Palestinian member of Israeli parliament shot by Israeli police during demonstration in his home town

Dr. Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) was shot in the back by a rubber bullet fired by Israeli police during a demonstration in the Palestinian Israeli town of Uhm Al Fahm on Friday, February 28. Thirty five other people were also injured, including the Mayor of the town. Fortunately the rubber bullet (actually a steel bullet encased in rubber) did not hit his spine. Israeli security forces frequently direct their fire against Palestinian citizens of Israel – including their elected representatives. Dr. Jabareen has been a target of the Israeli security forces for some time. Read more….

When was the last time a Canadian Member of Parliament or other political leader was shot by Canadian police? Many have led, or spoken at, demonstrations over the years. It would have been unthinkable for Canadian security forces to shoot Bob Rae when he was participating in demonstrations for the Algonquin people, or Rene Levesque when he was fighting to break up Canada. In the United States, where gun violence is a lot more common and repression against Black people is rampant, there have been cases of politicians facing violence from armed groups or individuals. But I cannot think of a single incident where security forces have shot a popular political figure.

Uhm Al Fahm is a Palestinian town in northern Israel just south of Nazareth. Its residents are Israeli citizens.

But the use of violent force by Israel against its own Palestinian citizens, including its elected officials, is unfortunately all too common. Last Friday, during a peaceful demonstration in Uhm Al Fahm, Israeli police used tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and other physical violence against its own citizens. In the process, Yousef Jabareen, a member of the Knesset, and Samir Muhameed, the Mayor of Uhm al Fahm, were both injured by police.

Ironically, the demonstration in Uhm Al Fahm was AGAINST the wave of violence that is now sweeping through Arab towns in Israel. Decades of high unemployment, overcrowded and underfunded schools, lack of public infrastructure like parks and recreation areas along with police repression have made Palestinian towns inside Israel somewhat like the Harlem of several decades past.

While Jewish towns grow unabated in Israel, Palestinian towns (which Israel calls “arab” towns) have strictly defined borders and cannot expand. This contributes to overcrowding and social friction. Drugs and violence are rampant. Palestinian sources allege that this is actually encouraged by those Israeli security forces. Palestinians claim that many of the guns used by gangs have in fact been bought by the gangs from security forces!!

An ugly – and recurring – pattern

In 2017, Ayman Odeh, the leader of the “Arab Joint List” (the third largest political organization in the Knesset) was also shot by Israeli police at a demonstration against the demolition of a Bedouin village in southern Israel. A rubber bullet narrowly missed his eye.

A Palestinian citizen of Israel doesn’t need to be very radical to attract the attention of the Israeli security forces. Ayman Odeh has been called the “Martin Luther King” of Palestinian Israelis because of his insistance on non-violent resistance.

But neither his status as a parliamentarian nor his evidently non-violent politics protected him in 2017, when he nearly lost an eye during a protest over the demolition of a Bedouin village in the Negev. Two Bedouin citizens of Israel were killed. No charges were laid against the Israeli police. A UK based research unit reconstructed the scene showed how the police had manipulated evidence to hide their tracks.

Jabareen, who has a doctorate in international law from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. is in the same party and of the same stripe as Odeh. When Jabareen visited Canada in 2016 he met with Canadian parliamentarians and officials at the Supreme Court, the Official Languages Commission and at the Canadian Human Rights tribunal. He also met with various Canadian human rights organizations.

On his return to Israel, he wrote an op ed in the Toronto Star, entitled “What Israel could learn from Canada“. Jabareen outlined a vision for Israel that included equality, human rights and language rights for its Palestinian minority.

A year later, Israel went in the opposite direction. In 2018, it passed the Nation State law which declared that Israel was the nation state of its Jewish citizens. It even dropped its designation of Arabic (the language of 20% of Israels population) as an “official” language. Its Palestinian citizens, including elected ones like Jabareen, Odeh and the Mayor of Uhm Al Fahm officially became second class citizens. Objecting to that status is dangerous in Israel.

During his week long study tour in Ottawa in 2016 Jabareen met with various parliamentarians including Omar Alghabra, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Alghabra is now Minister of Transport.

Do Israel and Canada really have shared values?

Canadian politicians including Justin Trudeau never cease talking about how Israel and Canada have “shared values”. Israel and Canada DO share some values – the importance of universal suffrage is one of them. All citizens of Israel – including its Palestinian citizens – have the right to vote and be elected to its parliament.

But in that parliament, Israel’s Jewish majority dominates. By law, it gives special rights and privileges to Israel’s Jewish citizens. The idea of equality of all citizens, which is incorporated in Canada’s Charter of Human rights is clearly not a value that Israel shares with us.

Canadians should let their elected representatives know that we dont agree that Israel shares, or demonstrates, the same values as we do.

Palestinian Israeli leaders have called for another demonstration Umm al-Fahm on March 5 to protest police violence. Canada should let Israel know that it will be watching.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

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  1. What will it take for the Canadian government to “express concern” (at the very least) about the ongoing atrocities perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians? The mainstream press continues to ignore (or suppress) such stories – that’s why I also read the alternative press. Thank you, Peter, for your ongoing work and information.

  2. Of course, but the issue here is that MK Jabareen and the mayor of Uhm Al Fahm were targeted by the police, as was MK Ayman Odeh four years ago. They were not simply caught up in some crossfire or melee, and these were professional police forces, not army conscripts. Police are not trained to fire rubber-coated bullets or sponge-tipped bullets randomly into crowds.

  3. This is indeed disturbing news. I remember attending Dr. Jabareen’s lecture in Ottawa and found his presentation to be a sincere and truthful account of the life of a Palestinian member of the Kenesset. I also had the sense that he was a very kind and compassionate man so I find it hard to believe that he would pose a threat to the IDF.

    1. Stephen,

      For those hiding the truth or hiding from the truth, the truth is always a threat.

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