Palestinians in Israel reject Ehud Barak’s apology

Palestinians hold a vigil to commemorate those killed during the October 2000 protests, Sakhnin, northern Israel, February 2008.

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Ehud Barak’s apology for his role in the slaying of Palestinian demonstrators in October 2000 “lacks all value,” the human rights group Adalah stated this week.

Barak was prime minister of Israel when 13 unarmed Palestinian protesters, all citizens of Israel except for one man from Gaza, were killed by police over the first week of that month.

The former premier “ordered Israeli police to deploy deadly means – including snipers” against protesters, Adalah stated.

His apology “lacks all value so long as no indictments have been filed against the Israeli police officers responsible for the October 2000 killings.”

The gesture is empty as “police violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel continues to this very day,” Adalah added.

Provocation and protests

The October 2000 protests were spurred by a visit by then opposition leader Ariel Sharon, flanked by a massive police force, to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.

Sharon’s provocation and the deadly crackdown on protests was the catalyst for the second intifada.

“I take responsibility for what happened during my tenure as prime minister, including the October 2000 events, when Israeli Arab citizens and a Palestinian from Gaza were killed,” Barak told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

“There is no place for protesters to be killed by security and police forces of the State of Israel, their state. I express my regret and apology to the families [of those killed] and to the Arab community,” he added.

Barak currently heads the Democratic Israel party and has been maneuvering to secure another term as prime minister.

Fresh elections will be held in September after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a new government following a general vote in March.

Barak has been dogged by headlines about his business partnership and personal relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the American financier and convicted sex offender facing charges of sex-trafficking children as young as 14.

“Don’t want to be a fig leaf”

Barak’s apology has been seen as an attempt to court the votes of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

His role in the October 2000 killings has proven a barrier to forming a coalition with the left-Zionist Meretz party. Esawi Frej, a Meretz lawmaker in Israel’s parliament and a Palestinian citizen of the state, said that “The Arabs don’t want to be a fig leaf and a lifesaver. We want to be partners.”

Frej also cited Barak’s tenure as defense minister during Netanyahu’s premiership. He held that post during Israel’s offensive in Gaza beginning in December 2008.

More than 1,400 Palestinians, including some 1,200 civilians, were killed during the three-week assault.

“If we team up with him, I would have to protect myself from being spat on in Arab streets,” Frej added.

The fathers of two Palestinians who were killed by police following Barak’s orders in October 2000 have rejected the apology.

“As far as we’re concerned, he was the one who murdered our children and gave the orders, and he, just like other officers and commanders, belongs behind bars,” Ibrahim Siyam, whose son Ahmad was among those killed, told the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.

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Yet another example of how Palestinians, like the poor and especially racially stigmatized poor everywhere, must be twice as good. Twice as patient, twice as humble and here, twice as forgiving. Much more than twice really.
Killing is a sin but can be forgiven of those who had no alternative and are truly sorry for taking a life.
Killing knowingly and repeatedly is a mortal sin for which forgiveness can only be hoped for with a lifetime of atonement.
Working to end the occupation now would be a start.

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Where are the apologies for the sinking of the Patria, for the bombing of the King David Hotel, for refusing Roosevelt's offer of asylum for 500,000 Holocaust survivors, for Deir Yassin, for Wadi Araba, for August 22nd 1949.....No apology will suffice, only a renunciation of the claim to Palestine by messianic entitlement and a recognition that one state, under democratic rule is the solution. That will not happen while the claim of genetic entitlement is upheld by the Americans and the rest of the world either falls in with it or remains silent. Israel-Palestine is an American problem. It is American power and collusion which gives the Israeli regime confidence. American opinion is changing. Among Democrats there is a big decline in support for the Israeli state, especially from the young. Among the Republicans, there is a big rise in support for the Israeli state. Yet the Democrats are far from recognising what needs to be done. Two things are vital: that the Republicans are kept from office and Democratic representatives educated about why the Israeli regime is beyond support by anyone who believes in democracy; and that pressure from the grassroots is exerted worldwide. This is not hard to summon when people are told the truth. The evidence is to hand. Once people are shown that Zionism is antisemitic by definition in that it reviles all Jews who refuse support; that the nation-state law makes Israel an apartheid regime; that, as Bevin, pointed out, the whole problem rests on the Zionist refusal to accept Arabs as their equals, they quickly understand. The world's elite hates democracy but the common folk have nothing else. Fact, evidence, reason and steady work can unseat even the most apparently secure regimes.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.