Activists hold Israel responsible for drive-by-shooting at homes of detained demonstrators in Umm al-Fahm

Umm al-Fahm is probably the most Palestinian town in ‘48 Palestine. It is the undeclared capital of “the Northern Triangle,” and a stronghold of all Palestinian patriotic movements. It was the birthplace of Abna al-Balad in 1969, and the center of the “northern” Islamic Movement, which was outlawed by Israel in 2015. (This movement represents the majority of the Islamic movement that preferred popular struggle over Knesset politics.)

Umm al-Fahm was also one of the towns that has suffered most from the rise of criminal gangs, and the prevalence of murder and other social ills that have spread as the Israeli police and security services have looked the other way. No wonder that, in recent years, Umm al-Fahm witnessed the rise of the strongest popular “Herak” — a new type of protest movement that stresses grassroots activity and unity of all sections of society. They have mobilized large parts of the local population in Umm al-Fahm to demonstrations, which have accused the police of responsibility for the surge of crime and bloodshed in the streets. For some time, it seemed that social pressure even significantly reduced crime.

So, it is no wonder that Umm al-Fahm has been the only town in ‘48 Palestine to see a proper demonstration in solidarity with the people of Gaza since the beginning of the current Israeli onslaught. It is not that others do not want to demonstrate, but the police and the Shabak act forcefully to prevent any attempt to demonstrate even before it starts. 

I have described here before the demonstration on October 19, two days after the bombing of Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza. It was organized almost secretly, and as a result, only a few hundred people could take part. They marched through the inner streets of Umm al-Fahm. As the demonstrators started to disperse peacefully, they were violently attacked without warning by the police and border guard. 

Eleven of the demonstrators and one journalist were detained and badly beaten during this attack. The journalist was released the next day, and nine of the demonstrators were released the day after. But two activists, Muhammad Taher Jabarin and lawyer Ahmad Khalifa, whom the police accused of leading the demonstration, are still being held in harsh conditions in the Megiddo security prison. They will have spent two months and ten days in prison by the time their next remand hearing takes place on December 28. The police have requested to remand their detention until the end of their trial, which could take more than a year.

To everybody’s surprise, Jabarin and Khalifa were not accused of taking part in or organizing the demonstration itself. On December 6, both were indicted in the Haifa Magistrate Court for “identification with a terrorist organization” and “incitement to terrorism.” The indictment is based on a completely out-of-context interpretation of the very cautious slogans that were chanted in the demonstration. These slogans did not mention (by name or even by hint) any Palestinian organization and did not call for any violent act. But, by the prosecution’s racist interpretation, any call to Palestinians to struggle in defense of their rights, or for resistance to the occupation, could only mean support for terrorism.

Drive-by shooting

On November 6, the night before the indictment, Ahmad Khalifa’s wife, Lina, was sleeping at their home with their children. Suddenly, they woke up to the sound of intense shooting that was directed at the house. Windows were broken, and furniture was damaged. Their car that was parked in front of the house was so badly hit that it is not repairable. It was sheer luck that nobody was wounded or worse.

If somebody did not get the message or thought the shooting at the Khalifas’ house was by mistake, all doubts were erased on Friday, December 1, when a very similar drive-by shooting was carried out against the house of Khalifa’s partner to the indictment, Muhammad Taher Jabarin. The Jabarin family lives in a family compound, with Muhammad’s parents and brothers and their families. The intense fire was clearly directed at Muhammad’s apartment on the third floor, but some bullets also hit his brother’s home.

Who exactly carried the attacks? It could be elements of the police or the Shabak themselves. Or it could be some right-wing Zionist gangs. An extremist Telegram channel named “The Nazi Hunters 2023” published their personal details and declared them “Nazis” and “Hamas supporters,” clearly inciting their followers to attack them. It could also be some criminal elements from Umm al-Fahm whose business interests were damaged by the Herak’s anti-violence activities and who now received a green light or even encouragement from the police to take revenge.

Both Abna al-Balad and “The Umm al-Fahm Youth Herak” published separate declarations condemning the police and the Shabak for the attacks. In its declaration following the two shootings, the Herak declared that they were:

“A means of pressure and a new method used by the police and the Shabak to intimidate and oppress anyone who stands up to injustice, and a dangerous escalation in the persecution of political activists. 

We might not know the identity of the person who pulled the trigger, but the identity of those who opened fire is known: the terrorist police and the Shabak that sent their criminal agents to execute this attack.”

On Monday, December 11, a group of leftist activists from Haifa, Jews and Arabs, visited the families of the Umm al-Fahm two to express solidarity and hear about the details of the attacks. We heard how the police came after the shooting, collected the bullets that were found on the scene, and filed a report. They did not come back and apparently do not see any urgent need to solve this political crime, just as they leave 80% of the murder cases where the victims are Arab Palestinians unresolved. For them, this is not a dangerous event. Nothing like the “dangerous” demonstration that they came to disperse with a big show of force. Of course, nothing like the “danger” that, according to the prosecution’s claims in court, Jabarin and Khalifa constitute to public security. This is the “dangerousness” that is supposed to justify their demand that the two remain in prison indefinitely.

Before you go – We need your help. Mainstream media’s wilful complicity in the genocide of Palestinian people is a reminder of just how vital our work at Mondoweiss is. This article and our extensive coverage since October 7 have been made possible by readers like you who donate to keep our reporting free and independent. 

With your support, we will continue covering the ongoing events in Gaza and across Palestine, as well as amplifying the Palestine movement worldwide. Together, we will make sure to keep reporting Palestinian stories, even when the rest of the world looks away.

Support our critical work with a donation today.


You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: Premium WordPress Themes | Thanks to Themes Gallery, Bromoney and Wordpress Themes