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Israel: Abusive Policing in Lod During May Hostilities

UN Commission of Inquiry Should Investigate Apparently Discriminatory Practices

Israeli forces detain three Palestinians on May 13, 2021 during unrest in Lod, a mixed Jewish and Palestinian city in central Israel. © 2021 Associated Press

(Jerusalem) – Israeli law enforcement agencies used excessive force to disperse peaceful protests by Palestinians in Lod (al-Lydd) during civil unrest in the city in May 2021, Human Rights Watch said today.

At times the police appeared to react half-heartedly and unevenly to violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel committed by Jewish ultra-nationalists. Public statements by senior Israeli officials appeared to encourage discriminatory responses by authorities and the judiciary. The police response in Lod took place amid systematic discrimination that the Israeli government practices against Palestinian citizens of Israel in many other aspects of their lives.

“Israeli authorities responded to the May events in Lod by forcibly dispersing Palestinians protesting peacefully, while using inflammatory rhetoric and failing to act even-handedly as Jewish ultra-nationalists attacked Palestinians,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “This apparent discriminatory response underscores the reality that the Israeli state apparatus privileges Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians, wherever they live and irrespective of their legal status.”

The Commission of Inquiry on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May should investigate these apparently discriminatory practices and whether the inflammatory comments by senior Israeli officials incited violence.

Human Rights Watch in July and October interviewed 10 Lod residents in person, including a current and a former city councilor, as well as relatives of victims. Human Rights Watch also conducted analysis and geo-localization of several video clips filmed between May 10 and 14 and published on social media. The evidence indicated that the authorities responded to the events in an apparently discriminatory manner.

Human Rights Watch also reviewed reports by Israeli and international media to establish as precise a timeline as possible and interviewed an additional witness, who wishes to remain anonymous, to many of the acts of violence and the police response, as well as analysts from two Israeli human rights organizations who examined the events in Lod.

Lod, a mixed Jewish and Palestinian city in central Israel, has experienced the rising influence of an ultra-nationalist group, the Garin Torani, which has sought to promote the city’s Jewish identity amid longstanding discrimination against the country’s Palestinian citizens. In 2013, an alleged Garin Torani sympathizer, Yair Revivo of the Likud Party, was elected mayor and has served continuously since then.

Unrest in Lod and in other cities in Israel and the West Bank took place in May against the backdrop of discriminatory efforts to force Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem, the use of excessive force by Israeli security forces against protesters and worshippers at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the eruption on May 10 of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza that lasted until May 21. During those hostilities, Israeli authorities and Palestinian groups committed violations of the laws of war and war crimes, as documented by Human Rights Watch.

Israeli authorities forcibly dispersed many of the street protests that Palestinians carried out inside Israel and the West Bank during this period.

On the evening of May 10, Palestinians began peacefully protesting outside Lod’s al-Omari mosque against the threatened takeover of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. While the police had authorized the demonstration, witnesses said security forces fired teargas and threw stun grenades at the crowd after a young man replaced an Israeli flag with a Palestinian flag on public property. Palestinian demonstrators later set garbage bins, cars, and tires on fire, and confrontations with Jewish residents broke out elsewhere in the city.

In the four days that followed, groups of Palestinian and Jewish rioters separately targeted Jewish and Palestinian properties and places of worship. In addition to the killing of a Jew and a Palestinian, scores were injured, a Muslim cemetery was vandalized, and dozens of cars burned. The government issued an emergency declaration on May 12 aiming to curb the violence, including by prohibiting non-residents from entering Lod.

In some instances, documented by Human Rights Watch, law enforcement deployed to secure Lod stood by or failed to act in a timely manner to protect Palestinian residents of Lod from violence by Jewish ultra-nationalists located near them or in their line of sight. Witnesses said they included members of ultra-nationalist Jewish groups who came from outside Lod. In one case, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that municipal authorities provided overnight accommodations to members of these groups.

On October 26, Human Rights Watch wrote to Mayor Revivo, the Israeli police commissioner, and the Public Security and Justice ministries about our interim findings. The police commissioner oversees all police commands in the country. None have responded.

Israeli authorities and courts handled in starkly different ways the murders of a Palestinian man and of a Jewish Israeli respectively killed by civilians in complex circumstances during the Lod violence. In the murder of Musa Hassuna, a Palestinian, the authorities released all Jewish suspects on bail less than 48 hours after the killing, after they pleaded self-defense. The authorities closed the investigation against them less than six months later without charges. In the murder of Yigal Yehoshua, who is Jewish, eight Palestinian suspects have been detained for months, awaiting prosecution on a number of charges, including “murder as an act of terrorism.” While the victims were killed in different circumstances, one in the midst of a skirmish and the other as he drove home, both cases are muddled and rely on limited and seemingly inconclusive evidence. Yet, one led to indictments while the other did not.

Amnesty International and Israeli human rights groups said that the authorities responded to disturbances in a discriminatory manner in other so-called “mixed-cities” inside Israel, including Jaffa and Ramle. This report focuses on the events in Lod.

On May 12, scores of Jewish ultra-nationalists who do not live in Lod entered the city, some of them armed, in violation of the government’s emergency declaration issued hours earlier barring non-residents from entering, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. An Israeli journalist reporting from Lod and the sitting city councilor said that municipal authorities hosted the outsiders overnight in a building owned by the city near a Palestinian cemetery. Mayor Revivo denied having been informed of this move or approving it. Overnight, groups threw stones at Palestinian houses and shops, and at the al-Omari mosque. Video clips of some incidents show police positioned close to Jewish rioters as they throw stones but doing nothing.

Following the May unrest, over about two weeks, security forces detained 2,142 people across Israel and East Jerusalem in a “deterrence” operation that authorities named “Law and Order.” According to Amnesty International, approximately 90 percent of those detained were Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of East Jerusalem. In a September report, AFP wrote that the Israeli police had confirmed the arrest of 154 people in connection to “disturbances” in Lod. Of those, 120 were Palestinians.

Palestinian citizens of Israel face systematic discrimination in many other facets of life, including with regard to legal status, land policies, and access to resources and services, as Human Rights Watch has documented. This systematic discrimination reflects the Israeli government’s overarching policy to privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians.

Human Rights Watch has found that Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, based on an Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians wherever they live, and grave abuses against Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The crime of apartheid is committed when these elements come together.

International human rights law requires authorities to provide everyone, without distinction as to race, color, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law. The authorities have a duty to protect everyone’s right to life, without discrimination, which requires taking reasonable measures to prevent attacks that threaten life, and to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

International human rights law also requires security forces to protect the right to peaceful assembly, regardless of the demonstrators’ political views or identity, without using excessive force. At the same time, law enforcement needs to respond to violent acts in a proportionate manner that minimizes the use of force and protects people and property, without discrimination.

Israeli authorities should investigate how authorities responded to unrest in Lod and across Israel.

The UN Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council in May is the first to look at violations committed inside Israel’s 1967 borders. Commissioners should investigate the Israeli government’s actions in Lod and treatment of Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories, Human Rights Watch said.

“In Lod, Israeli police and authorities appear to have treated citizens differently based on whether they are Jewish or Palestinian,” Shakir said. “The UN Commission of Inquiry should seize the unprecedented opportunity to tackle the discrimination and other abuses Palestinians in Israel face solely on account of their identity.”

For additional details of the May events, please see below.

Lod: City with a Long History of Discrimination

Lod, strategically located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, came under Israeli control in July 1948. The Israeli historian Benny Morris has said that Israeli forces expelled nearly all of Lod’s inhabitants, under orders from the then-Israeli leader, David Ben Gurion. Historians estimate that Israeli forces expelled between 30,000 and 70,000 Palestinians. The expulsion left fewer than 1,000 Palestinians in the city, a large number of whom worked for the railway company and were needed to operate the train tracks. Israeli forces then distributed the former Palestinian inhabitants’ land and property to Jewish Israeli citizens and destroyed unoccupied houses to prevent their former owners’ return.

Palestinians today make up to 30 percent of the city’s population. They have faced decades of land confiscations and discriminatory land policies, as Human Rights Watch has documented generally for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

In 2013, Lod residents elected as mayor Yair Revivo, of the Likud Party and a reported sympathizer of the ultra-nationalist group Garin Torani (Torah Seed). The group seeks to promote the Jewish presence within cities that have sizable Palestinian minorities inside Israel, including Lod. Jewish and Palestinian residents of Lod who spoke to Human Rights Watch said that the group’s growing influence and the influx of Jews who lived in settlements in Gaza before they were dismantled in 2005 has further strained Jewish-Palestinian relations in the city.

Maha al-Naqeeb, a former city councilor, said that “discrimination, racism and the existence of settler groups inside Arab neighborhoods” has created “an accumulation of anger and frustration” among the city’s Palestinian residents.

Ghassan Mounayer, a social activist from Lod and adviser to a Knesset member, said that Palestinians in the city face “a reality of house demolitions and displacement. Every time they see a police vehicle, they think they are coming to demolish their house.”

Tayseer Shaaban, a Palestinian lawyer and Lod resident, said the May protests and riots are a result of “frustration” with “years of racism, discrimination, and neglect by the municipality.”

May 10 Protest by Palestinian Residents: Excessive Force & Arbitrary Detention

Around 9:30 p.m. on May 10, a group of Palestinian residents of Lod organized a protest outside the al-Omari mosque against the anticipated takeover of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. Two civil society lawyers and a city council member said that the police had approved the protest following requests made around noon. Witnesses said that protesters demonstrated peacefully when police used teargas, rubber bullets, and a stun grenade to disperse the crowd after a protester replaced an Israeli flag on an electric pole with a Palestinian one.

“When the flag was raised and hung on the electric pole, all of a sudden, without any warning or any kind of announcement, the police started throwing stun grenades,” said Fida Shehadeh, a city councilor. “One grenade hit my foot, and another one hit a baby carriage next to me.”

Police also arrested some Palestinian demonstrators. Tayseer Shaaban, the father of a 16-old-boy detained that night, said police violently shoved his son to the ground while arresting him. “[Authorities] accused him of burning the flag of the state and destroying state symbols, but they had no proof, so he was released 24 hours later,” the father said. “To this day, my son is in total shock from his detention,” he said in July.

May 11, 2021: Two Killings, Two Approaches     

Later that night, some Palestinian demonstrators set trash cans, cars, and tires alight near the al-Omari mosque and tensions flared in other parts of the city.

A video posted to Twitter on May 11 shows about 20 men advancing shortly before 1:30 a.m. from a roundabout on Ha-Hashmonaim Street into Ha-Prakhim Street. Several of the men are seen throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails in the direction that they were heading. Shortly thereafter, at least 16 rounds are heard fired from at least one semi-automatic weapon. The suspects were later identified as Jewish men by media and the lawyer representing some of them.

In the video, one man, later identified as Musa Hassuna, a 31-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel, comes into the camera frame, his hands appearing empty, and immediately falls to the ground. His father said that Musa was struck by a bullet in the chest when he went into the street to move his new car after hearing disturbances. He died from his injuries. Issa Shaaban, 21, and another man were also injured in the shooting. Shaaban, who said he was returning home from shopping when he was shot in the arm and back, said that the roundabout felt like a “war zone.”

Police apprehended four Jewish men in connection with the killing, including a former elite force soldier who is still enrolled as a reservist, his defense lawyer said. The men claimed they acted in self-defense and asked to be released. The Rishon LeTzion Magistrates Court initially denied the request, stating that “the suspects’ claims do not fit the objective facts.” Nevertheless, the court released the men on bail on May 13 and protected their identity through a non-publication order.

The defendants’ release followed May 12 statements by then-Public Security Minister Amir Ohana who characterized the killing as “self-defense,” called the suspects’ arrest “terrible,” and said he would have freed them immediately if he had had the authority to do so. He made these remarks before knowing the final results of any judicial investigation into the case.

On October 21, Israeli media reported that the Central District Attorney’s Office had decided to close the case against the suspects without charging them. A statement by prosecutors relayed by media said that a ballistic analysis of the scene did not match the weapons found on four of the suspects. A fifth suspect, media reported, could not be ruled out, but prosecutors said the reported presence of other bullet casings meant they “could not determine with the required level of confidence as to who fired the bullet.”

Shaaban, who was injured during the incident, said that he felt the police had not investigated the shooting properly. “They ... got my statement and they told me that they will investigate the issue,” he said in August. “But I haven’t heard anything from them since then.” Hassuna’s father said that the police have not contacted him. “They didn’t contact me as a father to give more information about the killing of my son and I have not heard anything from them since,” he said.

Israeli authorities, though, did arrest four of Musa Hassuna’s relatives and one of his friends in the days following his murder. They were indicted in late July for a range of criminal offenses that include burning tires and trash cans, blocking roads, burning private cars using gasoline, and assembling Molotov cocktails. Some of them are accused of shooting from the roof of their house and one of throwing stones at the police. 

Less than 24 hours after Hassuna’s murder, Palestinian rioters stoned the car of Yigal Yehoshua, 52, as he drove home. A stone hit Yehoshua, fracturing his skull. He managed to drive on, but crashed his car in the parking lot under his home. He died at the hospital six days later from a brain injury.

Days later, the authorities arrested eight Palestinians – six from Lod and two from the West Bank – who they alleged were responsible for the murder. The authorities did not conceal their identities, and the Israeli press published their names. On June 24, the authorities charged the men in detention “with murder under aggravated circumstances in a collaborated act of terror, collaborating to throw stones in an act of terror against a vehicle, and deliberately damaging a vehicle for racist motives.” According to Haaretz, the prosecution indicted the men despite DNA material from the stone that hit Yehoshua being no match with that of any defendant.

They also charged the men with obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to get security camera footage of the incident erased. Media reported that the defendants had confessed to their crimes following interrogation by Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security services. The Shin Bet has an extensive track record of mistreating and torturing Palestinian detainees, according to the Public Committee against Torture, an Israeli nongovernmental organization. A defense attorney representing one of the men indicted told Haaretz his client had been “interrogated for long hours while tied to a chair.”

May 11, 2021, Funeral Procession: Apparent Excessive Use of Force

In the afternoon of May 11, several thousand people gathered peacefully for Musa Hassuna’s funeral procession in Lod. Hassuna’s father said that the Lod police commissioner, Shimon Dahan, had called the family a few hours before the funeral, asking them not to march on Exodus Street, a major artery with a Jewish pre-army preparatory school run by the Garin Torani that had been attacked the previous night by Palestinian rioters, who set fire to its beit midrash (room for reading the Torah).

The funeral procession, though, went ahead as planned. Videos of the procession show mourners marching peacefully from the al-Omari mosque onward, shouting slogans. Human Rights Watch interviewed three participants who said that security forces used teargas and rubber bullets to prevent the passage of the funeral procession near the pre-army preparation school, an apparent use of excessive force.

As mourners approached Exodus Street and the Garin Torani school, police intervened. “When the funeral reached the main street, specifically at the segment where the Garin Torani building is located, suddenly we were attacked by teargas and rubber bullets,” Hassuna’s father said. This cut the procession in two.

Ghassan Munayyer, who was at the funeral, said the police response generated anger and chaos: “Young men reacted by throwing stones and smashing whatever they saw or had nearby.” Media reports said the rioters set one police car on fire and injured two police officers.

Israeli Officials’ Inaccurate and Inflammatory Declarations

Israeli officials’ statements appeared to inflame rather than ease tensions. Late on May 11, Mayor Revivo said on national television that Lod had experienced a “Kristallnacht,” a reference to the 1938 pogrom in Germany in which pro-Nazi militias and citizens burned, vandalized, and looted Jewish synagogues, businesses, and institutions throughout Germany, killing over 90 Jews and arresting about 30,000. Revivo called for the army to be deployed. “Every minute, a car or a synagogue or a school is going up in flames,” he said. This statement was neither accurate nor balanced, given that both Jews and Palestinians were attacking one another.

Hours later, on May 12, then-Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted that the Palestinian rioters were “bloodthirsty,” calling what had happened a “pogrom,” a reference to the late 19th and early-20th century massacres of Jews in Eastern and Central European countries by non-Jewish civilians and militias, often with support of the authorities. He wrote: “The sight of the pogrom in Lod and the disturbances across the country by an incited and bloodthirsty Arab mob, injuring people, damaging property and even attacking sacred Jewish spaces is unforgivable.”

On May 13, a day after armed Jewish ultra-nationalists roamed the city, Yossi Harush, Lod’s deputy mayor and a member of Bayit Yehudi, a Zionist-religious party, warned Palestinians not to leave their homes. He also threatened that if police did not protect Jewish citizens, outsiders would once again come to use force against Palestinians:

Hundreds of people are coming, including two battalions of reservists, who are volunteering to come here to protect homes … from settlement councils. From Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem … We saw where it went from there yesterday. We saw how many beatings there were. I am telling you, if the police don’t wake up and take responsibility, I will recommend to all the Arab residents of Lod not to leave their homes. I am telling you this, remember that I said this to you today.

On May 28, almost two weeks later, Amichai Langfeld, a Lod city councilor also from Bayit Yehudi, said the Jewish community would be ready to use violence to defend itself, without emphasizing the need for the authorities and law enforcement to protect everyone, including Palestinians:

We’re in favor of calming things down, but we aren’t suckers and we have our honor. And anyone who wants to mess with us should know that security forces will have a bone to pick with them, and if they come up against us, they’ll wish they hadn’t.… We’ll take care of ourselves, and anyone who deals with us should know that, if necessary, we are armed and will open fire. We will protect our lives, including our property. No one will mess with Jews in Israel. They won’t mess with us.

Arrival of Jewish Ultra-Nationalist Groups: Discriminatory Enforcement of Emergency Law and Municipal Complicity with Rioters

On May 12, for the first time since 1966, when Israel lifted the military rule it had imposed on most Palestinians in Israel since 1949, Israel activated a state of emergency in Lod under a law human rights lawyers say was meant to give the authorities more authority to act in the event of natural disasters. Then-Public Security Minister Ohana imposed the order shortly before 5 p.m. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said, “The declaration was made according to a provision in the law that was not intended to grant authority for dealing with disruptions of order.”

The “state of emergency” authorizes the police to close off parts of the locality, enter any place without a warrant or probable cause and use “reasonable force” to ensure civilian compliance. Following the emergency declaration, the authorities deployed Border Police officers to Lod to assist the police, imposed an overnight curfew beginning at 8 p.m. with a penalty of up to three years in prison for violations, and announced a ban on non-residents entering the city.

Hundreds of security forces were deployed to Lod in the wake of the emergency declaration but witnesses to some of these incidents said that they did not see Israeli forces intervene decisively to stop Jews who were throwing rocks at Palestinian houses, mosques, and shops. Video clips of some incidents show police positioned close to Jewish rioters as they throw stones but doing nothing.

The emergency declaration, however, did not prevent large numbers of Jewish ultra-nationalists, including members of La Familia, a football fan club with a reputation for anti-Palestinian racism, and Hilltop Youth, far-right militants living in settlement “outposts” – settlements without formal authorization from the Israeli government – in the occupied West Bank, from entering and walking around Lod well after curfew, media reports and people interviewed said. Their arrival followed mobilization on social media channels and messaging applications where users shared tactics and encouraged one another to defend Jewish Israelis. A pro-settler organization named Regavim, for instance, posted a call on Facebook for “armed veterans” and “graduates of combat officers’ course” to come to the aid of Jews in mixed cities.

On May 12, a thread of videos posted on Twitter by an Israeli journalist indicates that some men who came from the unlawful settlement of Yitzhar, in the occupied West Bank, were among those who attacked the mourning tent for Musa Hassuna. Groups of Jewish ultra-nationalists also threw stones at Palestinian houses and shops, and at the al-Omari mosque.

Haaretz reported that these out-of-towners spent the night, with the city’s permission, in a municipal building near the Muslim cemetery. A Palestinian former city councilor corroborated that members of these groups stayed in a public building. Mayor Revivo, however, denied on May 14 that he had “approved the provision of the structure of the old municipality” and said he had ordered security forces to evict them. On May 14, Bar Peleg, a Haaretz journalist on the scene, reported that at least eight tombs in the Muslim cemetery had been desecrated and vaults cracked open with heavy stones.

Shehadeh, the city councilor, said that she saw about 200 men she assumed, based on their clothing, were Hilltop Youth members next to the cemetery late at night on May 13. A resident told Human Rights Watch she saw about 70 to 100 people who looked like Hilltop Youth parading in her mixed neighborhood of Banit on May 13, chanting “Muhammad is dead,” and “A good Arab is a dead Arab.”

May 12 and 13, 2021: Half-Hearted Police Response to Attacks by Jewish Ultra-Nationalists

On the evening of May 12, around 7 p.m., scores of Jewish ultra-nationalists, including some who told a journalist that they were from Yitzhar, a West Bank settlement with a reputation for ultra-nationalist violence, harassed Musa Hassuna’s mourning tent from a short distance, insulting the family and throwing stones despite the presence of at least 15 Israeli police in riot gear deployed to block entrance to the tent. People in or near the tent threw stones toward the attackers. A video Peleg, the journalist, posted on Twitter indicates the police eventually chased the attackers away prior to throwing stun grenades and teargas at the mourning tent.

Videos posted by Peleg in the hours that followed the attack on the mourning tent show dozens of Jewish ultra-nationalists moving through Lod’s old town to confront Palestinians at al-Omari mosque and throw stones at Palestinian houses. Despite an increased police presence in Lod, bolstered by the arrival of Border Police, and a curfew, the crowd succeeded in reaching the mosque.

In one video on file with Human Rights Watch, riot police stand near Jewish ultra-nationalists as they throw rocks, presumably at Palestinians, and do not stop or arrest them.

Jewish groups approached the al-Omari mosque around 8:30 p.m., a half hour past the curfew. A video Peleg posted at 8:32 p.m. shows the group approaching the mosque, while the police, trailing them, throw at least three stun grenades in their direction but do not try to prevent them from reaching the mosque, for instance by using teargas or blocking them physically. The stun grenades failed to disperse the group.

Khaled Zabarka, a lawyer from Lod who was praying at the mosque at the time, said that young men posted outside the mosque to protect it ran inside shouting, “They’re shooting.” Zabarka then recalled hearing detonations. “We were afraid because the day before, Mousa was killed and that day they attacked the mourning tent and now they are attacking us in the mosque,” he said. Zabarka called the police to ask for help.

Ten minutes later, Zabarka said, police and border forces arrived and started shooting teargas around the mosque and inside its yard. Meanwhile, the mosque’s muezzin had called through the mosque’s loudspeaker for help to defend the mosque, prompting the arrival of dozens of Palestinians and leading to an exchange of rocks between the groups.

A video shot outside mosque at the time shows the police firing teargas and throwing stun grenades toward the mosque while Jews and Palestinians continued to throw stones at one another. “The gas got into the mosque rooms, injuring many worshipers,” Zabarka said. “We were confused, we had settlers attacking us and the police firing teargas against us, at the same time.”

Almost two hours later, less than 300 meters from the al-Omari mosque, clusters of Jewish youths continued to roam the city, some with rocks in their hands, well into the curfew. One video filmed after the incident at the mosque shows police using physical force and shields to push a group of young Jewish men away.

On the morning of May 13, Shehadeh and other members of the Palestinian city counselors gathered at the Lod police station, demanding the removal of all the groups from out of town. “The commanders there, the station commander and the regional commander, both agreed with us,” she said, and “at 2 p.m. La Familia were out and between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. another bus or two left the city.”

But that same night, apparent Jewish ultra-nationalists attacked Shehadeh’s house just as she finished a television interview. They threw heavy stones at the house and cars parked in front of it, she said. It took the police a long time to intervene, she recalled:

I called Shimon Dahan [the Lod police commissioner] and explained the situation, he said they are on their way. But Shimon didn’t send his men and the police didn’t show up. Forty minutes later … the settlers were still there, surrounding my house and throwing stones, and the police didn’t arrive. Then I called the commander of the region, Yigal Ezra. Seven minutes later, the police were next to my house, and I heard some stun grenades and I also heard the police saying; “Guys, leave the area.” Two hours later, the [ultra-nationalists] arrived again, and threw stones at my house.

Shehadeh said that the ultra-nationalists targeted other families as well. “Many of the Palestinian residents called me back then, terrified from the extremist settlers in their neighborhoods,” she said. “They called the police, but they didn’t get any answer or protection.” Maha al-Naqeeb, a former city councilor, said that her son witnessed several attacks against Palestinian houses and called the police asking for protection. “They either didn’t pick up the phone or replied saying they are busy,” she said.

Arbitrary and Selective Detention of Palestinians in Israel

On May 13, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called during a visit to Lod for the administrative detention of rioters – an abusive detention tool allowing prolonged detention without charge or trial that Israel has used extensively against Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, but rarely against Palestinians inside Israel since 1966. He also told police forces not to worry about any possible future investigations of their conduct: “We hear talk of apprehension over commissions of inquiry, investigations, inspections – we will give you all the tools to protect yourself and the citizens of Israel.”

From the morning of May 14 onward, the unrest subsided in Lod. Israeli Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai on May 18 described the events as involving “terrorists on both sides,” but then-minister of Public Security, Amir Ohana, lambasted Shabtai for his remarks and persisted in describing the responsibility for the unrest as resting primarily with the Palestinians: “Arab rioters attacked Jews, police officers and synagogues … The policy is to deal aggressively with the terrorist rioters. There is no moral equivalence and there never was … Yes, the few who attacked Arabs will also be dealt with severely. But there’s a long way from that to saying ‘both sides.’”

On May 23, police began a “Law and Order” operation with the objective of “restor[ing] deterrence and increas[ing] governance in locations with a history [of violence].”

Haaretz reported that Palestinians made up about 91 percent of the 2,142 people detained by the police in relation to the unrest in Lod, East Jerusalem, and other “mixed-cities.” Out of those, as of June 3, only 285 were formally charged, raising questions as to the grounds that led to the remaining 1,857 detentions.

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