Israeli Arabs frustrated by ‘lenient’ police response to Jewish violence

Umm el-Fahm mayor: “The police see Arabs as an enemy and Jews as citizens.”

Earlier this week, Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi posted on Twitter two photos of policemen in the Arab-Israeli city of Umm el-Fahm and Bnei Brak, where the majority of the residents are haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews.The photo from Umm el-Fahm featured policemen carrying M-16 rifles, while the one from Bnei Brak showed largely unarmed officers cautiously dispersing haredi men who were protesting against COVID-19 restrictions.“I want to positively note that the police arrived in Bnei Brak without carrying firearms,” Tibi wrote. “That’s how it should be. Today, during a demonstration in Umm el-Fahm against violent crime, the police arrived armed to the teeth, including automatic weapons.”

Tibi’s comment struck a chord with many Arab-Israelis, who said there was a difference between the way the police were tackling violence in Arab and Jewish communities.Many Arab-Israelis seemed to agree with the notion that the police are more “sympathetic” toward Jewish protesters

Referring to the recent spate of violence in Bnei Brak, including the attempted lynching of undercover police officers and the torching of a bus, several Arab citizens said the police appeared more tolerant and restrained in dealing with the rioters.“Can you imagine what would have happened if Arabs had surrounded a police vehicle and tried to lynch three policemen,” asked Munir Masarweh, a schoolteacher from Kafr Kara. “They would have opened fire and sent hundreds of soldiers into the Arab town. But we have seen how the police act differently in Bnei Brak.”Osama Shaheen, a civil engineer from Haifa, said police undoubtedly have “different rules” for dealing with Arabs and Jews.“We would have seen a different reaction from the police had these events taken place in an Arab town in Israel,” he said. “The police would have responded with live ammunition or rubber bullets. They would have deployed snipers with instructions to shoot. We all remember what happened in 2000.”Shaheen was referring to protests in Arab cities and towns in Israel last October that resulted in the deaths of 13 protesters during clashes with police.“The police see Arabs as an enemy and Jews as citizens,” Umm el-Fahm Mayor Samir Mahamed told The Jerusalem Post. “When there’s an Arab demonstration, the police are equipped with all types of weapons. But when there’s a protest in a Jewish area, the police deal with them with kid gloves.”This shows that the police apply double standards when it comes to dealing with Arab and Jewish protests, he said.During last week’s protest against an upsurge in violent crime in the Arab sector, the police deployed a large force at the entrance to Umm el-Fahm and used force to disperse the demonstrators, Mahamed told the Post. “They arrested three people,” he said.Attorney Red Jaber, director of the Aman Center (Arab Center for Safe Society), told the Post: “Of course, there’s a big difference between the way the police deal with Arab and Jewish protests.

The police do not hesitate to use force against demonstrations organized by Arab citizens. They are less tolerant toward Arab protesters. The police, however, are more lenient and tolerant when it comes to dealing with Jewish protesters.“This disparity is evident in the number of those who are arrested or injured. At an Arab demonstration, the police officer sees himself as being on a mission to defend the state. At a Jewish demonstration, on the other hand, the police officer is defending the right of the protester to demonstrate.”Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen said: “Police violence targets marginalized groups, especially the Arab community. The Israeli police are hostile toward Arab citizens and frequently regard them as enemies.“At demonstrations by Arab citizens, the police come armed with firearms and attack and arrest demonstrators, using severe violence. This reflects the authorities’ view that Arabs are second-class citizens.”A veteran journalist from Baka al-Gharbiya said Arab protesters view the police as an “enemy and not law enforcers.” Haredi protesters who clashed with the police in Bnei Brak and other cities over the past few days share the same view, he said.“They also view the police as an enemy,” the journalist told the Post. “But the results of the clashes are different. In the Arab sector, protests often result in arrests and injured. When Arabs block a road, the police employ an iron fist. When Jews block a road, they are evacuated by unarmed policemen.”