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.