Amnesty condemns Israel over Arabs
 
   By Phil Reeves in Jerusalem
 
   12 November 2000
 
   Damning new evidence of Israel's abuse of Arab children has emerged,
   adding another tier to the stack of human-rights violations committed
   over the past six weeks of violence.
 
   It comes amid deepening controversy surrounding the visit to the
   region of Mary Robinson, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, whom
   Israel's Foreign Minister has refused to meet to discuss accusations
   of excessive force.
 
   A report by Amnesty International released last week, but barely
   publicised, describes how Arab teenagers have been arrested in the
   middle of the night, subjected to high-pressure interrogations –
   including beatings – and held behind bars for more than a month.
 
   The focus of Amnesty's latest investigation was not the Palestinians
   taking part in riots in the occupied territories, many scores of whom
   have been shot dead by the Israeli army, but members of Israel's one
   million Arab population.
 
   Hundreds of Palestinians living within Israel have been arrested after
   riots erupted in Arab towns early last month in protest over killings
   by the Israeli security services in the early days of the intifada.
   Some have been held in custody, denied bail or immediate access to
   lawyers.
 
   Amnesty's findings are further evidence that, after moves towards
   reform, Israel is slipping back into the pattern of widespread
   human-rights violations that characterised the first six-year
   intifada.
 
   It includes the story of two young Palestinians in east Jerusalem who
   say they were beaten, shackled, and kicked while lying on the ground
   with hoods on their heads. They say they were repeatedly slapped
   during interrogation. One said that 20 police officers entered their
   detention cell where he and 30 other young Arabs were held and
   randomly beat them with batons.
 
   Israel's Arab population – a fifth of the total – has long
   complained of sweeping civil-rights violations by the Jewish majority.
   But the riots, the worst in the 52-year history of the state, dealt a
   severe blow to the already strained inter-ethnic relations. Thirteen
   Israeli Arabs were killed during the unrest. Since then, Jewish
   suspicions that Israel's Arab population is a fifth column for
   rebellious Palestinians in the occupied territories have deepened.
 
   According to Ha'aretz newspaper, the security forces have drawn up
   plans to fortify Jewish communities close to Arab villages in Israel
   on the grounds that they are next to "hostile populations". The
   government plans to begin a major demographic drive to increase the
   Jewish population in predominantly Arab areas, notably Galilee.
 
   Amnesty's report states that Palestinians arrested, including children
   (those under 18), were beaten, shouted at, and threatened while in
   detention. It says that a round-up of Palestinians is still continuing
   in Israel, a month after the riots ended. Although they are mostly
   accused of relatively minor public-order offences, some have been held
   in custody for weeks in what the Israeli authorities justify as an
   effort to establish calm.
 
   The human rights group also says that several hundred Jews were
   arrested after anti-Palestinian riots, some of whom have also been
   badly mistreated. But a far higher proportion of Palestinians have
   been kept behind bars.
 
   This week, responding to pressure, the Israeli government established
   a commission of inquiry into the riots inside Israel. An early plan
   for an investigation by a weaker fact-finding committee was abandoned
   after Israeli Arab leaders refused to cooperate.
 
   Amnesty has called on the Israeli government to investigate its
   findings, and to co-operate with the UN commission of inquiry, under
   Ms Robinson.
 
   This seems doomed to fall on deaf ears. Israel has brushed off
   criticism by human-rights organisations about the daily killing of
   rioters, who have been more heavily targeted than the armed
   Palestinians who are attacking. There is remarkably little internal
   debate about the slow massacre committed by its security forces.
 
   Ms Robinson's commission has already accused Israel of "widespread,
   systematic and gross violation of human rights". This week she saw the
   evidence for herself.