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Israel officials co-ordinated with Jewish ultra-nationalists to crackdown on Palestinian protesters, HRW says

December 14, 2021 at 1:54 pm

Israeli forces arrest a Palestinian man in the West Bank on 11 November 2021 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) into abusive and discriminatory policing found that Israeli officials co-ordinated with far-right Jewish ultra-nationalists during May’s civil unrest in the mixed Jewish and Palestinian city of Lod.

Released today, the report found that Israeli law enforcement agencies used excessive force to disperse peaceful protests by Palestinians in Lod and urged the UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate the discriminatory practices of the occupation state.

These practices include the contrasting treatment of Jewish and Palestinian protestors; apparent support and coordination of far-right Jewish ultra-nationalists; peddling of misinformation by government officials to stoke civil unrest and discriminatory treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel in court following their arrest.

Lod and other cities in Israel and the occupied West Bank witnessed unrest in May against the backdrop of discriminatory efforts to force Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem, the use of excessive force by Israeli security forces against protesters and worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque and the eruption on 10 May of Israeli aggression on Gaza.

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 Over the course of about two weeks of unrest, security forces detained 2,142 people across Israel and East Jerusalem in a “deterrence” operation that authorities named “Law and Order.” According to Amnesty International, approximately 90 per cent of those detained were Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of occupied East Jerusalem. A report into the crackdown by Amnesty in June found Israeli far-right supremacists sharing selfies posing with guns and messages such as “Tonight we are not Jews, we are Nazis.”

Among the many examples of discrimination cited by HRW in the report is the apparent cooperation between Israeli officials and Jewish ultra-nationalists. On 12 May, scores of Jewish ultra-nationalists who do not live in Lod entered the city, some of them armed, in violation of the government’s emergency declaration issued hours earlier barring non-residents from entering.

An Israeli journalist reporting from Lod is cited in the report saying that municipal authorities hosted the Jewish ultra-nationalist outsiders overnight in a building owned by the city near a Palestinian cemetery. Though Mayor the city denied having been informed of this move or approving it, these groups went onto target Palestinians. Overnight they threw stones at Palestinian houses and shops, and at the Al-Omari Mosque. Video clips of some incidents show police positioned close to Jewish rioters as they throw stones but doing nothing.

During the rioting, Palestinian properties and places of worship were attacked. Scores were injured, a Muslim cemetery was vandalised, and dozens of cars burned. HRW said that law enforcement deployed to secure Lod stood by or failed to act in a timely manner to protect Palestinian residents of Lod from violence by Jewish ultra-nationalists located near them or in their line of sight.

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Highlighting the discriminatory practice of the Israeli courts HRW highlighted the stark contrast in the different ways the murders of a Palestinian man and of a Jewish Israeli are handled. In the murder of Musa Hassuna, a Palestinian, Israeli authorities released all Jewish suspects on bail less than 48 hours after the killing, after they pleaded self-defence and closed the investigation less than six months later.

In the murder of Yigal Yehoshua, who is Jewish, eight Palestinian suspects have been detained for months, awaiting prosecution on a number of charges, including “murder as an act of terrorism.”

“In Lod, Israeli police and authorities appear to have treated citizens differently based on whether they are Jewish or Palestinian,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “The UN Commission of Inquiry should seize the unprecedented opportunity to tackle the discrimination and other abuses Palestinians in Israel face solely on account of their identity.”