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04TELAVIV1874 2004-03-26 13:11:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
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1. (C) Summary: In an apparent effort to avoid a repetition
of the October 2000 police killing of 12 Israeli-Arab
demonstrators, chief of Israel's national police force has
ordered his forces to refrain from using either live
ammunition or rubber-coated bullets during the March 30
Israeli Arab "Land Day" events if disturbances erupt.
Embassy sources speaking to poloff noted positively the
improved police tactics at the March 23 Nazareth
demonstration of some 3,000 Israeli Arabs against Shaykh
Yasin's assassination. According to the director of the
human rights NGO Mossawa, Israeli-Arab leaders are scheduled
to meet with Justice Minister Tommy Lapid to discuss general
follow-up to the recommendations of the Orr Commission, which
investigated the October 2000 events. End summary.


Police Learn from Orr


2. (SBU) Police Inspector-General Shlomo Aharonishky has
ordered police to refrain from using live ammunition or
rubber-coated bullets, without his explicit permission,
during March 30 "Land Day" events in Israeli-Arab
communities, according to March 25 media reports. "Land Day"
is commemorated annually to mark the March 1976 police
killing of six Israeli Arabs who were protesting land
expropriations. This year, the chairman of the Higher Arab
Monitoring Committee (ref B), Shauki Khatib, has called for a
general strike in Israeli-Arab communities to commemorate
"Land Day." Marches reportedly will also be held in several
Arab localities, with a central gathering in the Galilee town
of Arabeh. In addition, Israeli-Arab schools will reportedly
hold classes on GOI house demolitions and land expropriation
in Israeli-Arab communities (ref C). Police Chief
Aharonishky reportedly met March 24 with Israeli-Arab leaders
to discuss "Land Day" activities and acknowledged that the
Arab public has a legitimate right to protest.

3. (SBU) The police chief's decision to restrict the use of
lethal and potentially lethal munitions reflects GOI
sensitivity about its treatment of Israeli-Arab citizens in
light of the 2003 Orr Commission report, which criticized
police handling of the October 2000 Israeli-Arab
demonstrations in which police killed 12 Israeli Arabs. The
report criticized then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and
then-Minister of Internal Security Shlomo Ben-Ami for their
handling of the situation and recommended personnel action
and, in some cases, criminal prosecution of government and
police officials (ref A). The report also criticized general
police practices, such as the use of live ammunition and
rubber-coated bullets during these demonstrations, and noted
the historical, societal, and governmental discrimination
against Arab citizens.


Recent Demonstration Peaceful


4. (SBU) Mohammed Zeidan, director of the Arab Association
for Human Rights, and Jafar Farah, director of the Mossawa
Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, both noted to
poloff in separate discussions that the March 23
demonstration in Nazareth against Yasin's assassination (ref
D), which both had attended, was quiet and without incident.
Zeidan said that police did not enter Nazareth, but waited
outside the city, thereby avoiding any potential altercations
with demonstrators. Farah lauded the immediate intervention
of several undercover police officers apprehending youths
who, Farah speculated, had been causing minor disruptions.


Israeli-Arab Representatives to Meet With Lapid



5. (SBU) Implementation of the Orr Commission
recommendations remains a work in progress. On September 14,
2003 the Government established a ministerial committee --
headed by Justice Minister Tommy Lapid -- to advise the
Government within 60 days on implementation of the Orr
Commission's recommendations (ref B). According to Mossawa
Director Farah, that 60-day period has been extended to the
end of March, and he expects a further 60-day extension
beyond that.

6. (C) Farah told poloff that Higher Arab Monitoring
Committee Chairman Shauki Khatib, Umm al-Fahm Mayor Sheikh
Hashem Abd al-Rahman, Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen
(Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights), and Mossawa
representatives, will meet with MOJ Tommy Lapid on Sunday,
March 28 to discuss means of implementing the Orr
Commission's recommendations. Farah stressed that he and the
other meeting attendees do not wish to discuss the
ministerial committee's work, but rather how MOJ Lapid can
lead the Shinui Party to push for better GOI policies towards
the Israeli-Arab community. Farah noted that Khatib decided
not to cooperate with the ministerial committee. (Note: This
committee includes two right-wing ministers who voted against
the Orr Commission's recommendations when they were adopted
by the government, and Khatib referred to this committee at
the time as "a means of whitewashing" those recommendations.)
Farah told poloff that Mossawa's aim at the meeting was to
"convince Lapid to lead Shinui for real change in policy
regarding Israeli-Arabs."

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