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Arabs complain of police abuse, discrimination in hunt for Tel Aviv shooter

One Tel Aviv resident says home ‘turned upside-down’ by cops searching for suspect in Friday’s fatal Dizengoff shooting

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Israeli police officers search for a gunman near the scene of a shooting attack in Tel Aviv, January 1, 2016. (AP/Oded Balilty)
Israeli police officers search for a gunman near the scene of a shooting attack in Tel Aviv, January 1, 2016. (AP/Oded Balilty)

As Israel Police focused its hunt for the prime suspect in Friday’s fatal Tel Aviv shooting around the northern neighborhood of Ramat Aviv, Arabs living in the area on Monday reported abuse and complained of discrimination by officers who searched their homes.

Police intensified their search for Nashat Milhem on Monday afternoon after his cellphone was found in the area three days earlier. There were conflicting reports whether the 29-year-old gunmen from Arara — an Arab village in northern Israel — had ditched the phone before or after the attack, in which two people were killed and seven others were injured.

In one popular and very sarcastic Facebook status, which included pictures of the apartment in a mess after the police search, Ramat Aviv resident Ahmad Amer wrote:

“So the police decided today 4.1.16, that it makes perfect sense to enter our apartment in Ramat Aviv, to turn it completely upside-down in a barbaric way, to take out the clothes in the closet, because obviously the terrorist is hiding in the third shelf, to turnover the couch because, no doubt, he crawled under there.

“Of course, all this without any warrant — because we are Arabs and we — a doctor, an engineer, and manager in the stock exchange want to hide your terrorist.

“I am seething mad and I have nothing to do with this matter except to write a meaningless Facebook status.”

אז המשטרה החליטה היום 4.1.16, שזה הגיוני לחלוטין לכנס לדירה שלנו ברמת אביב, להפוך אותה לגמרי בצורה ברברית, להוציא את…

Posted by Ahmad Amer on Monday, January 4, 2016

A Druze resident of Ramat Aviv who formerly served as an IDF officer told The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity that he felt the search of his apartment strained the positive relations between the Druze community and the state.

“Our apartment was also searched. But unlike other apartments, this apartment is inhabited by two discharged soldiers, one of whom served as a combat officer. This certainly raises a lot of questions about nationality aside humanity, and it also certainly raises a question about the blood-pact policy that Druze leaders advocate,” he wrote in an email, referring to the concept that the fates of Druze and Jewish citizens are intertwined through joint military service.

The former soldier’s statement continued: “Is this policy real, or is it that the moment you take off your uniform, you’ll wake up on Friday morning to nine officers in the police’s Special Patrol Unit in your apartment with their faces covered?””

In a Facebook post, Muhammad Abdulqader, who is also a student activist for the Hadash Party — a joint Jewish-Arab party currently within the Joint (Arab) List — jibed at the perceived discrimination by police who searched Arab apartments in the hunt for Milhem.

“Eliyahu Hakim 10, a new building, seven floors, 28 apartments. But only one apartment is suspected: Apartment No. 20, on the 5th floor. A light knock at the door, police. Unfortunately, this was expected. From the entire building, they went directly to the 5th floor and apartment No. 20. But of course it is ‘random.’

“Well it’s no fun when Mohammed, Mohammed and Qassam are sitting in an apartment in this cold, with too much ‘radicalism’ at the same time.”

“So yalla, one for the documents, one for the inspection and one for searching the apartment. And no, do not continue your search in the next apartment for Nashat Milhem. Just click for the elevator and go to the nearest Arab apartment, you can even use Waze: 200 meters more and there is another Arab apartment,” he wrote, referring to the popular Israeli navigation app.

Abdulqader told The Times of Israel that the police who came to his apartment acted professionally.

“They checked our ID cards, looked around to see who was in the apartment, asked politely some questions and left.”

He said he personally knew of 10 cases in which Arab apartments had been searched, and only in one incident had their been any damage done to the premises.

“It’s not the damage that bothers me,” continued Abdulqader. “I just think it’s ridiculous to choose me because I am an Arab.”

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