Demonstrators at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva on Monday, January 19, call for a state committee of inquiry into the two recent deaths of Arab-Bedouin as a result of police violence. Among the demonstrators, Hadash MK Dov Khenin. Photo by Dukium Forum in the Negev
By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
January 19, 2015
I’ve been reading reports [Ma’an] from the Israeli Negev about the death of a Bedouin at the funeral over the past day or so. The reports I saw were short on details. Today, Yoav Peled sent me this posting from a Bedouin Google Group which riveted my attention, offering a fuller picture of the police brutality running rampant there:
Police killings in Rahat
Yeela Raanan, January 19 2014
On Wednesday night, Jan 14th, during a drug-related police raid in Rahat (the Arab-Bedouin city in the Negev), a policeman shot and killed a young man that was not involved, and was standing in his own yard. His father took him to the closest clinic, and was arrested there by the police, who claimed that he attacked the police. The police also claim that the 20-year-old young man attacked the police… The father was taken away from his dying son and to an “interrogation” where they handcuffed his hands and ankles and he was beaten.
The funeral was yesterday. The police and the municipality of Rahat agreed to allow the funeral to proceed without any police present. Despite this an armored police car forced its way through two road blocks and into the street of the funeral. This created unrest, and a representative of the municipality approached and requested that the police follow him out of the 30,000 people crowd of funeral goers. The police responded that they have sufficient bullets for everyone present and refused. Instead, the police started to crash into the parked cars. In the very violent events that followed, the police killed another man, a resident of Rahat, and many were injured by rubber bullets: among them a man lost his eye, and another his jaw.
Since 2000, when the Israeli police killed 13 Arab civilians, another 40 have been killed by the Israeli police. These two killings have once more shown the use of the Israeli police as a political-ethnic tool. Despite this, there is no outcry in the Israeli Hebrew media. Please help us promote this overseas, maybe eventually also our media will also have to respond…
Angry and sombre funeral procession for Sami al-Ja’ar. Photo by Oren Ziv / Active Stills
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) was at the funeral and wrote this about the tragic events:
It’s hard to watch a grown man cry over a son who died in his arms after being shot by police. I’m now leaving the house of mourning of the Alja’ar family in Rahat, after participating in the protest vigil together with my friend, MK Muhammed Barakeh.
During the Alja’ar funeral the day before yesterday, another Rahat resident, Sami Zayadne was killed and tens more wounded. The police broke a pledge made to the mayor not to intervene in the funeral.
Why? And how is it possible a funeral procession ends like this?
With the death of over 50 Israeli Palestinians at the hands of police since 2000, it’s no longer possible of speak of them as happenstance. This is a systemic failure.
I appealed today for the creation of an official investigatory committee to call for radical change in the way police relate to “Arab” citizens.
The Israeli mainstream publications that are covering the event, as poorly as they are, call this a “riot.” As if it’s the Bedouin who rioted. This is a lie. The police did a drug raid there and somehow ended up killing a young innocent bystander. Then when residents held a funeral, the police broke their vow when they didn’t like the figure delivering the eulogy. This is outright provocation. This is a pogrom instigated by the Israeli police, one of the most violent, corrupt and racist police forces in the western world.
The Bedouin communities of the Negev have launched a general strike to protest police mass violence. The Maan report linked above says the local residents committee in Rahat called the police attack “state terrorism” (they’re not far off). It also notes that police began their attack on the mourners at the cemetery when Imam Raed Salah of the Islamic Movement began his eulogy.
Now it becomes obvious what happened: the Israeli State has declared him Public Enemy Number 1. They’ve tried everything beginning with harassment and escalating to criminal charges. The charges are always trumped up (cf. Haneen Zoabi). But the State has shown it’s willing to do almost anything (including murder in this case) to stop an Enemy of the State.
This tragedy shows once again the foul and systemic racism which is at the foundation of the Israeli ‘Judaic’ state. Such a regime cannot countenance Palestinian citizens exercising their full and legitimate rights. Instead of seeing this as the free exercise of democratic rights, the State sees it as an existential threat to itself. This is yet another reason the Israeli state must be radically transformed before it can be fully free and democratic for all citizens.
Note above the complaint about the paucity of Israeli media coverage. They don’t assign reporters to cover the Bedouin “beat.” There is no such thing. So coverage of events like this are hit or miss. You might see coverage. The coverage may be decent or it may be cursory. That’s why I’m honoring the request of Yaela Raanan above. Maybe foreign media coverage will sufficiently embarrass the authorities so they will treat Rahat Bedouin with a minimal level of respect which they deserve as citizens of a state which disrespects them in every way it can.
There is perhaps one decent senior Israeli Jewish leader in the midst of all this: Pres. Reuven Rivlin. He had the guts to issue a public statement that, while not condemning the police riot, at least expressed condolences to the families of the victims and the entire Bedouin community. At least it’s something. But everyone knows Presidents express little more than wishes. It’s the ministers and prime ministers who do the deeds. The very nasty deeds in this case.