Palestinians mark 15 years since ‘October massacre’

Thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel protest against police tactics after killing of 13 demonstrators in 2000.

Palestinians mark killings in Israel
Protests are held every year to mark the killing of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel in 2000 [File:Patrick Strickland/Al Jazeera]

Thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel have attended protests marking the 15th anniversary of the killing of unarmed demonstrators by Israeli police in October 2000.

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The demonstrations on Thursday, which took place in towns including Nazareth and Sakhnin, were attended by a number of Palestinian groups including members of the Joint List electoral coalition and the Northern Islamic Movement.

The protesters demanded the end to Israeli police tactics, which they say unfairly target Palestinian activists with measures not used on Israeli Jews.

Israeli police said Thursday’s demonstrations had passed without incident.

Israeli forces shot dead 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel in a crackdown following the start of the second Intifada in 2000.

Those killed had been demonstrating against the visit of Ariel Sharon, the then-Israeli prime minister, to al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Palestinian activists say none of those responsible for the killings have been indicted, and Israeli police continue to treat Palestinian protests harshly.

‘Not real citizens’

Amjad Iraqi, who works for Adalah, an organisation that advocates for the legal rights of Arabs in Israel, said though there had not been fatalities caused by live ammunition in Palestinian protests since 2000, Israeli forces were acting with an increasing sense of impunity.

“It’s been 15 years since 2000 and nothing has changed in both the way they [Israeli police] view Palestinians and how they treat them in practise,” Iraqi said, adding there had been an increase in “targeted arrests and brutality” during protests by Arabs.

“Thousands of complaints are filed against the police, and charges are hardly ever made.”

Adalah received more than 11,000 reports of police misconduct against Palestinian citizens between 2011 and 2013, of which only three percent resulted in prosecutions.

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Haneen Zoabi, a member of Balad, which forms part of the Joint List, told Al Jazeera the October 2000 killings had sent a message to Palestinian citizens of Israel that they were not a part of Israeli society.

“It meant we were enemies … It meant Israel won’t punish any police officer for having killed Palestinians, and that we [Palestinians] are not in the position of real citizens,” Zoabi said.

“It shows that there is no difference between how Palestinians from both sides of the Green Line (separating Israel and the occupied territories) are treated … Israel didn’t investigate, didn’t address anything in the courts.”

‘Strengthening ties’

Israel denies that it treats protests by Palestinians any differently than those organised by its Jewish citizens.

Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, told Al Jazeera that Israel had been working to improve ties with Arab communities.

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“Israel will deal with those breaking the law, whether it’s the Jewish community or the Arab community,” Rosenfeld said.

“Israeli police have developed both community policing within the Israeli Arab community, and we have more officers than ever in the Israeli police force that are Arabs, both Muslims and Christians.

“Our main emphasis is strengthening the Israeli Arab community as part of the Israeli community.”

More than 40 Palestinians have been killed in encounters with Israeli police outside of protests throughout the 15-year period.

In January 2015, Sami al-Jaar was killed while standing on his patio, as police clashed with local youths.

A Palestinian bedouin man died the same month from tear gas inhalation after a funeral turned into a protest.

About 1.7 million Palestinians of Muslim, Christian, and Druze communities have Israeli citizenship, living in towns, cities and villages across the country.

Many complain of laws that target their rights to political expression and access to state resources.

Follow Shafik Mandhai on Twitter: @shafikfm 

Source: Al Jazeera