this month, Israel charged two Arab residents of Lod with shooting at Jews in the city during May's riots.

The State Prosecutor's Office indicted Amsalem and Ayad Hassouna, both members of the same family, on charges of terrorism, illegally firing a weapon and weapons trading, saying they had fired at Jewish residents in several incidents, in one case moderately wounding a volunteer paramedic.

Ayad Hassouna, who has place in administrative detention five months ago, was supposed to be released last week. However, the return of Amsalem Hassouna to Israel after traveling to Turkey months ago led to him being detained and interrogated by the Shin Bet, resulting in the indictment.

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