Last Friday, just as I did on the previous six Fridays, I demonstrated outside the police station at the entrance to Umm al-Fahm, the town where I was born and still live. The demonstration was quiet and orderly. But due to a deliberate decision by the police, brutal violence began – rubber bullets, stun grenades and skunk water were fired in every direction. Dozens were wounded, including the mayor, Dr. Samir Mahameed, and me.
But the story isn’t that the town’s elected leader was shot at; this isn’t the first time something like that has happened. The real story is the more than 20 Arabs who have been murdered over the last two months. The story is Mohand Mahameed, an Umm al-Fahm resident who was hospitalized due to police violence, and Ahmed Hijazi, who was shot and killed by the police in Tamra last month.
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In a properly run country, the public security minister and the commander of the Umm al-Fahm police station would have resigned. But in Israel, violence has become a matter of course. The police have gotten used to treating Arabs as enemies rather than citizens, as if nothing had been learned since October 2000.
Our community’s protest is legitimate and necessary. Tens of thousands of Arab citizens have taken to the streets in recent weeks to demonstrate for the most basic right of all, the right to life and personal security. The police must collect hundreds of thousands of weapons, solve cases and bring criminals to justice, without further delay. They must also crush the organized crime rings.
Yet we hear nothing but empty promises. Our community is fed up with government plans that lack either teeth or any investment in education and welfare.
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Umm al-Fahm will provide a winning answer to police violence and racist lawlessness today. Thousands of demonstrators will block Route 65 despite the police who suppressed last week’s protest – police who have proven themselves weak against criminals but violent against demonstrators.
We fear for the future of our society, and we will fight shoulder to shoulder, Arabs and Jews as well, for the sake of living in a society without guns or crime. Even though the wounds of the shootings haven’t yet closed, we’ll continue to voice Umm al-Fahm’s cry in concert with the young people who long for a different future.
Umm al-Fahm has become the symbol of the Arab community’s battle against rising violence. In this city, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an act of utter cynicism, came to celebrate the millionth Israeli to be vaccinated as part of his Arabic-language election campaign, a great roar has burst forth in recent weeks and ignited protests throughout the Arab community. This unified roar frightened the police and the government, and therefore they decided to suppress in vengeance against the unity, determination and persistence of Arab youth.
Last Friday’s scenes reminded the Arab community of what Netanyahu has tried to make them forget with lies and fine words. During his time in office, new records have been set for murders and violence within the Arab community. During his time in office, racism, hatred and incitement have soared. And it is from this racism, hatred and incitement that the police’s violence stems.
The pictures from Umm al-Fahm showed the degree to which Netanyahu’s Arabic-language campaign is ludicrous and deceitful. The situation in Arab towns is far from being as photogenic as the Tiktok videos posted by the premier, who recently dubbed himself “Abu Yair.”
Just as my town stood courageously against Meir Kahane in October 1984, barring him from entering and thereby teaching him a civics lesson, and just as it stood against Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, it will teach a similar lesson to Netanyahu’s police, and to anyone who tries to test us today. A finger on the trigger won’t succeed in frightening Umm al-Fahm.
If police have any deterrent power, let’s see them stand up to the organized crime rings. We will continue to fight for our basic right to life and personal security in a society free of guns and crime.
Yousef Jabareen is a Joint List MK and a resident of Umm al-Fahm.