Once again Palestinian citizens of Israel exposed the country’s lack of a meaningful democracy.
Nazareth – The violence rocking the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and now Gaza is on the verge of spilling into Israel, Palestinian leaders in Israel warned.
A wave of unrest has swept Palestinian towns in Israel over recent days, with repeated clashes with Israeli police in Nazareth, Jaffa, Lod, Ramle, Taibeh, Sakhnin, Rahat, Kfar Qassem and elsewhere. Dozens of protesters have been arrested.
On Thursday, Palestinians declared a day of rage, police fired tear gas and stun grenades and led baton charges against several hundred protesters in Nazareth, the largest Palestinian city in Israel. Sixteen demonstrators, five of them minors, were arrested.
“We want the world to see the reality of what is going on here.The massacres and the discrimination have to end,” said Dima Kfeeny, 20, who added that people had come to protest peacefully. Her cousin was one of the 13 demonstrators killed 15 years ago at the start of the second Intifada.
“We have not forgotten what happened,” she added. “We know Israel can turn violent towards us at any moment.
Israel’s Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population, have been angered by Israeli restrictions on access to al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Palestinian casualties in the occupied territories and frustration at systematic discrimination inside Israel, say community leaders.
There is a hyper-militarised culture of incitement and belligerence in Israel. We are still viewed by the state and much of the Israeli public as enemy combatants rather than citizens.
On Friday, similar clashes erupted again in many towns at night, and again on Saturday, after a video showed security forces shooting Israa Abed, a 30-year-old mother-of-three from Nazareth, in the nearby town of Afula in northern Israel.
Abed, who was badly wounded, was reported to have tried to stab a security guard at a bus station. Footage showed her standing alone and largely immobile before being shot.
In a video that emerged on Saturday, showing her lying injured on the ground, a pair of sunglasses is visible next to her, but no knife.
Bassel Ghattas, a member of the Israeli parliament for the Arab party, the Joint List, said Abed’s treatment showed “the police and media are encouraging cold-blooded executions of Arab citizens”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Saturday night that 2,000 paramilitary police would be deployed immediately in Israel and Jerusalem.
The Border Police, which operates chiefly in the occupied territories, are to be placed at flashpoints in Israel, including cities where Jewish and Palestinian citizens live near each other.
Concerns about aggressive policing have been underscored by a government decision to relax live-fire regulations in Israel and Jerusalem against demonstrators, including children, who throw stones.
Palestinian leaders in Israel fear that police violence could quickly lead to a repeat of events in October 2000, at the start of the second intifada. Then, security forces killed 13 unarmed Palestinian citizens across the Galilee and injured hundreds more in a few days of confrontations.
Relations between the two populations have not recovered since.
“There is a hyper-militarised culture of incitement and belligerence in Israel,” Mohammed Zeidan, director of the Human Rights Association in Nazareth, told Al Jazeera. “We are still viewed by the state and much of the Israeli public as enemy combatants rather than citizens.”
There have also been indications of the first settler-style, vigilante attacks inside Israel.
A Jewish youth was reported on Friday to have stabbed four Palestinians, two of them Israeli citizens, in the southern Israeli town of Dimona.
Three Palestinian-Israeli youths were also severely beaten in the central city of Netanya in what police described as an attempted lynching.
Crowds of Israeli Jews chanting “Death to the Arabs”, common in Jerusalem for some time, have been reported with increasingly frequency in Israeli cities in recent days.
Last week Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, called on all Israeli civilians who own a firearm to carry it at all times and be ready to use it.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government has raised the temperature for Israel’s Palestinian minority at al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
On Sunday, Netanyahu said a Palestinian MP, Haneen Zoabi, would be investigated for incitement, after quoting an interview in which he said she had urged hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to converge on al-Aqsa to create a “popular Intifada”.
Days earlier, Netanyahu banned Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament from entering the mosque for the first time, in what he called a move to “restore calm”. Ahmed Tibi, a Joint List MP, told the Jerusalem Post newspaper Netanyahu was “adding fuel to the fire”.
The government has also threatened a crackdown against the Islamic Movement in Israel, which has taken an increasingly central role at al-Aqsa since 2000. Most Palestinians in the occupied territories face restrictions preventing them from entering Jerusalem.
My brothers and sisters are being killed. Israel is a terrorist state, but we will not be silenced. Change must come.
The Islamic Movement has repeatedly accused Israel of planning a takeover of the site.
Netanyahu said he was ready to take “aggressive steps” against the group. “Nobody will be immune,” he added.
Zaki Aghbaria, an Islamic Movement spokesman, told Al Jazeera: “Israel fears us because we defend the rights of all Palestinians at al-Aqsa. But we will not be intimidated. Netanyahu has no authority there.”
Human rights groups in Israel have decried “repressive measures” being taken by the Israeli police to try to end the wave of protests in Israel.
Adalah, a Palestinian legal rights group in Israel, said that, in addition to the large number of arrests at demonstrations, police had made a series of unlawful “preventive arrests” of political activists before the protests took place.
Police detained nine youths who they said were planning Thursday’s demonstration in Nazareth, accusing them of intending to organise a riot.
Suhad Bishara, a lawyer with Adalah, told Al Jazeera: “This is a very dangerous development. These are clearly political arrests. Israel has used this measure before, but not in such a sweeping manner as now.”
She added that in an unprecedented move, police had also briefly detained the fathers of several protest organisers. “This is a clear attempt to intimidate their families. The police are acting like they are above the law.”
Police barred a dozen buses from entering Nazareth on Thursday to prevent protesters from across the
Galilee from joining the rally. The drivers were issued with house arrests.
In a statement, Adalah said the police were “taking advantage of the political situation and the spirit of racism to persecute, suppress, scare, threaten and silence a legitimate political protest”.
Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, told Al Jazeera: “The police are carrying out operations on many fronts, and these security measures are needed to ensure the public remains safe.”
Awad Abdelfattah, a leading member of the High Follow-Up Committee, the main umbrella body for Palestinian citizens of Israel, told Al Jazeera that the protests in Israel reflected growing solidarity between Palestinian youth in Israel and the occupied territories.
“It is becoming clear to the young people here that they are being colonised, too, and left with nothing. The killings in the occupied territories have ignited the rage they already feel.”
“Israeli policies are pushing us to unite with the Palestinians in the occupied territories in one common strategy of resistance.”
At Thursday’s demonstration in Nazareth, which ended in clashes, Hana Daher, a 14-year-old student, said she was there because “my brothers and sisters are being killed. Israel is a terrorist state, but we will not be silenced. Change must come”.