Israel’s Arab community on Saturday marked the 21st anniversary of the unrest in October 2000 in which 13 young Arabs were killed by the Israeli police. This year, the anniversary is taking place against the backdrop of an ongoing wave of homicides in the country’s Arab community, which will be a focus of the commemorations.

The police have been unable to stop the current wave of killings, or even solve a significant amount of cases. Overnight between Friday and Saturday, the latest victim, Mahran Mughrabi, was killed in Haifa, this year’s 95th killing in the Arab community.

The commemorations would have taken place Friday, but it was decided to defer the events to Saturday because of Friday prayer at mosques.  The ceremonies began at cemeteries throughout the north on Saturday morning at the graves of the 13 young Arabs killed in October 2000 and were due to be followed in the afternoon by a march in Sakhnin attended by Arab mayors and political leaders as well as representatives from the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel.

The week of violent confrontations in October 2000 between the police and Arab Israelis was investigated by an official commission, the Or Commission. The use of live fire by the police led to the death of 12 Arab Israelis and a Palestinian man from Gaza. Also, a Jewish man was killed when his car was hit by a rock while he was driving along the Coastal Highway. 

The chairman of the monitoring committee, Mohammad Barakeh, said in an interview that anyone who has been following developments since October 2000 would see that violence and criminality in the Arab community has taken on “monstrous proportions” since. “The government is just talking about empty plans that aren’t leading to any change on the ground,” he alleged.

Two decades since October 2000, the families of those who died, as well as Arab community human rights groups, are still demanding that those responsible for the killings be brought to justice. Last year, the families demanded that another committee be established to investigate the deaths, but nothing came of it.

The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel recommended that an independent, professional panel be convened, members of which would have the support of the Arab political leadership, to look into the alleged failures in investigating those events.

“We continue to demand an outside and independent examination of the failures of the investigation of all the acts of killing of Arab citizens since the events of October 2000 and to lead to all of those responsible being brought to justice,” Adalah’s director general Hassan Jabareen said.

Jabareen added that there is no statute of limitation barring prosecution of those responsible when it comes to both direct criminal responsibility by the police who killed and wounded the Arab citizens and with regard to indirect responsibility on the part of law enforcement authorities. This, he said, would include the state prosecutor’s office and the Justice Ministry’s police misconduct unit which he accused of failing to mete out justice.

Prior to this year’s ceremonies, the families of those killed in October 2000 expressed disappointment that from year to year there had been a decline in the number of people attending the commemorations. The Arab community’s educational monitoring committee said that the events do not receive appropriate attention in schools and that many children in the Arab school system are unaware of the events.

On Thursday, it was reported that the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office had postponed Bennett’s visit to a coronavirus vaccination center in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, which had been due to take place on Friday. The United Arab List party, which is a member of Bennett’s governing coalition, claimed that it was deferred due to the anniversary of the killings in 2000, “out of respect for the shahids and heroes.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said the visit was postponed out of security considerations in light of the demonstrations that were expected in Umm al-Fahm. “That’s the reason and that alone,” the office said.