JERUSALEM (AP) – A groundbreaking Israeli commission of inquiry
found police used excessive force in quelling Arab riots three
years ago and said in a stinging report released yesterday that the
Jewish state has systematically neglected its Arab minority.

The document – the product of three years of investigation – was
based on the testimony of 377 witnesses and only the fifth probe of
such scope in Israel’s history.

The panel’s findings came as Israeli-Palestinian violence flared
anew yesterday.

An Israeli helicopter fired missiles at a car carrying three
Hamas militants in Gaza City, killing one and wounding another.
Twenty-five bystanders also were hurt in the sixth Israeli missile
strike in two weeks. In the West Bank city of Nablus, soldiers shot
and critically wounded a 15-year-old boy after a firebomb set their
tank on fire.

Israel has been waging war on Hamas in retaliation for the
suicide bombing that killed 21 people on a Jerusalem bus Aug. 19.
With yesterday’s attack, 14 Palestinians, including at least 10
Hamas members, have been killed in missile strikes.

The panel of two judges and an academic urged the government to
come up with a detailed plan for narrowing the gaps between Jews
and Arab citizens, who make up about one-fifth of the population of
6.6 million people.

Israeli Arabs say they have long been discriminated against in
economic opportunities, land distribution and civil rights.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office said the panel’s
recommendations would be discussed by the Cabinet. Successive
Israeli governments have promised to do more for Arab communities,
but little has been achieved.

Arab leaders said the report did not go far enough, and that
they had hoped senior police officers would face prosecution.

The commission recommended that several police commanders not be
promoted and that two lower-level officers be removed. While the
recommendations aren’t binding, they carry great weight, and the
attorney general could still seek criminal charges against some of
the officers.

The commission was appointed after police shot and killed 13
Arab citizens in weeklong riots in October 2000. A Jewish motorist
was killed by a rock in the protests.

Thousands of Israeli Arabs had taken to the streets to show
support for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, who a
month earlier had embarked on an uprising against Israeli
occupation.

Then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak decided to launch a formal
inquiry, in part to deflect growing Arab anger against his
government. Barak had been elected in May 1999 on a peace platform,
with strong Arab support.

The report put the blame for the riots squarely on the shoulders
of the Israeli establishment, saying a major cause was systematic
government neglect of the Arab minority.

“The state and all its governments failed consistently in
dealing with the problems raised by the existence of a large Arab
minority within a Jewish state,” it stated.

“The government’s approach to the Arab sector was in large part
characterized by neglect and discrimination. The establishment did
not demonstrate sufficient sensitivity to the Arab sector, nor did
it budget its resources in an equal way to the Arab
population.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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