In an unprecedented move highlighting the widespread fear amongst Palestinian citizens of Israel (PCI), the High Follow‑Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel has called on the international community for protection.
The umbrella organisation is comprised of Arab Members of Knesset (MKs), Arab mayors, and leaders of movements and NGOs. It is the highest political body that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel at the national level.
In their letter to the international community, last week, the body described the fear and terror that has gripped Palestinian communities due to mob violence, vigilantism and the incitement of violence by Israeli politicians.
"PCI have been victims of intense violence at the hands of the Israeli police and extreme right-wing Israeli citizens, vigilante groups, including settlers," the group said. Physical assault on PCI was triggered by "state-sanctioned crackdown on assemblies of Palestinians in East Jerusalem – including barring Ramadan celebrations in the plaza of Damascus Gate and suppressing protests against the expulsion of Palestinians from the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah," the committee said.
Noting Israel's escalation of violence, the letter mentioned that occupation forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque, attacking and injuring hundreds of worshippers during Ramadan prayers; that police restricted access by PCI to Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque; soon afterward, demonstrations by PCI against oppressive Israeli policies in East Jerusalem and in Gaza spread across Israel.
Protestors were met with brutal force. Iraeli police violently suppressed and dispersed these peaceful demonstrations, injuring and arresting dozens of people in cities including Haifa, Nazareth, Jaffa, Acre and Lod. In the northern region, on 11 May alone, police reported 151 arrests of protestors, with at least 66 people brought to court for extension of detention.
The group argued that it was the brutal state-sanctioned violence against peaceful protesters that intensified the demonstrations, eventually culminating in a number of violent clashes with police forces. The assault on PCI and the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque was the trigger for the escalation in violence, explained the group. The brutal assault that followed saw more than 200 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, many of whom are women and children.
"They are a vulnerable minority that faces state discrimination and racism in all fields," said the letter describing the precarious situation of PCI. "The Netanyahu governments in power over the last 12 years have worked consistently and progressively to de-legitimize their citizenship rights. Mob Violence Israeli Jewish vigilante groups, some of which are settlers from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), have banded together and taken it upon themselves to attack PCI and their property."
Last Wednesday's mob attack was one of the many cited in the letter to highlight the collapse of law and order in Israel. Organised extreme right-wing Israeli-Jewish settler groups, including armed individuals, spread out to multiple mixed Arab-Jewish cities including Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, Lod and Ramleh. These mobs began roaming the streets, chanting "death to Arabs", and looking for Palestinian citizens and families to attack.
Multiple documented attacks against PCI and Palestinian-owned property have been shared on social media platforms. Israeli television broadcast a Jewish mob lynching a Palestinian citizen in the city of Bat Yam. These attacks went absolutely undisturbed by Israeli police who were present at the scene.
The situation is made worse by Israeli officials who the group says are complicit in the violence against PCI. Videos shared on social media platforms and broadcast on television show incidents in which Israeli police appear to have given backing to the Jewish mobs, including armed civilians, as they roam the streets with the clear goal of attacking PCI. The letter described a number of examples where Israeli politicians stoked violent Jewish mobs to rampage through PCI communities.
The current events constitute the worst case in memory of Jewish-Arab violence in Israel, said the group, adding that the Palestinian citizens, collectively, are afraid for their lives.
This fear is intensified as the bodies that should be affording protection and enforcing the law, appear to be shielding the Israeli Jewish vigilante and settler groups
"Based on the above, and given that the Israeli law enforcement authorities have failed to effectively protect Palestinian citizens from mob violence at the hands of Israeli-Jewish citizens, we, the representatives of Arab citizens of Israel, call on the international community to intervene immediately to protect our community from violent attacks and human rights violations by both state and private actors" the group concluded. "We ask that you use all measures to compel Israel to take immediate steps to protect PCI and to stop the violence against them."