The same tragic scene that we see over and over again throughout occupied Palestine was repeated in Kafr Qasem on the evening of Monday, June 5, 2017. Angry
protesters were surrounding the police station. A guard came toward them and shot Muhammad Taha with live bullets in his face and his chest. Muhammad, newly-wed 27 years old, was taken to the hospital but soon died.
Cold Blood Murder
A local lawyer that was present at the scene of the killing, Adel Bder, testified (here in Arabic) that the policemen at the place were in no danger, and that he was arguing with them and trying to calm them down before the shooting, but they insisted on opening fire on the protesters in cold blood.
Thousands of mourners attended Mr. Taha’s funeral on Tuesday, including
delegations and public leaders of the Arab Palestinian population from all over the 48 occupied territories, from the Galilee to the Naqab. They raised Palestinian flags and chanted “The martyr is loved by god”. The body was laid to rest in “the martyrs’ cemetery”, where the 49 victims of the 1956 Kafr Qasem massacre were buried.
Shooting of Palestinians by racist Israeli army and police, for any reason or no reason, is a daily event in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank. Inside the 1948 occupied territories, where the Palestinians are formally citizens of Israel, there were more than 50 cases of fatal shooting since human rights organizations started to keep records beginning with the October 2000 intifada.
As always, the racist Israeli government, political establishment, media, police and courts all unite to blame the victims and assure the impunity of the murderers.
Struggling against Crime
What is special about the murder of martyr Muhammad Taha is how it raises the question of the struggle of the Arab Palestinian society against criminality.
All the organs of the Israeli state are operating within the concept of building a Jewish state, which means that they serve the interests of the Jewish population while striving to make the lives of the Arab population unbearable. The police, doing its most to carry this mission, is specializing in issuing fines and securing house demolition and land confiscation in Arab towns and villages, but is doing nothing to fight crime as long as the victims are Arab.
With no effective policing, under-funded education system, few public services and limited access to proper work, there is a wide class of hopeless youth that are easy to mobilize to serve criminal gangs, as the only way out of idleness and misery. Social alienation and the absence of the rule of law also cause many petty disputes to escalate to violence between family members, neighbors or commercial rivals.
The surge in violence within the Arab society, especial the growing number of murders, became a major concern over the last years. Many times there are conflicting positions about the right answer. Should we demand solutions from the racist Israeli police? Should we support more police patrols and the building of police stations inside Arab towns? Will such presence reduce criminality or intensify oppression and harassment of the population at large?
The Self Defense Alternative
Kafr Qasem witnessed the murder of 7 of its people from the beginning of the year before the racist police, which have its station placed in the middle of the town, added Mr. Taha to this long sad list. Reading the papers you just learn about the horror that fell upon the people there, but no details about the background to these murders. The police, of course, didn’t solve any of these murder cases and didn’t
Only after the murder of Mr. Taha caused public uproar we could read in the papers about a very special experience taken by the Kafr Qasem municipality to defend its people. They established a local guard composed of a nucleus of few municipality workers and many volunteers in order to fend off criminals. The last surge in the violence happened as criminal gangs started to kill citizens that opposed their terror and extortion activities.
Locals complain that the police did nothing to stop the murderers or arrest them after the crime, even as they testify that they gave the police names of those behind some of the crimes. In fact the people of Kafr Qasem held a general strike on Sunday,
June 4, against the free hand that the police was giving to the criminal gangs to terrorize them. In this strike there was a strong demand that if the police is doing nothing to enforce the law and protect the citizens it should get out of the town. A protest tent was placed in front of the police station.
The response of the police was to attack the defenders of the city and take revenge on the population at large, humiliating people in provocative road-blocks. On Monday the police arrested one of the leaders of the local guards, what caused a new wave of protests and the gathering in which Mr. Taha, who was also active in the guards committees, was killed.
Widening Protest and Solidarity
If the police thought to frighten the people of Kafr Qasem and make them abandon their attempts to defend themselves against the criminals, the killing of Mr. Taha may have the opposite effect. On Monday’s night there was a surge in violent
protests against the police, stones were thrown at the station building and some police vehicles were burned. On Tuesday the funeral united the whole town in protest at the police murderers but also in support of the brave guards, some of them still under police detention.
The leadership of the Palestinian Arab population in the 48 territories gathered in Kafr Qasem just as the news came in on Monday’s night. In a pre-dawn emergency meeting they condemned the police murderers, blamed the ex-Shabak head of the police Alsheikh and the racist political leadership, and called for several protest actions, including a general strike of all the Arab population on Wednesday, June 7.
The need to resist criminality and violence is a crucial issue all over the local Arab society. The behavior of the police in Kafr Qasem gave a strong argument for all those that oppose the presence of the racist police in Arab towns. Kafr Qasem’s experiment with self defense is an important example how a population that is not receiving basic services from the state, including the maintenance of personal safety, can work to improve the situation by its independent efforts.
Crazy Zionism and Capitalism
In some of the Israeli media, the efforts of the Kafr Qasem municipality and citizens to guard their city against criminals were reported as an organization of “a Muslim Militia”!
Also, notice the following paradox. Some proponent of “the rule of law” tried to defend the actions of the police by claiming that in an orderly state only the police has the permission to use violence to fight crime. On the other side, after the shooting of Mr. Taha the police defended itself saying that the person that shoot him was not a police officer but a private guard that was hired to stand in the entrance of the police station to guard the building. So, the police don’t even protect its own building in Kafr Qasem, but they arrest local people for organizing guards to defend themselves… just as the police were doing!