Former Police Chief, Yehuda Vilk, Testifies before the Official Commission of Inquiry: Accuses Arab Leaders of Incitement


Issued by Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel


Last week, on 24-25 October 2001, Yehuda Vilk, the former police chief and the highest-ranking official to appear to date before the official Commission of Inquiry, gave testimony concerning his role in the events of October 2000. The main points of his testimony follow:


  1. In response to a question posed by a Commission member concerning the reasons for the uprising in October 2000, Vilk stated that, “These events were not spontaneous. They were planned and organized by some of the Arab political leaders with the encouragement of the Palestinian Authority which sees the Arab Israelis as a strategic tool.” Vilk’s testimony contradicted his prior statement to the Commission’s investigators, in which he asserted that the October 2000 events were spontaneous and took place without any previous planning. When pressed by the Commission, Vilk could not explain the inconsistency of his statements. 
  2. Vilk testified about his relationship with the Israeli political leadership in general, and with former Minister of Internal Security, Shlomo Ben Ami, in particular. Vilk stated that Ben Ami did not perform his role very well during the October events, as he was preoccupied with foreign affairs. (Note: Ben Ami held two positions in the government at that time: Minister of Internal Security and Minister of Foreign Affairs.) In contrast to testimony given by other police witnesses, Vilk stated that Ben Ami first ordered that weapons be taken away from the police on 8 October 2000, and not before that date. Vilk testified that since 3 October 2000, some political figures [alluding to Ben Ami], started making statements solely for the “purpose of the protocols” [e.g., for the record] in order to avoid any future problems. 

  3. Regarding the 2 October 2000 events in Umm al-Fahem, when Misleh Hussein Abu Jarad (19 years old) was killed and tens were injured as a result of the shooting of live ammunition by the Israeli police:

a. Vilk testified that there were “no red lines.” [e.g., limits or restrictions] His testimony contradicts that of Northern District Police Commander Alik Ron, who testified that the “red line” was the Wadi Ara region. According to Ron, Wadi Ara would remain open, even if they needed to use force.   

b. Regarding the use of snipers against the demonstrators, Vilk testified that, “If Alik Ron had called me and asked for my approval to use snipers, I wouldn’t have given him such an approval.” Vilk also confirmed that the killing of Abu Jarad and the injuring of tens of demonstrators in Umm al-Fahem were serious violations of police regulations regarding the use of live ammunition.

c. During the testimony, the Commission members revealed that Vilk had told the Commission’s investigators a few months ago that he did not know anything about the presence of snipers units in Arab towns. Justice Or told Vilk that his prior statements contradict the fact that he was present in Nazareth on 2-3 October 2000, during which time the snipers were also present. In addition, Vilk testified that he did not conduct any internal investigation regarding the use of snipers, even though these events marked the first time that snipers were used against demonstrators inside Israel.


d. Vilk testified that taking over the Kahawesh family house (known as the “red house” and located on a hill overlooking the main entrance to Umm al-Fahem ) violated the orders prohibiting the police from entering Arab villages. These orders were given to avoid any friction that could intensify the confrontations with the police. In this regard, Vilk indicated that Benzy Sau, a Commander of the Border Police, had violated these orders.

  1. Vilk adamantly rejected the idea of banning the use of rubber-coated steel bullets by the police forces in the future as a means for dispersing demonstrators. The members of the Commission raised this idea in their questions to Vilk, suggesting that rubber-coated bullets were consistently used improperly and are as deadly as live ammunition and no less dangerous. 
  2. Vilk also testified, as did at least one other witness, about the strange disappearance of protocols of meetings that were attended by Ben Ami, Vilk and other police officials. These meetings, held between 30 September - 2 October 2000, took place in the home of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Despite numerous attempts, the Commission has failed to obtain these protocols. Reportedly, the 2 October 2000 protocol records statements made by Barak giving a “green light” to the police forces to use any means necessary to restore order and open the main roads of the state.