Israel’s Arabs go on strike to protest police violence

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Updated 21 January 2015

Israel’s Arabs go on strike to protest police violence

RAHAT, Israel: Israel’s large Arab minority closed shops and schools from the northern Galilee to the southern Negev desert on Tuesday as part of a day-long strike to protest against the death of two Arab men in incidents involving Israeli police.
Sami Al-Jaar, 20, was shot dead by officers during a drugs raid which triggered protests in the southern town of Rahat on Thursday. Police have not said why Jaar, who was unarmed, was shot, other than that he took part in “riots.”
“Police were in danger and they opened fire,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
At Jaar’s funeral on Sunday, 45-year-old Sami Zayadna died as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets toward thousands of angry mourners. Locals said Zayadna died of gas inhalation and hailed him as a “martyr.” Police said he had a heart attack. The results of an autopsy are expected soon.
Tensions between Israel’s police and the Arab community, which at 1.7 million people accounts for 20 percent of the population, have surged since a 22-year-old Arab man was shot dead in the Galilee last November moments after banging on the window of a police vehicle.
Tuesday’s strike is a relatively rare occurrence and represents a show of unity among the Arab population, which frequently complains of discrimination.
Israel’s three main Arab parties, divided in the past, plan to run on a joint list in elections on March 17. Despite that coordination, polls indicate they will still win only around 11 seats in the 120-member Knesset, as in the past.
But politicians are buoyed by the growing unity.
“Every day we’re stronger. A few years ago if a citizen were killed here there wouldn’t be this kind of movement,” Arab Knesset member Jamal Zahalka told Reuters.
“We’re more inspired, the Arabs of the Negev are bound more closely to those of the Galilee and the north. We’re more united and able to defend ourselves,” he said.

"Our blood is not cheap!"
Since the deaths, police have pulled out of Rahat. Squad cars and a water cannon truck idled outside its main gate, where red graffiti reading “Our blood isn’t cheap!” is scrawled.
Police deny any excessive use of force in dealing with Arabs and point to the diversity in Israeli society, where Arabic is an official language and an Arab serves on the Supreme Court. Despite that, poverty rates and joblessness among the Arab population are far higher than the Israeli average.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads a right-wing government, has threatened to revoke the citizenship of anyone who calls for Israel’s destruction. Others in his government have called for a “loyalty test” for Arab citizens, hardening the sense of isolation.
“Because the Jewish street has become more racist toward us, the police have too,” said Rahat’s deputy mayor, Alaa Abu Mudghaim. “It’s ultimately a failure of the Israeli leadership.” (Additional reporting By Ali Sawafta and Maayan Lubell)


Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

Updated 28 February 2020

Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

  • Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting

AL-MUKALLA: As workers in Yemen’s major port Aden began preparing a coronavirus quarantine facility at Al-Sadaqa Hospital, rumors swirled around the city claiming that if patients were locked inside the hospital, the disease would quickly spread through neighboring areas. 

Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting. People living nearby besieged the hospital, while health workers inside staged a sit-in, refusing to work unless the Health Ministry canceled plans to build the isolation room.

“They threatened to kill me,” Dr. Wafaa Dahbali, Al-Sadaqa Hospital manager, told Arab News.

The hospital’s administration was forced to ask the Health Ministry to move the facility to another location, she said.

“Now we cannot even bring in basic protective items such as masks or gloves since workers will think we still plan to build the quarantine room,” she added.

Yemen, which is gripped by a civil war that has killed thousands of people since late 2014, has intensified efforts to counter coronavirus. But due to crumbling heath services, lack of awareness among people and the influx of hundreds of African migrants via the southern coastline, health officials fear the virus could spread undetected across the country.

Yemen’s Ministry of Health in Aden on Wednesday said that Yemen is free of the disease and all Yemenis returning from China had tested negative. Health Minister Nasir Baoum opened a quarantine center at Seiyun Airport in the southeastern province of Hadramout on Sunday, and said that he had ordered all sea, land and air entry points to ramp up detection measures.

Financial constraints

Health officials across Yemen told Arab News this week that health facilities are working at full capacity to cope with the influx of war casualties, and cases of seasonal diseases such as cholera, dengue fever and H1N1.

The appearance of coronavirus in Yemen would increase the burden on the country’s crumbling and cash-strapped health facilities, they said.

Ibn Sina Hospital in Al-Mukalla provides health services to patients from the three southern provinces of Hadramout, Shabwa and Mahra in addition to treating victims of the conflict in Abyan and Jawf. 

Recently the Health Ministry decided to build a quarantine center at the hospital. Lacking sufficient space, a three-room kitchen was turned into an isolation facility.

However, Dr. Alabed Bamousa, the hospital’s director, told Arab News that the facility could not afford to furnish the unit with medical equipment and staff lacked proper know-how.

“We have nothing at the moment. We asked the ministry for the names of health workers who would be trained by the World Health Organization on dealing with coronavirus patients,” Bamousa said.

He said that workers are not being encouraged to wear masks and gloves in order to avoid triggering panic. 

“My viewpoint is that we shut up till we are ready,” Bamousa said.

Health officials at Al-Mukalla, one of Yemen’s busiest ports, have asked sailors to complete declarations showing their movements before docking.

Riyadh Al-Jariri, head of the Health Ministry’s Hadramout office, said that teams of six health workers in each district in the province are visiting Yemenis who have returned from China. 

In the streets, people say that they get information about the virus from social media rather than official channels or local media outlets.

Hassan, a shopkeeper, said that he learned about symptoms of coronavirus and protection measures from WhatsApp. 

“I know that the virus targets the lung and causes fever. We are advised to wash hands and wear marks,” he said.