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Jafar Farah, the head of the Mossawa Center for equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, speaks to TRNN about how police shattered his knee and how what happened to him fits into more general colonial practices among the Israeli police

Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES: Welcome back to my conversation with Jafar Farah, who is the director of the Mossawa center in Haifa. Mossawa means equality in Arabic, and Mossawa Center strives for equality for Arab Palestinian citizens in the state of Israel.

Jafar, one very interesting thing is that when the international community and international bodies try to sanction the Israeli government for these kinds of tactics, and of course, what’s going on in Gaza at the moment, and the killing of these young people, and the medics that are trying to treat and reach people that have been killed by the snipers, or attacked by the snipers in Gaza, the Israeli government always says that, you know, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and it argues that Palestinian citizens of Israel, which the government calls Israeli Arabs, have equal rights in Israel. Now, I’d like your comments on that. In terms of a person who lives and breathes and tries to express your rights as a Israeli, Israeli Arab living in Israel, give us a sense of whether you feel that you’re a citizen, rights as a citizen, is respected.

JAFAR FARAH: First of all, Israel is occupying the Palestinian territories, and the Gaza Strip is under siege. So to say Israel is a democracy while Israel is implementing occupation on almost three, 4 million Palestinians, that’s not a real democracy. You know, when you will have full citizenship for settlers that are living in occupied territories and people that are living under a military regime in the same district in the West Bank, you can’t call, you can’t call it a real democracy.

When it comes to inside the Green Line. And this is like, we have two scenes. One in the occupied territories, which if you cross the border you will not feel actually that are crossing the border, crossing the Green Line. But let me say, you know, even inside Israel, what, what is the legal status of the Palestinian community in Israel? We suffer from different legal system. You know, there is almost 35 laws that guarantee collective rights to Jews even in the U.S. OK? Jews abroad can come to the airport, to the Ben Gurion airport, Tel Aviv airport, and get my tax money, while if my daughter would fall in love with other Palestinian from the cross border, from the Green Line here, from the West Bank, she can’t get married to him and live with him.

So when we talk about citizenship, when we talk about linguistic rights, when we talk about the education system, educational system, all the Israeli legal system is ensuring collective rights to the Jewish community in Israel, and the Jewish population also abroad. This is actually the meaning of Jewish state, that you have one group that have collective rights. They have also historical rights, and also their rights is, you know, protected as basic rights, while you have a minority, a fifth of the population in Israel, we are over 20 percent of the population in Israel, that is most cases we have maximum only civil rights. When, when we talk about the American example, you know, equality, for example, is part of the Constitution in the U.S. You know, we have in Israel basic laws that equality is not part of it. There is no equality, for example, it’s not guaranteed in Israel as part of any basic law. So even equality, when we talk about women’s status, Arab community status, equality is not guaranteed. So how democracy actually can be implemented when equality is not implemented, it is not part of the basic laws?

So this is also, you know, it’s not the practice of the Israeli government. It’s, it’s, it’s legislation. It’s basic laws that says Israel is Jewish state first, and then it’s democracy. So it’s a Jewish state for the Jews, and democracy for the Jews. And actually we are second-class citizens, and we are not willing to accept this status, actually. And that’s part of our struggle.

SHARMINI PERIES: Now, it appears, you know, when you, when you watch the footage that we’re looking at, it appears that there’s a certain level of confidence on the part of the police in the brutality that they are administering, that somehow there is a climate of impunity, that they will not be charged or disciplined, or that the administrators would take any action against them. Is that what you’re sensing there on the ground?

JAFAR FARAH: Yes. Yes. You know, actually, there is a special unit in the Ministry of Justice, that its job to make investigation with police violence, police that is violating the law. This unit has been paralyzed for the last few years. Actually, you know, since October 2000 until today, there is this culture of impunity when it comes police violence, especially when it comes to violence against the Arab community. But let me say, also against other marginalized groups. In this case they started the investigation. I hope that as a result of that, like the public awareness, there was-. You know, I used to work for the Hebrew media in Israel. I used to work for TV stations, and also for our local newspapers. So I am well-connected to the Israeli media. I hope that as a result of the media coverage of what’s happening in this investigation, they will be serious.

There is a culture of cultural unity when it comes to police violence, especially when it comes to police violence against Arab citizens. We saw that in worst cases, you know, cases of killing Arab citizens by police, we see years of investigations. You know, we see that they dismiss the cases, they don’t submit the cases to the courts. Yeah. There is, police feel that they can trust the Ministry of Justice in protecting them when they violate the law, and when they actually use brutality, such brutality.

And you saw it with the pictures that you have already of what happened in that night. They also, you know, part of what they did that night, that anybody that was documenting their brutality, they arrested them. You know, my son was arrested because he was actually filming with his mobile the police brutality. He didn’t do anything special. So everybody that was using his camera there, he was arrested already that evening.

SHARMINI PERIES: Right. And I understand that there’s also numerous cases where police officers have focused in on demonstrators holding Palestinian flags. And as far as we know, that since 1993 this is legal, and people can actually carry Palestinian flags. Yet it appears from the footage we’re seeing that people carrying the flags were also targeted.

Now, Jafar, I thank you so much for joining us. And there’s so much more to discuss. For example, I understand that one of the things that the Israeli police is doing is actually training other people in other parts of the world, including right here in the United States. Places like Chicago, where they are teaching police officers how to police, how to behave with these kinds of demonstrations, and how to deal with civilians in these cities, which is a very dangerous phenomena, and at some point I’d like to talk to you about that, as well. I thank you so much for joining us, and I wish you a speedy recovery, and, and looking forward to having you back.

JAFAR FARAH: Thank you. Thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.

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Jafar Farrah, director of the Mossawa Center, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, is a longtime advocate and activist for equal rights for the Arab community. He studied Sociology and Education at Haifa University. Mr. Farrah is the founder of several Arab NGOs and the first Arabic TV station in Israel. Prior to founding the Mossawa Center, Mr. Farrah was a journalist and researcher for several years, working for, several Arabic newspapers, and TV programs on Israel’s public channel 2.