Will Israeli public security minister face criminal probe for racist incitement against Arab citizens?

Adalah demands Attorney General open investigation, says Minister Erdan's accusations against the Arab public and Knesset members constitute serious danger to Arab citizens.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel demands a criminal investigation into Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan for incitement to racism against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.


Adalah Attorney Nadeem Shehadeh sent a letter on 31 January 2017 to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in response to a series of public statements and social media posts from Erdan during the wave of forest fires in Israel some two months ago and, more recently, following the deadly police shooting incident during home demolitions in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran.


Attorney Shehadeh detailed in the letter a number of examples of public incitement Minister Erdan has made against Arab citizens.


On his Facebook page, for example, Minister Erdan posted on 3 December 2016 (see below): "Israel has experienced arson terrorism and I won't let anyone sweep this fact under the rug. The problem with arson: Why does it seem unrealistic that Arabs would attempt to harm Jews?"



Nevertheless, following thorough extensive investigations by Israeli police and firefighting authorities, no indictments have been filed against any Palestinian citizens of Israel in connection to the wave of forest fires in November 2016.


In regards to the events in Umm al-Hiran, Minister Erdan was quick to declare the incident as having "a nationalist background" – in other words, a terror attack – and tweeted (see below): "The terrorist sharply turned his wheel and quickly accelerated in order to run over a group of police officers."



Despite Erdan's tweet, Israeli police video footage of the incident and eyewitness testimony reveal that police opened fire on Abu Al-Qi'an's vehicle before he accelerated in the direction of officers. This totally contradicts police claims that Abu Al Qi'an sought to "ram" them with his vehicle.


Minister Erdan made public statements of incitement also against Arab members of Knesset following the police killing in Umm al-Hiran. (See below image)


"I want to say at this moment to [Knesset Member] Ayman Odeh and the rest of the MKs from the Arab List who have come to enflame sentiments this morning: This blood is also on your hands. This is a grave statement, I know. But not as grave as your actions today. You are a disgrace to the State of Israel."


MK Odeh himself was wounded when Israeli police opened fire on him with sponge-tipped bullets in Umm al-Hiran that same day.



Adalah Attorney Shehadeh emphasized that Minister Erdan's statements constitute a most serious danger to the Arab public in Israel.


"The minister's repeated statements indicate a trend towards stigmatization of the Arab citizens of Israel, marking the entire Arab public as a source of danger and making accusations against them in an arbitrary and collective manner… This official approach of increased suspicion against all Arab citizens likewise influences the general public's perspective and strengthens the phenomenon of negative stereotyping of Arab citizens – stemming from the perceived connection between the Arab public's struggle and acts of terrorism."


Adalah stressed the increased influence – and potential for danger – of incitement promoted by the government minister responsible for public security.


"Erdan's statements have decisive impact upon the manner in which the police perceive the Arab public, and upon their readiness to employ improper means and tactics when interacting with Arab citizens, for example, the light trigger finger police have adopted concurrent with perceiving the Arab public as an enemy."


As Adalah noted previously, “This rhetoric is a continuation of the Netanyahu government’s ongoing strategy of incitement against Arab citizens of Israel, and its portrayal of them as a fifth column. The government’s legislative agenda also mirrors its incendiary speech with the passage of new racist laws, most recently the Expulsion Law, which seeks to illegally kick Arab members of the Knesset out of the parliament.”


READ: Adalah's letter to the Attorney General [Hebrew]