Residents of Kafr Qasim, an Arab locality located in central Israel near the Green Line, gathered on Monday night, June 5, 2017, to protest a series of unresolved murders and the arrest of the head of the community-led city watch. Security personnel responded to the demonstrators with excessive force, opening fire on the crowd and killing twenty-year-old Arab citizen Muhammed Taha. Clashes subsequently ensued, with protestors setting fire to two police cars and throwing stones.
Since 2000, state authorities have killed forty-seven Arab citizens, including Taha. However, the state has only convicted three officers and neither of them has served more than fourteen months in prison. In 2003, the Or Commission, which was established to investigate the deaths of fourteen Arab citizens in October 2000, deemed the use of live ammunition as a means to disperse crowds illegal. As the events in Kafr Qasim demonstrate, however, the Israeli police and its affiliates ignore this determination in their dealings with Arab citizens.
Across the country, the Arab Palestinian community faces negligence and harassment at the hands of the police. While the police ignore issues related to traffic violations, gang violence, organized crime, and domestic abuse in Arab areas, it consistently responds swiftly and forcefully to peaceful protests and presumed security threats. Despite calls from the Arab community for action, the state continuously turns a blind eye to weapons smuggling and organized crime in the Arab sector. As a result, since 2000 the Arab community in Israel has lost nearly 1,200 civilians to organized crime and the sale of illegal weapons.
Protesters at the demonstration were particularly irked by the state’s swift arrest of the head of the community city watch in Kafr Qasem, especially in light of its general investigative neglect. Last week, criminal organizations killed two city watchmen (Qassem Muhammed Amer and Fadi Sarsour) as part of an attempt to take control of the city’s businesses. In the past five years, such violence has taken the lives of twelve Kafr Qasim residents, yet the police have not arrested a single suspect for any of these murders.