By Riham Khalaila
On Tuesday, 11/5/2021, dozens of Arab and Jewish students from Ben-Gurion University and activists from Be’er Sheva staged a protest vigil against Israeli government policy in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem and in protest of police violence against the Arab society. The protest took place across from the Ben Gurion University, with the approval of the police.
Towards the end of the protest, a group of Kahanists arrived and attacked us and shouted “Death to the Arabs.” Police officers that were present at the scene ignored the violence.
We advanced towards the dormitories in an attempt to find refuge. The Kahanists chased us to the entrance of the dormitory, while continuing to attack us. We were surprised to find more Kahanists waiting for us outside the dormitories.
We called the police, but the policemen who arrived at the scene chose to attack us inside the student dormitory complex where we live. The Kahanists shouted racist slogans and threw stones and bottles at us. The police did almost nothing to stop the Kahanist violence, despite the danger to the students.
It is most important to emphasize: police officers, most of them from a patrol unit, attacked Arab students and brutally arrested some of them. Some of the detainees were punched while handcuffed and kneeling on the ground with police officers standing over them. One of them was beaten by a policeman using a helmet, another was beaten by a policeman using a walkie-talkie. The police even threw stun grenades at the students so as to evict them from the premises.
In the end, 8 Arab students were arrested while NONE OF THE KAHANISTS WERE ARRESTED.
Many Kahanists stood near the dormitories. The Arab students were forced to stay in the dormitories until late at night, lest they harmed on their way out. Hours later, at night, they left frightened and in one group, and left the city, fearing for their safety. Some, out of fright, remained in the dormitory compound until morning.
Subsequently, four detainees were released, some of whom were injured as a result of violent arrest or from police assaults during their arrest. Four more detainees remained in custody and were charged with assaulting police officers.
It should be emphasized: the event was filmed from beginning to end. The documentation proves that the students did not attack police officers – but rather, that they were attacked by them. The documentation was submitted to a judge who ignored it and chose to unquestionably accept the police version of the event. The detention of the four students was extended.
After the event, Kahanists found Facebook pictures of the students who participated in the protest and called for their killing!!! Threats were also made on Instagram.
Students who live in the dormitories are threatened with death. They are terrified and avoiding their return to campus. And the police are doing NOTHING.
We demand that the conduct of the police be investigated by an independent body, and that measures be taken against violent police officers. For now, they should be suspended immediately. We demand justice in law: there is more than enough evidence that the students are innocent!
In addition, severe measures must be taken against the Kahanists, and it is essential to provide the students with the protection they need so that they can study peacefully.
Riham Khalaila is a public activist.
Photo by Riham Khalaila, 11.5.21, Ben Gurion University