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Israeli Police 'turning a blind eye to killing spree'

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"Crime is the one place in Israel where there is some kind of meaningful integration between Jews and Arabs," he said.

Brutal policing

In his Haaretz article, Odeh blamed "government racism" that "sees us as enemies instead of citizens". He called on ordinary Israeli Jews "who believe in democracy to join us in a battle for a society without guns. Eliminating violence is in the civic interest of us all".

The move to the streets is seen as a way to bypass the seeming indifference of Israeli officials by appealing directly to ordinary Israeli Jews.

The national police command is almost exclusively Jewish, and was led until recently by a former secret police officer, Roni Alsheikh, known for being an avid supporter of the illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

Few police stations are operational in Palestinian communities in Israel, and the force is widely distrusted. Police officers typically enter the country's Palestinian towns and villages in military-style operations to enforce house demolitions or to forcibly quell demonstrations.

Trust has been further eroded by the fact that the paramilitary Border Police, a major component of Israel's security services, operate in Palestinian communities both inside Israel and in the occupied West Bank, using similar methods of violent repression.

Dozens of Palestinian citizens have died at the hands of the police over the past two decades, often in unexplained circumstances. Such deaths are rarely investigated.

And a judicial-led commission of inquiry nearly two decades ago concluded that there was a culture in the police of treating Palestinian citizens as "an enemy". Little seems to have changed since.

Government incitement

There are similar problems at the political level. Palestinian parties have always been excluded from governmental roles, and the Palestinian minority's legislators have no influence in the parliament.

Both Erdan and Netanyahu regularly incite against the Palestinian minority. During last month's election campaign, Netanyahu sought to mobilise Jewish voters by warning: "Arabs want to annihilate us all women, children and men."

Erdan was also recently exposed as having actively help cover up evidence that police unlawfully shot a Palestinian citizen dead during house demolitions in the Negev village of Umm al-Hiran in 2017. In the same incident, Odeh of the Joint List is believed to have been shot with a sponge-tipped bullet by police.

This hostility has forced the community's leadership to take drastic action to make their concerns visible to the wider Israeli public.

In addition to the go-slow on Road 6 highway this week, there are plans for large protests outside the regional police headquarters in Nazareth later this month and for a protest tent next to government offices in Jerusalem.

The blocking of roads is a form of direct action familiar in Israel but mainly from the Jewish public. Settlers have repeatedly obstructed roads, as well as throwing stones at the security services, as part of their demonstrations.

But whereas Jewish protests, however violent they become, are usually handled delicately by Israeli security forces, Palestinian citizens are used to very different responses to their own demonstrations, especially when they take place in areas visible to the Jewish public.

Live ammunition

Palestinian demonstrators in Israel have often found themselves beaten, doused in tear gas and arrested.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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