Police disperse hundreds-strong Arab Israeli protest after Kafr Qara murder

3 arrested in demonstration following the death of Suleiman Masarweh, 25, the son of a former local council head and the third Arab Israeli to be murdered in 2021

Arab Israeli protesters pray as part of a demonstration against violence in Arab communities on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 (courtesy)
Arab Israeli protesters pray as part of a demonstration against violence in Arab communities on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 (courtesy)

Hundreds of Arab Israelis demonstrated on Route 65 following the shooting death of a resident of Kafr Qara, before police dispersed them with tear gas, water cannons, and shock grenades.

Suleiman Masarwa, 25, who was shot to death on Tuesday night by unknown gunmen, is the third homicide victim among Arab citizens of Israel since the beginning of 2021. In addition, three Palestinians were killed in a triple homicide in East Jerusalem.

Masarwa is the son of former local council head Nazih Masarwah. His shooting death shocked Kafr Qara, bringing parliamentarians and members of the Arab Higher Follow-Up Committee to the central Arab Israeli city on Wednesday as part of an emergency meeting.

During his funeral on Wednesday night, hundreds of Arab Israelis bore his coffin through the streets. After the funeral, residents flooded out into a major junction by Kafr Qara to pray and protest.

“Our children’s blood is dear to us,” demonstrators chanted, as others yelled: “The police force is the cause of the terrorism.”

Demonstrators gather in Kafr Qara following the funeral of homicide victim Suleiman Masarwah, 25, on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 (courtesy)

Many Arab Israelis blame the police for the rise in organized crime in their communities, charging that cops fail to enforce the rule of law in their cities and towns.

“The police are the ones abandoning the Arab citizens, every day, every hour. They fire tear gas and stun grenades on protesters, including women and children, in Kafr Qara, where Suleiman Masarweh was killed, and crack down on a demonstration against crime,” said Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen, who attended the protest.

“Instead of catching criminals and murderers, the police are busy cracking down on protesters, leaving the Arab citizens to die,” said party leader MK Ayman Odeh.

After hundreds of demonstrators began marching down the open highway, police forces began deploying riot dispersal tactics against them.

The police called the demonstration “an illegal march” and said demonstrators were throwing stones at cops.

“Israel Police will permit freedom of expression but not violations of public order, disturbances and vandalism,” the police force said in a statement.

Ending the spread of violence and organized crime is a major priority for Arab Israelis. In 2020, 96 Arab Israelis were violently killed, by far the highest annual toll in recent memory.

A wide-ranging government plan produced by the Prime Minister’s Office to fight the causes of violence in Arab communities has yet to be formally approved and funded. Similar efforts — such as a government plan to fight domestic violence — have occasionally sat for years without ever receiving the funding to go into effect.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised in a Knesset parliamentary session in early November that he would bring the plan to approval within two weeks. As the prospect of fourth elections has gripped Israel in recent days, however, the plan has seemingly been shelved for the time being.

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