Photo Credit: Haim Zach (GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds together with former convict Muhammad Jabarin a sign saying 'I'm the 1,000,000th vaccinated.' Jan. 1, 2021.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein on Friday afternoon celebrated in the town of Umm Al-Fahm the 1,000,000th person in Israel to be vaccinated against Coronavirus, Muhammad Jabarin (66).

It was a great opportunity for Netanyahu to show how everyone in Israel has access to the vaccine, especially in light of a recent NY Times article that praised Israel’s record vaccination success, the best in the world (Israel Vaccinates 1 Million Against COVID-19, First Nation to Inoculate 10% of Population). It was also Netanyahu’s opportunity to reach out to Arab voters ahead of the upcoming elections, as well as to promote taking the Coronavirus vaccinations within the Arab sector.

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But on Sunday morning, Kan 11 news initially (and incorrectly) reported that the recipient, a resident of Umm Al-Fahm, spent a 20-year prison sentence for a double murder (פרסום ראשון: המתחסן המיליון שהצטלם עם רה”מ באום אל פחם – רוצח משוחרר).

Later in the day, Kan 11 news updated and corrected their report a number of times, with the final version stating that Jabarin spent time in jail for armed robbery and weapons smuggling, while retracting any claims he was in jail for murder or manslaughter, along with an apology for that claim. Jabarin served 14 non-consecutive years: 1981-1986, 1989-1991, 1992-1995, 1996-1999 according to their latest report, based on official prison documents supplied by Jabarin’s lawyer.

Jabarin later told Galei Tzahal radio and reporters that the claim he was convicted for murder is a lie, and that he was only arrested for robbery and possession of a weapon.

People in the Arab city told Kan 11 they were very surprised by the choice of Jabarin Muhammad and blamed it on sloppy vetting on the part of the PM’s PR team.

According to the Prime Minister’s rushed press release that came out on Friday, Umm Al-Fahm Mayor Samir Sobhi Mahameed, who was also in the photo-op, didn’t know about Jabarin’s record.

The entire event sends a confusing message about one of the key issues of the 2021 election campaign in the Arab sector: what to do about Arab on Arab violence in Israel (See: First Murder Victim of 2021, Last Murder Victim of 2020 from Same Arab Village).

To be fair, in a conversation with Kan 11, Jabarin said that he was “very disappointed. They want to come down on Netanyahu as if he had a meeting with me, as if I had planned the meeting with him, I paid my debt and threw everything behind me.” Jabarin added that “I have children and grandchildren. I came to get vaccinated, and the attending physician told me ‘you are the millionth vaccinated, Netanyahu will say hello to you and what’s up’ and that’s what it was.”

And speaking of rushed press releases, here is the entire speech Prime Minister Netanyahu will be regretting over the next three months or so:

“What excitement, Jabarin is the 1,000,000th person in the State of Israel to be vaccinated. We are breaking all of the records. We brought millions of vaccines to the State of Israel. We are ahead of the entire world and now we are ahead of them with our excellent HMOs. We are moving forward at great speed in order to vaccinate the entire population. It is important to me also that the Arab population in the State of Israel be vaccinated quickly. It is important because this saves lives and only thus will we be able to return to normal lives.”

A total of 113 Israeli Arabs were killed in 2020 in murders and other violent incidents, compared with 94 in 2019 (a 20% increase). 96 of the victims were men and 17 women.

 

[This story has been updated with new information on Jabarin’s conviction, which was not murder, as Kan 11 News originally and mistakenly reported.]

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.