Homicide rates in the Arab Israeli community continue to spiral out of control,
prompting the Israel Police and the Public Security Ministry to express grave
concern this week and to announce the start of a major initiative to stem the
Automatic firearms are within relatively easy reach for Arab
crime organizations, as are explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and even mortar
Criminal elements in the Arab community are fighting territorial
wars with one another for control of several lucrative markets, including
narcotics, protection rackets and stolen vehicles. They have access to
staggering quantities of weapons.
Even non-criminally-affiliated Arab
households are often armed these days, according to police, as the guns have
become a status symbol.
Last weekend, a feud between two Beduin families
in Rahat erupted into a gun fight, claiming the life of a young man and leaving
a teenager hospitalized. Police suspect that the conflict between the families
had been going on for several months that it may have begun over a minor fight
between teenagers. An escalating titfor- tat conflict reached new heights when
police received reports of shots fired in the Negev city’s Neighborhood 12 over
the weekend. The incident exemplified how a minor confrontation can quickly
escalate into a gun fight.
Although the Arab community makes up 20
percent of Israel’s population, Arab suspects are involved in 67% of all
homicides, 70% of attempted homicides and 52% of arsons, according to Public
Security Ministry figures. Nearly all of homicide victims are Arabs as
Fearing anarchy, the situation has led many members of the Arab
community to demand that the Israel Police dramatically increase their presence
in Arab areas, and the police appear to be heeding the call.
the orders of Public Security Minister Yitzhak Ahronovitch, police have in
recent weeks created three new police units to provide assistance to beleaguered
police stations serving Arab areas.
One unit was established for the
Ayarot station for the Beduin community of the Negev, a second for the Tira and
Taibe region in the Sharon district of central Israel and a third unit was set
up for Nazareth and Ilut in the North. Each new unit is made up of 110
“They’re there to assist stations that are experiencing
problems,” a Public Security Ministry source told The Jerusalem Post this
During the course of this year, police will set up a further five
such units, made up of 60 officers each, for Arab areas, covering places like
Wadi Ara and Shfaram.
In 2013, units will be created for Lod, Rahat, east
Jerusalem and Jaffa.
For attorney Reda Jaber, coordinator of Arab Society
– Police Relations Initiative on behalf of the Jerusalembased Abraham Fund, the
new police presence couldn’t come fast enough.
“I welcome all police
activity when it comes to serving the Arab community and I welcome the
deployment of police in this sector,” he said. “To be honest, police are
beginning to wake up.”
“Police must create security for every person.
These are very basic requirements and they are also the guarantee for public
safety,” Jaber said. He added that the most important thing was for police to be
present in significant numbers in Arab communities.
“That’s what’s needed
to create a deterrent at all times. Not [pinpoint] operations,” he added,
referring to arms raids in which police forces enter and leave an Arab town or
village in the space of a couple of hours.
Police have also increasingly
employed traditional Arab mediation channels to help resolve feuds between
warring clans and families. “The attempt to prevent revenge attacks is good
too,” Jaber said.
But, he noted, the clear majority of homicides are
caused by organized crime, and the “shattering of these crime organizations”
would improve personal safety levels “immediately and massively.”
society and its leaders are also responsible for tackling mentalities that
accept violence as a legitimate recourse, he said.
Yet, he warned,
without state investment in the Arab community, such efforts would be
Community policing is also a key part of the puzzle according to
Jaber. “This will allow police to become a legitimate part of the Arab
community, enabling effective policing.”
The police’s attempt to recruit
more Arab officers is commendable, Jaber said, but not a necessary requirement
for immediate action.
Alongside traditional law enforcement measures, the
Public Security Ministry is planning to expand its City Without Violence
program, which has reduced levels of crime and youth violence in Arab areas, to
12 new Arab communities.
Currently, the program runs in 28 Arab and mixed
Jewish-Arab cities, towns and regional councils.
The program leaves the
job of tackling organized crime to the police, focusing instead on youth crime,
street violence and anti-violence education.
“We’re working so that
youths today don’t join the underworld tomorrow,” a second.source from the
Public Security Ministry explained.
Under the program, closed-circuit
television cameras are installed in crime hotspots and linked up to municipal
control centers. “We don’t think cameras will solve the problem, but they help,”
the source said.
The initiative also brings together officials from the
fields of social welfare, education and extracurricular activities in order to
identify high-risk youths likely to fall into a life of crime. Together, the
authorities try to divert the youths’ paths away from crime.
adapting our model to the Arab sector,” the source said. The Arab city of Tamra
in the Galilee will be the first place where a program tailored to the needs of
the community will be tested.
“Tamra’s municipality told us in the
clearest way they need help to stamp out the culture of revenge. At the moment,
if two kids from two families get into a fight, they could drag their whole
families into a feud,” the source explained. “We’re developing a model with
Tamra to deal with that.”
Never before have Arab Israelis, police and
domestic security officials all agreed on the solutions to severe
Now only time will tell if this new consensus can actually reduce