Israeli Government and Police Condemned for Handling of Oct. 2000 Israeli Arab Riots


2 September 2003

DEBKAfile Summary of Or State Inquiry Commission’s Report

September 1, 2003

Israel’s Labor government and police chiefs who held office at the time are criticized in the harshest terms by state inquiry commission whose final report was published Monday, September 1, for gravely mishandling the Israeli Arab riots that swept northern Israel in October 2000 in which 13 Arabs – 12 Israelis and 1 Palestinian - were shot dead by police. One Jewish Israeli was killed by a stone and hundreds of police were injured.

The disorders erupted as a demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinian confrontation declared one month earlier. The panel was made up of Supreme Court Justice Theodor Or as chairman, Judge Hashim Khatib and Professor Shimon Shamir.

Although not disqualified from future high office, ex-prime minister Ehud Barak’s crisis management was gravely faulted, he was accused of arrogance, failure to stay informed on the progress of events and of addressing insufficient thought to the problem at the national strategic level.

Former police minister Shlomo Ben-Ami was condemned outright for falling down on his job and ruled unfit for future service in any similar capacity. Ben Ami was described as failing to prepare the police for its tasks, although he knew trouble was brewing in the Israeli Arab community, and neglecting to exert his command and control responsibilities over police action.

Retired police commissioner Yehuda Wilk was judged to have failed professionally and definitively and was disqualified from future service. The same failed grade was awarded to Northern District Commander Alec Ron.

The police force as a body received the toughest criticism for what was described as “Rambo-like” conduct, neglecting to update government superiors on happenings and the excessive use of force, diagnosed as being the outcome of a culture of hostility and prejudice.

Of the 13 Arab Israelis who died in the turmoil, 7 are said to have been killed unjustly.

Israeli Arab leaders, Knesset Members Dahamshe and Beshara and Islamic movement head Sheikh Raed Salah, are held responsible for fomenting hate and projecting violence instead of using their influence to calm the riots. They are not penalized.

All Israeli governments were judged by the Or commission to have been wanting in their treatment of Arabs community, which makes up one-fifth of the population and guilty of insensitivity and discrimination.

Police officers accused panel of failing to consider the degree to which police officers ran in danger of their lives when they faced huge violent, stone-throwing mobs without the minimal resources for controlling riots. Since then this equipment has been provided. In a special news conference, incumbent police commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki announced the appointment of senior officer to study the report and apply its recommendations. He voiced his regret on behalf of the police force for the loss of life. In the intervening years, the police had initiated local forums for dialogue with the Arab community and hoped for better cooperation on the part of its leaders.

Supplementary: Minister of justice Tommy Lapid promised the police officers cited by the Or commission in connection with the deaths of citizens would be fully investigated.

But Israeli Arab leaders express dissatisfaction with the panel’s conclusions for failing to name those responsible for 13 deaths.

Police Northern Command chief Yaacov Borovsky: Police procedures have been reformed since the one-time 2000 episode. Prevention is the watchword, he said. Rubber bullets and snipers are no longer permitted for use in public disorders.

Former police minister Ben-Ami defended his crisis management as based on the best possible judgment and control.