Opinion: 21st anniversary of October 2000 riots reminds us the conclusions of the Or Commission, meant to examine the bloody events, haunt us to this day; their decision to put blame solely on police was directly responsible for riots in May
October 2000 riots-(Photo: Yariv Cohen)
Many in the Arab sector, along with some Jewish activists, this month are marking 21 years since the October 2000 riots – a series of protests in Arab cities in northern Israel that turned violent, escalating into rioting by Israeli Arabs throughout the country.
During the riots, 13 Arabs were killed in clashes with Israel’s police forces, and all of them were proclaimed to be “Shahids” or “martyrs”.
Any death that was caused by the police is a death that should be regretted, and when circumstances require, there is a need for an investigation to draw conclusions.
The fact that during riots in mixed Arab Israeli cities last May, not a single rioter was killed by the police, Arab or Jewish, shows that lessons were learned from the events of 21 years ago.
But, there is one thing we all must understand, especially the Arabs living Israel: those who die in violent riots are not saints. They are incited hundreds of young people, and without the police intervention, those riots would have probably ended with lynching attempts of both Arab and Jews.
No Arab was killed by Jews in those riots, but a Jew was murdered by Arabs after being struck in the head by a brick.
So, in the hope that Israeli Arabs want to reduce the violence, and most of them do, the last thing they need to do is worship the rioters who were killed and call them martyrs. That’s not how you deal with violence, that’s how you give it legitimacy.
It all started when the Israeli government appointed The Or Commission to examine the clashes between police forces and the Arab public in October 2000.
This commission did more harm than good. It harshly criticized government ministers, police officers, and leaders in the Israeli Arab public.
The main problem with the riots, however, was the incitement of masses by some Arab politicians, primarily Raeed Salah – the leader of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Yes, the commission said a few words against him but the committee members have repeatedly been trained by the High Court prior.
The law is clear. It prevents terrorists and those who deny Israel’s right to exist to run for Knesset. But the law was trampled on in this case. The High Court judges gave legitimacy to the incitement. But they, in fact, did not draw lessons. No doubt that they had good intentions and wanted to preserve basic rights. But they achieved the opposite result.
“Jews were attacked for being Jews … attempts were made to ascend and threaten Jewish settlements … The aggression and violence were characterized by great determination,” the committee wrote.
That was then. And what happened last May? The situation has gotten worse – more Jews were murdered, and more Jews fled their homes.
So no, those who go out to disrupt order and harm Jews, then and now, are not martyrs. It is also quite possible that the restraining of the security forces that began with the conclusions of the Or Commission has cost us in dearly in recent years.
Those who incited against Jews made Arabs the victims. After all, the levels of violence in the Arab sector are only rising, and those who choose violence should know that they will pay a price.
But somehow, conclusions are always drawn only against those who try to prevent the riots, while most of the rioters come away with a conclusion that they can go on, doing whatever they want.
Israel needs a restart in the Jewish-Arab relations. The Knesset should anchor equality in the Basic Laws of Israel and the Arabs must take responsibility and realize that those who insist that rioters are martyrs only aggravate the situation.