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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 September, 2003, 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK
Police condemned over Arab deaths
Arab demonstrators throw stones at police in Nazareth, 1 October 2000
Demonstrations were sparked by the Palestinian uprising
A report into the fatal shooting of 13 Israeli Arabs during protests in the early days of the current intifada has criticised the role of the Israeli police and political leaders.

The inquiry blamed the police for adopting an attitude of "prior hostility" towards the protestors, and said Israeli Government ministers had not done enough to prevent the police opening fire on them.

One police commander is criticised for failing to tell ministers that police were using live fire against the demonstrators in northern Israel nearly three years ago.

[The commission] didn't go to into the roots of racism in the Israeli police. We believe there is a lot of racism in the police
Azmi Bishara
Palestinian member of Israeli parliament
The demonstration of support for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank by Palestinian citizens of Israel took the Israeli Government by surprise at the start of the intifada.

Israeli Arabs complain of institutional discrimination is all areas of life in Israel, but have not tended to express their discontent in demonstrations.

The commission's report was cautiously welcomed by Israeli Arab leaders.

"I evaluate this as positive. We think that this is the problem - the police deal with us as if we were not citizens. But they didn't go to into the roots of racism in the Israeli police. We believe there is a lot of racism in the police," said Azmi Bishara, an Arab Israeli member of the Israeli parliament.

No action against Barak

The inquiry did not recommend any action against the then Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, who is accused of not being sufficiently aware of what was happening in the Israeli Arab community.

The committee determined it is important that it be pointed out in a completely non-ambiguous way that the use of live fire - including live fire by snipers - is not a means of dispersing large crowds by police
Findings of state commission
But it did propose that the Public Security Minister at the time, Shlomo Ben-Ami, should not serve in that post again because of failures.

Some Israeli Arab community leaders also come in for criticism for contributing to the violence by inciting demonstrators.

Correspondents say that while the commission's recommendations are not legally binding, they carry strong weight.

'Prejudice and neglect'

"The state and its various governments failed in dealing with in a thorough and comprehensive way the problems of the existence of a large minority within the Jewish majority," the report said.

"The government treatment of the Arab sector was characterised by prejudice and neglect," the three-man panel concluded.

The inquiry headed by a Supreme Court judge was launched following intense criticism of the way the police and government handled the riots in October 2000.

Arabs account for about one fifth of Israel's population, and the 13 deaths provoked anger and protests.

The conclusions are to be passed on to criminal investigators in the police force.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would call a cabinet meeting to discuss the recommendations, the Associated Press news agency said.




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The BBC's Barbara Plett reports from Jerusalem
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