Friday, September 25, 2020

Tensions on the rise as Palestinians in Israel protest police shooting

By Editor - November 10, 2014
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Palestinian citizens of Israel] [al-Aqsa]

Palestinians took to the streets throughout Israel over the weekend in protest of the fatal shooting of a young man by Israeli police early Saturday morning. 

Schools, shops and business were closed in Palestinian towns and villages throughout the country on Sunday, part of a general strike in connection to the killing of 22-year-old Kheir Hamadan in the village of Kfar Kana near the northern city of Nazareth. 

Police officers from Nazareth were reportedly called to the village early Saturday morning to arrest another man on suspicion of throwing a stun grenade during a family dispute. Kheir Hamdan, the man’s cousin, reportedly attacked the police car with what looked to be a knife. 

While police reports state that a warning shot was fired, CCTV footage shows the officers exiting the vehicle as Hamdan walked away with his back turned. One officer then raises his gun and shoots the youth in his torso from no more than two meters away. The officers are then seen dragging Hamdan’s limp body across the ground and into the police van.

The episode has sparked heavy clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli police forces in Kafr Kanna, where youths threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police, blocked main roads with burning tires, raised Palestinian flags and called for an intifada. 

An estimated 1.7 million Palestinians carry Israeli citizenship and live in cities, towns and villages cross present day Israel. They make up more than 20 percent of the population. According to Adalah legal center, a Haifa-based advocacy group, Palestinian citizens of Israel face more than 50 discriminatory laws that limit their access to state resources and repress their political expression. 

Rauf Hamdan, the father of the deceased, said to the crowd in Kafr Kanna on Saturday: "My son was killed in cold blood because he is an Arab. This disaster is not related only to Kafr Kanna, but touches the entire Arab sector. This is a racist act. We will not forgive the police. We will take the appropriate steps against the police."

Demonstrators carried posters bearing a photo of Hamdan and the words, “His only crime was being an Arab,” chanting “Zionists get out of our lives.”

“First, we demand that the Israeli government treat us as citizens,” Mazen Ghanaim, chairman of the committee of Arab local council leaders in Israel, told the New York Times on Sunday. Mr. Ghanaim said that Israeli police had killed 49 Arabs since 2000. “We have a feeling that our blood is cheap,” he said. 

The same committee declared a general strike for Sunday and called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel’s public security minister. 

Aharonovitch was called out due to comments he made last week, arguing that any “terrorist” who harms civilians “should be killed.” 

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel warned the Israel’s Attorney General in a letter that such a “sweeping statement by the minister could be interpreted as taking off the gloves to allow the use of deadly force for reasons that are not justified and against the law.” 

“Lethal force can only be used by police as a last resort,” the group wrote.

Protests continued throughout Sunday, as Palestinian citizens and leaders in Israel collectively accused the police of killing Hamdan “in cold blood” because he was an Arab. Demonstrations took place throughout Israel, from Kafr Kanna to Taibe, from Tira to Shfamer, from Haifa to Tel Aviv to Beersheba. 

This weekend’s clashes and protests come in conjunction to the recent violence and unrest in and around East Jerusalem, which have been fueled in large part by a potentially explosive dispute over prayer rights at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. The issue has struck a nerve amongst the Palestinian population in Israel, the majority of whom are Muslim. 

Israel’s Ministry of Justice was quick to announce that its police internal investigations committee would look into the incident in an effort to quell the quickly spreading flames.

But local Arab leaders were soon further enraged by the inflammatory reactions of many Israeli cabinet ministers. 

“We will take determined action against those who throw stones, firebombs and fireworks, and block roads, and against demonstrations that call for our destruction,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The prime minister than added a remark specifically aimed at Israel’s Palestinian citizens: “I have instructed the interior minister to use all means, including evaluating the possibility of revoking the citizenship of those who call for the destruction of the State of Israel.” 

Senior minister and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home Party Naftali Bennet said in a statement: “A crazed Arab terrorist attacked our policemen’s vehicle with a knife in an attempt to murder them. A policeman shot him. That is what is expected from our security forces.” 

Hamdan’s father, Rauf, is adamant that if his son had not been Arab, he would still be alive today, touching on a commonly held notion that Israeli police are too quick to use deadly force when a Palestinian is involved.

“If he had been a Jew, it wouldn’t have ended that way. They wouldn’t have shot him and if they had, they would have shot him in the leg and he wouldn’t be dead.” 


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