By Yossi Schwarz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 16.1.2016, http://www.the-isleague.com/
On Friday, January 1, a 29-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel, Nashat Milhem, shot and killed two Israel Jews in a central Tel Aviv pub, injuring seven others. During his escape from the scene, he also killed an Arab Bedouin taxi driver. This was an ugly murder that we unequivocally condemn. The police were able to identify the killer after his picture appeared in CCTV footage broadcast on Israeli television and his father informed the police that it was his son recorded in the footage in the process of shooting unarmed civilians. It’s hard to know what the shooter’s motivation was, but ten years ago, Melhem’s cousin was killed by Israeli border police during a search of his home, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported. (1)
Police detained Mohammed Milhem, the killer’s father, on suspicion of his assisting his son; this, in spite of the fact that it was the father who informed the police that his son was the perpetrator of the attack after having seen the released footage. Neither did the fact that the elder Milhem has served as a volunteer policeman in his community for 30 years prevent his detention. According to Attorney Nechamia Feinblat, Mohammed Melhem’s lawyer, the father spoke with his son Friday soon after the shooting. The father claims that after he realized it was his son who carried out the attack, he phoned him and his son answered. Was this sufficient reason to suspect the father’s involvement in the crime, or was the latter’s detention merely a pressure tactic the police decided to use against the shooter, Nashat Milhem? Or, perhaps, it was an attempt to create an anti-Arab atmosphere? Following the shooting, there was a dangerous atmosphere in which a pogrom against the Arabs could be organized by the right wing extremists. Of course, we cannot know at this moment the real reason for the police’s detaining the father, but on the surface it seems unlikely that he assisted his son only to inform on him.
For one full week this murderous attack was the major news item in Israel. The police organized a very large force to hunt down Melhem after he succeeded in fleeing. By way of comparison: Israeli police found the burnt body of Fadi Hoosh, an Israeli-Palestinian citizen inside a car in the garbage dump in the vicinity of Kafr Kannah on November 22, 2015. Israeli media sources reported that the police decided to have the body autopsied, in order to establish the cause of death, and to search for any clues related to the perpetrators. Palestinian witnesses claimed they saw a number of Israeli Jews attacking the 22-year old, then put him inside the car and set it ablaze. (2) Did we hear of large police force hunting for the murderers? Not in Israel! After all, the victim was not a Jew. Can you imagine the reaction of the Israel Jewish public opinion if, after the Tel Aviv shooting, instead of hunting for the murderer we were informed that the bodies of the two victims at the scene were being sent for autopsy to determine the cause of death, and to search for any hints related to the perpetrator?
We can also learn something from cases of Palestinian women murdered for the sake of “family honor.” On November 26, 2012, Aisha Ala’asam, a 15 year old girl from the town of Tal Al Sabe’, was murdered by her brother The Israeli police had known that Aisha ’s life was in danger. They had been informed that she had been threatened by her family. Aisha herself had filed several complaints with police regarding the danger she was facing, but the Israeli police nevertheless returned her to her home after she had sought refuge with her uncle who assured her that he would protect her. The police stood silent as Aisha fell victim, first because of social morés based on patriarchal authority and then to the lack of enforcement of the Israeli law. Aisha’s story is one of many stories of Palestinian women and girls who were threatened with death and then were in fact murdered regardless of their appeal to the Israeli authorities. (3)
For a full week following the attack, Nashat Milhem was hiding in an empty house belonging to relatives in his home village of Arara. When his relatives returned to their home, they discovered him and informed Nechamia Feinblatt, the attorney representing Milhem’s father Mohammed. The lawyer in turn informed the police about where Nashat Milhem was hiding. The police shortly arrived at the scene, and in a shootout with security forces in Arara, on Friday, January 8, Nashat Milhem was killed. According to the official story, special police units surrounded the building and at around 4:00 p.m. they broke into the house. Milhem opened fire at the security forces and they responded by firing four bullets, killing him. No injuries were reported among the police. According to the news reports from only a week earlier, the day of the attack in Tel Aviv, Milhem was extremely versatile in the use of his weapon. If so, how is it that no policeman was even slightly injured?
It is still unclear whether this was yet another extrajudicial killing or, as such killings are termed the Israeli media “neutralization,” as police claimed they wanted to capture Milhem alive to extract information about those who had assisted him.
In any event, this is a very unusual case. Most of the young Palestinians who have launched desperate knife attacks against Israelis since October have targeted soldiers, police and settlers, not simple civilians residing in the borders of pre-1967 Israel. The “neutralizers” are most often, again, soldiers, police, or settlers who, in many cases, have killed the attacker after he or she no longer posed a danger to their lives or that of others. By way of comparison, Eden Nata-Zada was an Israeli soldier who opened fire in a bus in the town of Shefer Amr on August 4, 2005, killing four Palestinians citizens of Israel and wounding twelve others. He was “neutralized,” but afterwards the Arabs who killed him were tried and received prison sentences.
Israeli propaganda claims that Israel does not use extrajudicial killing of the Palestinians. However this is simply not true. In a report it recently issued, B’Tselem wrote:
“Politicians and senior police officers have not only failed to act to calm the public climate of incitement, but on the contrary have openly called for the extrajudicial killing of suspects. They have also urged civilians to carry weapons. For example, Jerusalem District Police Commander Moshe Edri was quoted as saying: “Anyone who stabs Jews or hurts innocent people is due to be killed.” Interior Security Minister Gilad Arden declared that “every terrorist should know that he will not survive the attack he is about to commit.” MK Yair Lapid stated that “you have to shoot to kill anyone who pulls out a knife or screwdriver.” Much of the media joined in and encouraged a similar approach. The bodies responsible for supervising police operations – the State Attorney’s Office and the Department for the Investigation of Police – remained silent in the face of these comments.” (4)
Netanyahu, once more, incites the Israel Jews against the Arabs
In spite of the fact that the father of Nashat Milhem assisted the police and Arab political leaders and public opinion denounced the murder perpetrated by Milhem, and perhaps precisely because it was a rare case in which both Jews and Arabs condemn the cold-blooded murder of unarmed civilians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw as appropriate that he incite the Israel Jews against the Arabs. The day after the shooting in Tel Aviv he said:
“We will open new police stations, recruit more police officers, go into all the towns and demand of everyone to pledge loyalty to the laws of the state. We all know there is wild incitement by radical Islam in the Arab sector: incitement in mosques, incitement in the education system, and incitement in social media. I expect all of the Arab Knesset members, all of them, without exception, to condemn the murder clearly and unequivocally. Murder is murder; it must be condemned and acted against by all sides.” (5)
We can easily imagine what would have been the reaction of the ilk of Netanyahu if, after the firebombing by Jewish extremists of the home of the Dawabsheh family from Duma last July 31 (in which the 18 month old son died immediately, and both of his parents would die within a month from their burns), an Arab member of the Knesset would have said: “There is an urgent need to open up new police stations, recruit more police officers, go into all the Jewish towns and demand from everyone to pledge loyalty to the laws of the state… After all, we all know there is wild incitement by radical rabbis in the Jewish sector; incitement in synagogues; incitement in the education system; incitement in social media. I expect all of the Jewish Knesset members, all of them, without exception, to condemn the murder clearly and unequivocally. Murder is murder; it must be condemned and acted against by all sides.” This Arab Member of Knesset would be condemned as a racist hate monger and would be lucky he escaped assault, or worse.
Make no mistake. This is the same Netanyahu who, during the last general elections called out the Jewish voters to support him saying: “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going ‘in droves’ to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses to vote.”
This is the same Benjamin Netanyahu who astonishingly claimed that it was the Mufti of Jerusalem who inspired Hitler to exterminate the Jews, making Netanyahu the only prime minister in the world today who is a Holocaust denier. You only have to replace the word “Arabs” in his mouth with “blacks” and you can easily see a leader of the American Ku Klux Klan (KKK) dressed in a white sheet.
During the debate in the Knesset, MK Ahmed Tibi said that, since 2000, 1,150 Arabs citizens of Israel have been killed by Arab criminals using firearms. Yet when the arms are pointed at Arabs, it’s not a public issue; but when an Arab kills Jews it becomes a national issue. (6)
The Need for Armed Self-Defense
The Palestinians citizens of Israel have a very good reason to learn from the experience of black people in the US who daily face racist police. In response to a number of high profile instances of police brutality committed against blacks, one local NAACP leader called upon blacks to arm themselves. The president of an NAACP branch out of Memphis, Tennessee said blacks should be prepared to defend themselves, according to My Fox Memphis:
“They have a right to defend themselves,” said Crittenden Co. NAACP President Shabaka Afrika, “We’re not suggesting people go out and start shooting folks and taking the law in their own hands, but it is clear that law enforcement or prosecutors or the judicial system cannot or will not defend us.” (7)
Of course, the best scenario would if the Palestinians Arabs and democratic Jews would be able to organize self-defense committees and disarm the criminals. However, today this is not a realistic option. Yet it is very dangerous and unwise to trust the very same police force which has a history of shooting Palestinians to disarm the Arab criminal gangs, as the cops will most likely brutalize the non-criminals. The Israel police and army have a long tradition in this area, starting from the mass ethnic cleansing of 1947-8; Kfar Kasim in 1956; Land Day in 1976; and the 2000 killing of 13 Palestinians, 12 of them citizens of Israel.
At the moment it seems that the best thing to do, in every Palestinian village or neighborhood, is to organize a public witness committee armed with cameras that will follow the police and photograph whenever appropriate if indeed the police try to take the weapons away from the criminals.
(2) International Middle East Media: Israeli Terrorists Burn Palestinian citizen of Israel to Death, November 22, 2015, http://www.imemc.org/article/73944
(3) Maryam Hawari: The Murder of Palestinian women :Amid Patriarchal Authority and Israeli Authority, http://mada-research.org/en/files/2014/03/4-Maryam-Hawari.pdf
(4) B’Tselem October 14, 2015 http://www.btselem.org/press_releases/20151014_summary_execution_joint_statement
(5) Times of Israel: PM doubles down on criticism of Israeli Arabs after TA attack, January 3, 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/pm-doubles-down-on-criticism-of-israeli-arabs-after-ta-attack/
(6) Dov Gil Har, http://news.walla.co.il/item/2922768
(7) In Response to Police Brutality, NAACP Leader Tells Blacks to Arm Themselves, April 20 2015, YBW, http://breakingbrown.com/2015/04/in-response-to-police-brutality-naacp-leader-tells-blacks-to-arm-themselves/