Arabs were seven times more likely to be arrested at demonstrations than Jews in 2014, according to Israel Police data made public Tuesday after a request by a leading Israeli Arab politician. Israel Police officials argued that Arabs and Jews were charged with a crime at roughly the same rate last year, while Israeli Arab advocates assert their people were subjected to discriminatory arrests.
Nearly 1,500 Arabs were arrested in 2014 for illegal assembly, with an additional 110 arrested for suspicion of incitement and 32 arrested for displaying the Palestinian flag, Haaretz reports. Just 202 Jews were arrested for illegal assembly over the same span, while 25 were arrested for suspicion of incitement.
Many of the arrests occurred during Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli operation in July 2014 against Hamas and other Palestinian elements active in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military sought to prevent future rocket attacks against its civilian population and to dismantle a tunnel system it said Hamas used to funnel supplies and weapons to the conflict’s front lines. Statistics on the conflict’s death toll have varied, but the United Nations said at least 2,100 Palestinians and 72 Israelis died in the conflict, the BBC reported.
Israel Police carried out widespread arrests for a variety of infractions last summer during Operation Protective Edge, as a means of dispersing crowds and preventing public violence. Individuals were arrested for illegal assembly, public disturbances, rioting and violence of any kind, even if they did not have a past criminal record, Haaretz reported.
Israel Police stressed this week that the newly released statistics included arrests that were made for cases that began before 2014. Moreover, 46 percent of cases that involved Arabs resulted in criminal charges for at least one person, compared with 43 percent of cases involving Jews, the police data said.
But leading Israeli Arabs said the arrests were meant to stamp out their right to protest. Esawi Freige, an Israeli Arab politician who serves in Israel’s Knesset, said elements within the Israeli government provoked the masses last year.
“Those who build on inflaming passions and hatred ought not to roll their eyes at the results. Violence and attacks are committed by the incited, but they are a direct result of the words of the inciters. In the State of Israel in 2015, some of the inciters are sitting and will continue to sit in the Israeli government,” Freige told Haaretz.