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Israeli forces move in to break up a Palestinian demonstration in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of illegally occupied East Jerusalem on May 22, 2021. (Photo: Mostafa Alkharouf/Andalou Agency via Getty Images)

Israeli forces move in to break up a Palestinian demonstration in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of illegally occupied East Jerusalem on May 22, 2021. (Photo: Mostafa Alkharouf/Andalou Agency via Getty Images) 

'There Needs to Be a Global Outcry': Palestinians and Allies Decry Israeli Mass Arrests

"The more that Palestinians stand up for their rights," warned one rights campaigner, "the more they will be crushed."

Brett Wilkins

Human rights defenders on Tuesday continued to condemn the ongoing mass arrests of hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel who have participated in recent protests against forced displacement and settler attacks in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as the Israeli bombardment of Gaza that killed 248 people. 

"Apartheid inside Israel is when Jewish Israeli mobs chant 'Death to Arabs' and brutalize Palestinians in their neighborhoods, while the cops do nothing, only for those same cops to conduct mass arrests of Palestinian citizens two weeks later."
—Remi Kanazi, 
poet and activist

According to Israeli police, 1,550 Palestinians have been arrested since May 9 during "Operation Law and Order," a campaign targeting majority Arab cities and towns in Israel. West Bank officials say Israeli forces have killed 25 Palestinians, including four under the age of 18, in the occupied territory since May 10. Israeli authorities claim five of the victims tried to attack Israeli security forces. 

The Nation reports Israeli police say the arrests are meant to "settle the score" with Israel's Arab citizens by punishing those who have protested against ongoing state and state-sanctioned oppression. Palestinians and their advocates around the world condemned the arrests as hypocritical collective punishment and as another example of Israeli apartheid, noting that there have been no mass arrests of members of Jewish mobs that in recent weeks have brutally attacked Arab people and property throughout Israel.

Israeli police have arrested Jewish suspects, including two men allegedly involved in the May 10 murder of Mousa Hassouna, a 32-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel, and two men and a minor for alleged attempted murder and terrorism in connection with a May 12 mob attack on a Palestinian citizen of Israel that was broadcast on live television.

However, most Jews who have attacked Palestinians have done so with impunity. Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian-American poet and activist, tweeted Monday that "apartheid inside Israel is when Jewish Israeli mobs chant 'Death to Arabs' and brutalize Palestinians in their neighborhoods, while the cops do nothing, only for those same cops to conduct mass arrests of Palestinian citizens two weeks later."

Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said in a statement that "the massive arrest campaign announced by Israeli police last night is a militarized war against Palestinian citizens of Israel."

"This is a war against Palestinian demonstrators, political activists, and minors, employing massive Israeli police forces to raid the homes of Palestinian citizens," Jabareen added.

On Sunday, Jewish settlers protected by Israeli security forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, brutally assaulting worshippers and arresting numerous Palestinians there. Repeated attacks on Al-Aqsa—Islam's third-holiest site—and the imminent forced expulsion of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem sparked widespread protests in Haifa, Yafa, Lydd, Nazareth, and other cities and towns earlier this month. 

The mass arrests come amid a fragile ceasefire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants following 11 days of Israeli aerial and artillery bombardment that killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, while wounding around 1,900 others and displacing tens of thousands more. Thousands of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza by Palestinian fighters killed 13 people, including two children. 

The arrests also coincide with a visit to Israel by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who faced widespread criticism during the Israeli onslaught for giving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu what journalist Aaron Maté called "a green light... to continue massacring Palestinian civilians."

Middle East Eye reports Palestinian citizens of Israel have taken to social media to warn others of the arrest threat. According to the outlet, one widely shared post reads: "This is a declaration of war, the Israelis will storm more than 500 homes to kidnap our children and youth."

"This is not just an attempt at intimidation, and it is not just a policy of intimidation," the post continues. "This is an unprecedented war on Palestinians at home, and it will be carried out under the cover of a humiliating silence. Our people must act now and immediately to thwart this war."

Majd Kayyal, a Haifa-based activist, told Al Jazeera that "the Israeli police lost their ability to frighten and terrorize the Palestinians. This is why they launched this campaign."

"They want to restore this feeling of terror in us, to teach us a lesson," added Kayyal. "But they also want to disrupt Palestinian unity, which is what this uprising is all about."

Other Palestinian citizens of Israel say the arrests are the latest demonstration of how Arabs are treated as second-class citizens or worse.

Although Israel claims its Arab citizens—who make up about 20% of the nation's population—enjoy equality under the law, the U.S. State Department has repeatedly accused Israel of practicing "institutional and societal discrimination" toward its Arab citizens, around 40% of whom live in poverty due largely to an inferior education system and other basic societal inequities. 

Some prominent Palestinians called on the world to condemn Israel's mass arrests.

"There needs to be a global outcry, because the more that Palestinians stand up for their rights, the more they will be crushed," Berlin-based journalist Abir Kopty wrote in The Nation. "Following the news of the mass arrests, my partner asked me how Israel could pursue such a flagrant policy of abuse amid the rising global outrage over its actions in Gaza. I believe Israel is so intoxicated with power that it doesn't really care."

"This has long been the logic of the state: Everything can be solved with force, and if that doesn't work, then try more force," she continued. "None of this is about 'law and order.' Nor is this a story of a 'clash' between a state and its citizens. This is part of the continued aggression and suppression of Palestinians, everywhere."

"It is time that people stop talking about the condition of Palestinians within Israel as an 'internal' matter, a simple case of 'civic strife,'" Kopty added. "We are integral part of the struggle against colonialism. Denying our right to define our aspirations for justice will not change them."

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