Saturday, 2 October 2010

Israeli Arab MK: Racism in Israel has reached frightening levels

Israeli Arabs rally in Kfar Kana, in northern Israel, Friday, Oct. 1, 2010.AP1/8

Some 6,000 Israeli Arabs marched Friday from the Galilee town of Kfar Kanna in a procession that marked the commemoration of the October 2000 riots, in which 13 Israeli Arab youths were killed by Israel Police officers.

Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) urged Israeli officials to try the police officers allegedly responsible.

"Failure to put the criminals on trial is like making sure the victims are really dead," Tibi said on Friday. He also said that since the events of October 2000, the level of racism in Israel increased and has reached "frightening levels."

"I call on the new Attorney General [Yehuda] Weinstein to reopen the case and indict the suspected police officers," Tibi urged. "Otherwise, the state will be sending a message that it disregards the lives of its Arab-Israeli citizens and belittles their value because they are Arabs."

"These past 10 years have been filled with anger and pain for the victims' families, and for the general Arab public. They represent a black mark on the history of the State of Israel," he went on to say.

The procession included the families of the victims, members of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, Knesset members, and Jewish peace activists. The demonstrators marched and held up pictures of the victims along with signs calling on the state to put the police officers on trial.

Earlier Friday, the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee declared a general strike on Friday in commemoration of the 13 Israeli Arab youth killed by Israel Police officers in October 2000.

The events of October 2000 have become a contentious issue for Israeli Arabs, many of whom say Israel has failed to properly investigate the circumstances of the riot and take action against the police officers who killed the youths.

Israeli Arabs have expressed anger over the issue by holding demonstrations and strikes during the month of October in the years since the incident.

Demonstrators gathered last week in small groups in Nazareth and Haifa and at 12 major intersections across Israel, in solidarity with Palestinians marking the outbreak of the Intifada. They waved Palestinian flags and held pictures of those killed in the riots.

Families of the 13 killed still stand firm on their demand that a new investigation into the incident be opened and the police who killed the rioters be brought to justice. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths.
In many ways, the incident marks an unraveling of the Israeli Arabs' connection with the government and reflects how alienated they are from the state.

Ramiz Jaraisy, mayor of Nazareth and the acting head of the Higher Monitoring Committee, described the day as one in which "the Arab population are still fighting the government of Israel for justice."

The sector is feeling an increasing sense of discrimination, he said, particularly from elements within the government.

Approximately 45 percent of the general Israeli Arab population lives in poverty – a figure even higher among the sector's children, at 57 percent.

Only some 20 percent of Israeli Arab women are employed. While the figure for Israeli Arab men is higher – 60 percent – most of those jobs are in physical labor and many are laid of between the ages of 40 and 45.

Nearly 8 percent of Israeli Arab youths drop out of high school – a figure nearly three times the national average.

Public transportation is either completely lacking or insufficient about 80 percent of Israeli Arab towns and villages, and overcrowded housing in these communities is 70 percent higher than in Jewish communities.

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