Police Violence at Lod


Today, Adalah called upon the Attorney General and the Prime Minister to establish an official committee of inquiry into the recent events of police brutality against Arab citizens in Lod and Umm el Fahem.  This committee would examine the pattern and practice of police violence and police regulations for opening fire against Arab demonstrators in Israel. 

On 21 June, at least eight Arab demonstrators, protesting against the demolition of an Arab house in Lod, were injured when police opened fire on them using rubber steel-coated bullets.  Included among the 16 injured was Dr. Azmi Bishara, Member of Knesset and leader of the Ta’jamoah (Balad) party, who was shot in the shoulder and hospitalized.  As a result, Adalah wrote to the Attorney General and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging them to establish an official committee of inquiry to examine police conduct with respect to Arab demonstrators.  The necessity and importance of this request is strongly supported by the details of the events, which prove illustrative: During similar events in Umm el Fahem, where 400 demonstrators were injured, Um Sahali and Lod, police consistently utilize a policy of extreme and disproportionate violence and open fire when Arab demonstrators are concerned.  This racist policy alone should be sufficient to compel the government to adhere to Adalah’s request, particularly as human lives are at stake. 

In his request to the Prime Minister and Attorney General, Hassan Jabareen, General Director of Adalah, referred to Article 1 of the Official Committee of Inquiry Law of 1968, which states, “Whenever the government considers there to be an important public issue which needs to be clarified, the government may establish an official committee of inquiry.”  This article gives the government the power to use its discretion to establish a committee to investigate the issue.  The government has established such committees under comparable circumstances in the past when those concerned were Jewish demonstrators, such as during the events of Wadi el-Saleeb in the 1950s.  The circumstances of the present situation are so similar that they should naturally lead to the same result. 

On 28 September 1998, Adalah approached the Attorney General with a similar request with respect to the events in Umm el Fahem, but is still awaiting an answer.  In the present situation, Adalah has made clear that if the government does not respond promptly, it will not hesitate to submit a petition to the Supreme Court.  The recurrent and extreme nature of this kind of police conduct has given strength to the legal argument: “This essential public issue demands serious attention because human lives are concerned.”