Without live bullets, without dead bodies


                               By Nehemia Strasler



                               Violent demonstrations broke out in Prague last week during the joint

                               conference of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

                               Young people arrived in the Czech capital from the four corners of

                               Europe to protest globalization and capitalism.Thousands of these

                               protesters were anarchists and hooligans, who exploited the

                               opportunity to destroy, to perpetrate violence and to do as much

                               damage as possible. They were dressed in black from head to toe

                               and came armed with chains, knives and other weapons. They swept

                               through the streets of Prague, leaving behind a trail of destruction -

                               ripping sidewalks apart with shovels, hurling rocks at police officers,

                               beating them with long poles and even throwing Molotov cocktails at



                               The lives of the police officers were in danger. Many of them were

                               injured and required hospitalization. They defended themselves with

                               shields; they sprayed the protesters with tear gas; they dispersed them

                               with water cannons; they struck out at them with clubs; and they even

                               arrested dozens who were held for questioning.


                               However, despite this difficult situation, no Prague police officer

                               would ever have dreamed of using live ammunition. Nor did the

                               Prague police position snipers at strategic locations so that they could

                               "eliminate" protesters. The people of Prague know that in a

                               democratic country, police and security forces do not fire live

                               ammunition against demonstrators. If live bullets are used and if

                               civilians are killed, harsh criticism is directed against the police; senior

                               police officers pay for the tragic, horrible blunder with their jobs; and

                               the episode goes down in the history of the nation as an infamous blot

                               on its collective record.


                               In democratic states, the police force is a professional agency that

                               specializes in crowd dispersal through the use of a variety of methods,

                               but not by the use of bullets.


                               The police in Israel also know how to disperse crowds without having

                               to kill anybody, but this know-how is applied only when the

                               demonstrators happen to be Jews. The facts speak for themselves.

                               During the course of the violent demonstrations on behalf of former

                               Shas leader Aryeh Deri; in the harsh clashes with Ethiopian

                               immigrants who were protesting their treatment by the authorities; in

                               the riots organized on Bar-Ilan Street in Jerusalem by members of the

                               ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, some of whom hurled rocks at

                               police officers; and during the closure of major traffic arteries and

                               intersections by angry workers, the police never once fired a shot, not

                               even a rubber-coated bullet.


                               Yet, when a protest march was organized by local residents of the

                               Harakevet district of Lod, the police did fire rubber-coated bullets at

                               the demonstrators, wounding a large number of Arabs in the upper

                               parts of their bodies. When the Bedouin held a demonstration near

                               Omer, the police fired live bullets, killing one of the protesters.


                               Over the past week, police bullets killed 10 Israeli Arabs who

                               participated in the demonstrations. Although these were violent

                               clashes that were undoubtedly of a grave nature, the situation did not

                               automatically warrant the use of live weapons. Even the police are not

                               claiming that the lives of the officers at the demonstrations were in

                               "substantive and imminent danger," a situation that, in accordance with

                               a Supreme Court ruling, would justify the use of live ammunition.


                               The victims were not holding firearms when they were shot. The

                               police opened fire because this is how they were taught to disperse

                               Arab demonstrators. The police know that they have a license to

                               shoot Arabs, regardless of whether those Arabs live on this or that

                               side of the pre-1967 borders of Israel.


                               The police began to fire on the protesters in the very first hour of the

                               demonstrations, as if they were dealing with enemies of the state who

                               must be "put out of commission" - permanently. The police

                               conveniently forgot that they were, in fact, confronting citizens of this

                               country who were demonstrating because their pain is very real.

                               Israeli police officers are trained to solve any problem involving Arab

                               citizens by means of force. And if that does not work, then by means

                               of more force - because "the only language that the Arabs understand

                               is the language of force."


                               Nonetheless, the bullets and the deaths did not make the job of

                               dispersing the demonstrators any easier for the police. To the

                               contrary, they only fueled the flames: The demonstrations continued;

                               the violence actually increased; and the protesters maintained their

                               siege of many of the country's highways.


                               Haifa Police Chief Dov Shechter authorized his personnel to use live

                               ammunition against demonstrators in the city "after the rubber-coated

                               bullets and tear-gas canisters run out." Does this mean that inadequate

                               handling of crowd dispersal situations and faulty organization are

                               sufficient justification for killing civilians?


                               One of the television camera crews of Channel Two happened, quite

                               by accident, to film an incident in Nazareth in which seven police

                               officers cruelly beat two women, Dr. Nassrin Assouli and her sister,

                               who were protesting the actions of the police, but who were

                               completely unarmed, holding neither rocks nor clubs in their hands.

                               The police officers cursed Assouli, humiliated her, hurled her to the

                               ground, kicked her and broke her shoulder with a rifle butt. If this

                               incident had not been photographed, the police would undoubtedly

                               have denied that it ever happened.


                               And it is quite clear that this was not an isolated episode. How can

                               we explain, for example, the fact that as pediatrician Dr. Ataf

                               Ramadan was innocently driving down a side street in Nazareth,

                               police suddenly let loose with a a volley of bullets directed at his car,

                               wounding his wife in the chest and arms? In what possible way had

                               she endangered the lives of the police officers?


                               Because of heavy pressure from the leaders of the Israeli Arab

                               community, Prime Minister Ehud Barak was forced to agree to the

                               appointment of a commission of inquiry. This commission should be

                               led by a courageous magistrate, who should study each and every

                               fatal shooting incident and determine whether, in each case, the life of

                               the police officer who fired the shot was in "substantive and imminent

                               danger," or whether the motive for the fatal bullet was pure hatred.


                               The magistrate heading the commission should also reach relevant

                               executive conclusions regarding all levels of the law enforcement

                               establishment, including Police Commissioner Yehuda Wilk and

                               Public Security Minister (and acting Foreign Minister) Shlomo



                               It is simply intolerable to see senior police officers creating a wall of

                               dead bodies between Jewish and Arab citizens of this country,

                               thereby effectively destroying all of the achievements, all the

                               cooperation and all the friendly ties associated with peaceful ethnic

                               coexistence in Israel. Israeli Arabs have always been, and continue to

                               be, welcome and equal citizens in this country. They must enjoy full

                               rights, including the right to demonstrate without having to count the

                               live bullets or the dead bodies in the aftermath