by Andrew Friedman
Members of the Israeli Arab sector declared a general strike for Tuesday following a large riot in the city of Kafr Qassem overnight between Monday and Tuesday, in which one local resident was killed and several police officers wounded.
Meeting in an emergency session, members of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan both for the killing of an Israeli citizen and for failing to address organized crime in the Arab sector. The committee said the Arab community would hold demonstrations at intersections around the country Tuesday afternoon at 5 pm, and a large demonstration in Kafr Qassem this Saturday.
The riots began shortly after 11:30 PM, after police stopped a local resident and asked for identification. Police said the man resisted arrest and attacked officers, and said the detainee was soon joined by a mob of bystanders who dragged the man away from police.
Police successfully re-detained the man but the scene soon deteriorated into a barrage of stone-throwing. According to the police, an initial investigation suggests that a local security guard at the police station who feared for his life opened fire on the protesters, which resulted in one death.
A spokesperson from the Joint List party identified the deceased resident as Mahmoud Taha. The police stated it would launch a full official investigation into the matter of Taha’s death.
Ironically, the incident occurred just hours after MK Dov Khenin challenged Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on the Knesset floor to explain why the security establishment has failed to reign in gun use and street crime in the Arab sector.
Khenin said Arab municipal and national officials have asked repeatedly to confiscate guns in the Arab community and for increased, more effective policing — two requests that went unanswered.
In recent months, eight people have been killed in Kafr Qassem by criminals, including an infamous double murder last week. The residents of Kafr Qassem shut down the city’s education system this Monday to protest against the police failing to act against local violence.
“Yesterday I spoke on the Knesset floor about the out-of-control gun situation in Arab towns […] only a sharp change in police policies vis-à-vis Arab citizens can restore [the community’s trust and prevent a repeat of the serious, sad riots we saw last night in Kafr Qassem,” Khenin said Tuesday.
“The police are adding insult to injury, not only by abandoning our security, the streets of our cities, and by refusing to investigate our murder cases, and then the police attack and harm civilians,” added Joint List party chairman Ayman Odeh, head of Hadash.
“The police continue to treat the Arab population as enemies to be protected from, not as civilians to be defended. […] The least the police can do now is to allow residents to protest as they please without the police themselves endangering them and their safety,” Odeh said.
Ilana Messika contributed to this report.