A call to establish a national memorial day for slain Arab citizens

Israel’s Amadou Diallo and Stephen Biko are 13 Arab Israelis shot and killed in October 2000 by the Israeli National Police. October 1 must be an Israeli national memory day for the victims.

by Issa Edward Boursheh

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of October 2000 events in which Rami, Ahmad, Mohammad, Mosleh, Asil, Alaa, Walid, Emad, Eyad, Mohammad, Ramez, Omar and Wissam were killed by Israel National Police. Thirteen people are dead and zero have been found guilty. The Or Commission, which was appointed by the Israeli government to investigate the events, criticized the Israeli police for being unprepared for the unrest and for using excessive force to disperse the protestors. As the Commission’s mandate was one of inquiry, no action was taken against those named in its conclusions, but rather recommendations were made against some Israeli policemen.

Eleven years have passed since then and the memory of the events is fading from the Israeli collective and from the Israeli media. A proposition for a national memorial day might sound too extreme to many Israelis and especially to the current Knesset majority. But such a memorial could mark a new stage in relations between Israeli society and its largest minority.

There is not a single national holiday that brings all of Israel’s citizens together; not to mention that none of Israel’s official holidays are directed or dedicated to its Arab citizens. The October 2000 events are the opportunity for Israel’s government to take a confidence building measure and put forward an act that will bring the Jews and Arabs closer by dealing with a painful piece of history in our divided society.

As Israel marks the dying of the social justice movement and its official funeral by the Trajtenberg committee, sending Israelis back to their comatose state, their couches and endless pointless committees, we recall a movement that was mostly peaceful, and the non-violent course of actions from the 14th of July until the 3rd of September 2011. Looking back on the October 2000 events, one cannot ignore the fact that Israel’s National Police used (and still does) “rubber” bullets, tear gas and live ammunition solely against its Arab citizens. Regardless of my national memorial day suggestion, such acts must come to an end and the law enforcement officials must remain restrained toward Arab citizens, just as they did in practice with the J14 demonstrations. Perhaps that will be the one concrete positive contribution of J14 to Israel society and the police’s perception of how to handle social protests.

Regarding a national memorial day: is my proposition a hallucination? Is it folly to imagine the President of Israel visiting the Galilee and the Triangle cemeteries where the victims are buried? Is it illusory to imagine a symbolic condemnation speech by the Prime Minister in the Knesset? Or is a plain press release by the office of the Knesset speaker commemorating the events too much to ask?

I hope that this call will reach the right decision-making ears to help effect a shift in the government’s approach toward the Palestinian-Israelis. Who knows, maybe one day we can both relate to Wyclef Jean’s words with similar association and sympathy:

Have you ever been shot
forty-one times?
Have you ever screamed
and no one heard you cry?
Have you ever died
only so you can live?
Have you ever lived
only so you can die again, then be born again
from these enemies, on the borderline
Who’ll be the next to fire
forty-one shots by Diallo’s side?


Issa Edward Boursheh is a graduate student at Tel Aviv University