Arabs call protest strike after Bedouins killed by police

Rahat mayor urges Netanyahu ‘wise up’ after a second man dies during clashes with police in the city

An influential Arab advocacy group on Monday called a general strike of all Arab communities for Tuesday in protest of the death of two residents of the city of Rahat during clashes with police recently.

As part of the strike, called by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, schools and businesses in the Arab Israeli communities were set to be shuttered, and several demonstrations against police brutality were planned.

Rahat Mayor Talal al-Krenawi called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “wise up” to what was going on, a day after a man died during clashes when a funeral for another Rahat resident allegedly killed by police last week turned violent.

“It is totally criminal,” Al-Krenawi told Army Radio, “This just can’t be ignored.”

“The prime minister needs to wake up, not everything is primaries, not everything is elections,” he continued. “These are citizens who want to live. These are your citizens, prime minister, wise up!”

Krenawi added that he will demand that an investigative committee look into the events over the past several days, which have also left dozens injured, including some policemen.

Police said the shooting victim, Sami al-Jaar, 20, was killed during a drug bust last Thursday but not by deliberate police fire.

The entire city held a strike Sunday, in protest of Jaar’s death. There was be a general strike in Rahat on Monday as well, Israel Radio reported.

The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adalah, criticized police for being too combative in their dealings with Arab and Bedouin groups, and in particular against the festering issue of unrecognized Bedouin villages in southern Israel.

“The murderous acts by the police against Arab citizens have become a routine matter, and this is not the first time that the Israeli police have tried to justify their crimes against Arab citizens by spreading lies,” Adalah said in a statement.

“Ever since the shelving of the Prawer plan the Israeli police have taken a particularly violent and aggressive approach against the Arab-Bedouin citizens with the intention of ‘teaching them a lesson,'” the statement continued.

The state’s Prawer plan, canceled in 2013, called for Israel to officially recognize and register the vast majority of Bedouin settlements throughout the south, and compensate the residents of 35 unrecognized villages — some 30,000 to 40,000 people — who were to be moved off state-owned land into towns built for them.

Adalah continued: “In addition, the Police Investigations Unit doesn’t investigate these serious incidents in a fitting and professional manner, and thus enhances the police perception of the Arab citizens as the enemy whose blood can be shed.”

One person died and another was seriously injured in clashes with police Sunday in Rahat, as thousands attended Jaar’s funeral. Twenty other people were hurt during the disturbances. According to Israel Radio the man died of a heart attack during the furor.

Police said they were attacked by the funeral-goers with stones, and called for backup. One policeman was moderately hurt and another lightly injured. The police that arrived at the funeral then used riot dispersal means to break up the crowds.

According to the police account of Jaar’s death, policemen shot in the air after they were attacked by stones as they entered Rahat to arrest several people for drug-related crimes. Jaar, who was standing nearby, was hit.

An investigation has been opened into the case.

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