September 27, 2004
SUBJ: HRA report on police brutality against Palestinian Arab Citizens of Israel
In September 2003, the Or Commission of inquiry presented its conclusions concerning the various factors that, in its opinion, led to the outbreak of the events of October 2000, in which twelve Palestinian Arab citizens and one labourer from Gaza were killed by the police during demonstrations and protests inside Israel. Among its conclusions and recommendations, the Commission discussed the attitude and behaviour of the police toward the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel, both during the course of the October Events and in the preceding period. On this point, the Commission recommended as follows:
“It is important to inculcate, at all levels of the police, the importance of considered and moderate behaviour in relations with the Arab sector. Within this brief, it is important to act in order to uproot phenomena of negative prejudices that have been found regarding the Arab sector, even among veteran and esteemed police officers. The police must inculcate among its personnel the understanding that the Arab public as a whole is not their enemy, and that it is not to be treated as the enemy.”
The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA)’s newest report entitled: “Four Years On – Cases of Police Brutality against Palestinian Arab Citizens of Israel during the Year Following the Or Commission Report on the October 2000 Events” aims to assess whether or not the police have implemented the recommendations of the Or Commission relating to the approach and conduct of the police forces toward Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.
The report describes in detail four separate cases, out of ten cases documented by the HRA in which Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel were beaten and abused by the police. The details presented in these cases reveal the use of excessive force by police officers, without need and in situations in which no person was in any danger, let alone mortal danger. In one of the cases, the use of excessive force was not confined to beatings and blows, but developed into the use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians who were not endangering the lives of the police personnel or of any other person. The use of live ammunition resulted in one of the victims being shot in the leg. In all of these cases, physical violence was accompanied by verbal violence, and the comments made by the police officers involved reflect racist attitudes toward the Palestinian Arab minority. This verbal violence and the attitudes it reflects reveal the motivation for the behaviour of the police officers.
It thus appears that the Israel Police have failed to internalise or to apply the lessons of the October 2000 events and the recommendations of the Or Commission with appropriate vigilance, given the importance of this matter and its ramifications in terms of the relations between the Jewish majority and the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel in general, and between the Palestinian Arab citizens and the police, in particular. It may even be stated that the attitude of the police toward the Palestinian Arab minority has not only failed to improve, but has become still more racist, hostile and aggressive. The HRA is profoundly concerned by this situation, and urges the relevant authorities to internalise the lessons of the events of October 2000 and to implement the recommendations of the Or Commission relating to the behaviour and attitude of the police forces toward the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel.
The report “Four Years On” is available in English, Arabic and Hebrew on our website at www.arabhra.org. The website also provides further information about the HRA and our ongoing projects. We hope that this report will be useful to your work and that you will continue to draw on our reports in the future as resources for well-researched information on the human-rights situation of Palestinian Arabs inside Israel. We also welcome any comments or questions that you might have concerning the report or the HRA’s activities in general.
Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA)