Still No Justice Twelve Years After October Riots, Say Victims' Families

Israeli Arabs marked twelve years since the incident, at the beginning of the Second Intifada, in which 13 protesters were killed in clashes with Israeli police.

As Israeli Arabs on Monday marked the twelve year anniversary of the October 2000 riots in which 13 Israeli Arab protesters were killed in clashes with Israeli police forces at the start of the Second Intifada, a spokesman for the families of the victims said that the incident is an open wound, and that no one has been brought to justice over the deaths.

The thirteen who died were 12 Israeli citizens and one Palestinian youth, who was a resident of Dir al-Balah, but was killed in Umm al-Fahm.

Since Monday morning, commemoration ceremonies were held in various cemeteries in the communities where the 13 were killed. At the same time, a convoy of vehicles set out from the village of Jat in the Triangle in the direction of Umm al-Fahm, Nazereth, Kfar Kana, Arabeh, Kfar Manda, Sakhnin, where the main processions were held.

Unlike the custom in recent years, the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee chose not to call a strike this year. This was because they were concerned that they would not get a sufficient response from the public.  However, despite the decision of the Monitoring Committee, high school students in Sakhnin and Arabeh decided not to report to school and distributed material about the issue on Facebook. School administrators were asked to dedicate class time to commemorate the riots and to discuss their impact on Arab society.

A spokesman for the families, Ibrahim Siam, a resident of the village of Muawiya in Wadi Ara who lost his son Ahmed in the riots, said that the families refuse to accept the decision of the Monitoring Committee. According to him, their decision implies a sense of weakness in what he sees as an ongoing struggle.

"Twelve years have passed and as far as we are concerned it is as if the incident happened yesterday. This is a wound that will not heal quickly, especially as the bottom line is that 13 young men were killed by Israeli Police fire and no one has been found guilty. Quite the opposite, some of those involved in the shooting have received promotions and are the subject of admiration in the establishment."   

Dr. Mahmoud Yazbak, a Nazareth resident whose nephew Wissam was killed in the riots,  also protested the decision and said that keeping the memory of the incident is the least that the Arab public in Israel and its leaders must do.

"We are in a very long process and history has taught us that sometimes we must wait for the right time." He added that, "This case can not be closed as long as the person who fired the shot has not been placed on trial."

Last year, Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel,  published a report examining the decision of the former Attorney General Mani Mazuz, to close the investigation as "no evidence base was found on which to establish the criminal responsibility of those involved."

According to the report, the attorney general allegedly ignored most of the failures of the investigation of the internal affairs division. A number of discrepancies were also found between the conclusions of the commission of inquiry into the deatsh, and the conclusions of the attorney general.  

The report concludes that officials in the internal affairs division, as well as in the state attorney's office, who were responsible for investigating the deaths acted in a conflict of interests, and in this way violated their duty to the public and disrupted the investigation into the deaths.  

The demonstrators waved Palestinian flags, chanted slogans decrying Israel, and held up photos of the 13 Israeli Arab protesters who were killed in clashes with Israeli police forces 11 years ago, at the start of the Second Intifada. Saturday’s demonstrators also called for the indictment of the policemen whom they claim were responsible for the killings.
"For us, this is still an open wound," said the brother of one of the dead.
Marches took place in several cities and villages across the country, including: Nazereth, Kfar Kana, Arabeh, Umm al-Fahm, and Rahat, among others. Wreaths were placed on the graves of the dead, and mass prayers were held in commemoration of the events.