Israel’s defense minister is escalating his incitement against Palestinian citizens of Israel, following a police attack on a peaceful protest in the northern city of Haifa.
“Every day that Ayman Odeh and his associates are free to walk around cursing at police officers is a failure of law enforcement authorities,” the minister, Avigdor Lieberman, posted on Twitter. “The place for these terrorists is not in the Knesset, it’s in prison. It’s time they pay a price for their actions.”
Odeh is the leader of the Joint List of parties representing Palestinian citizens in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Lieberman’s attack on him had been prompted by Odeh’s criticism of brutal police actions on Friday night.
Lieberman has previously called for the beheading of Palestinian citizens of Israel who he accuses of being disloyal to the self-described Jewish state.
Police assault protesters
On Friday evening, Palestinian citizens of Israel gathered in Haifa to protest Israel’s massacres of unarmed civilians in Gaza, but the rally was attacked by Israeli police and more than 20 people were arrested.
“Police officers and special forces arrived to the protest armed and equipped to disrupt the peaceful demonstration,” according to a statement published by Mossawa, a legal advocacy group for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Mossawa pointed to videos that it said showed how “police rapidly barged in and charged the crowd, beating the demonstrators without provocation and making sporadic arrests.”
In total, according to Mossawa, police arrested 21 people. It said that many “were brutally beaten by the arresting officers while in custody at the police station and in interrogation rooms, some while handcuffed.”
Four were hospitalized for serious injuries, including Mossawa’s director Jafar Farah, who suffered a broken leg among other injuries.
The statement published by Mossawa said that Farah had been rushed to the emergency room with “a broken knee and severe blunt trauma injuries to the chest and abdomen sustained during a brutal attack on him by police officers while in custody.”
The human rights group Adalah also posted on Facebook video it said showed “police and security forces attacking unarmed demonstrators in Haifa.”
Adalah immediately filed court petitions for the release of the detainees:
On Monday morning, Mossawa announced that all those detained had been released from custody.
But the group said that legal attempts to secure the detainees’ release before then had been delayed by the combination of the sabbath and the Shavuot Jewish holiday, meaning no judge was available to hear the case until Sunday night.
Mossawa also faulted the Israeli mainstream media for its “Orwellian” description of what happened as a “riot.”
“The director of the Mossawa Center, Jafar Farah, is not a ‘riot detainee’ but the victim of Israeli state and police violence to silence peaceful protest, a very core essence of democracy,” Mossawa tweeted in response to the publication Ynet.
There are approximately 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, the survivors and their descendants of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of most of Palestine in order to create Israel.
Nominally they have citizenship rights, including the right to vote for members of Israel’s parliament, but they live under dozens of laws and systematic policies that severely restrict their rights because they are not Jewish.
The statement published by Mossawa and endorsed by more than two dozen human rights and civil society groups, expresses “outrage at this brutal conduct by the Israeli police against unarmed protesters.”
In addition to demanding the release of the protesters, the groups call for “a full and independent investigation into the unjustified arrests and beatings of protesters while in police custody.”
However, the impunity that Israeli forces enjoy for attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, has also historically extended to their brutality against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Israeli police are already defending their violence against the protesters, claiming, according to the newspaper Haaretz, that “a preliminary investigation did not find any link between Farah’s arrest and his injury.”
But even Gilad Erdan, Israel’s hardline “public security” minister, conceded that, “if a detainee’s leg is broken when he is under arrest it is hard to say it is not unusual.”
“When the police spoke with the officers involved, none of them said they were in physical contact with Farah,” Erdan stated. “Therefore the facts raise questions regarding the medical findings.”
What Erdan appears to be saying is that the police must be telling the truth, and that it is Farah’s broken leg that is mistaken.
In October 2000, while Palestinian citizens of Israel were demonstrating in support of Palestinians rising up against Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli police shot dead 14 unarmed protesters.
No one has ever been brought to justice for those killings.
Ahmad Tibi, another Palestinian lawmaker in the Knesset, responded to Lieberman’s tweet calling the elected representatives of Palestinians in Israel “terrorists” who should be jailed.
“The first person to reach an international tribunal will be you,” Tibi tweeted at Lieberman, who as defense minister has commanded Israel’s deliberate slaughter of unarmed civilians in Gaza.