Police are investigating the gruesome murder of Israeli-Arab mother, Dua’a Abu Sharkh, 32, who was shot and killed in front of her four children in Lod on Friday night. Three of the victim’s brothers and another family member were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder.
Abu Sharkh was buried on Sunday.
According to the initial police investigation, masked gunmen approached Abu Sharkh’s car around 8 p.m. and shot her at close range. She had just finished a visit with her children – ages four, five, 11 and 12. The visit had been prearranged with her husband, from whom she had been separated for three years. One of the four children – the only son – lived with the mother, with whom he moved in after reportedly being severely beaten by the father.
Abu Sharkh was taken to the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center near Lod with a critical head injury, where she was pronounced dead.
On Sunday, as the funeral procession passed the Lod District police station, hundreds of attendees protested, arguing that the police do not properly investigate murders and too often blame family members in murder cases.
“The police never found the culprits in dozens of murders,” some shouted, according to Ynetnews.com. “Stop saying ‘honor killings’... We do not want to live in fear; we want to live in dignity and not be in danger.”
Abu Sharkh’s family successfully petitioned the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court to release the victim’s three brothers to attend the funeral. “They are clean, there is no connection to the murder, they had a good relationship with my daughter, who was murdered in cold blood,” Abu Sharkh’s father told Ynet.
The three brothers attended the funeral under close police supervision, after hundreds of funeral participants blocked roads and protested. The funeral notwithstanding, the remand of all four suspects was extended on Friday by the court.
Relatives of Abu Sharkh who spoke with Haaretz said Abu Shark’s husband had a history of abuse toward her and the children. Family members have said that two years ago he kidnapped his estranged wife and attempted to murder her, but she escaped.
“The next murder is only days away,” warned Samah Salaime, a staffer at Sikuy, an NGO that promotes equality between Arabs and Jews, on Sunday, in response to Dua’a Abu Sharkh’s murder.
Salaime, joined by Arab politicians, charged Sunday that the police are not doing enough to stop violence in Israeli Arab communities, which she says has sharply increased in recent years. In particular, they allege that police are failing to do much to collect widespread illegal weapons in Arab towns and villages, something the police deny.
According to police statistics, 59% of murders in 2015 occurred in Arab communities, despite the fact that the Arab minority makes up only 21 percent of the country’s population.
Abu Sharkh’s murder was the 40th this year in Israeli Arab communities, according to Salaime.
“If someone has a match in his hand and goes around in a dry forest you have to say let’s take away the match, let’s put out the fire,” said Salaime, head of Sikuy’s Anti-Violence and Crime Initiative.
In addition to allegedly not collecting weapons vigorously, she faults police for failing to apprehend suspects in most murders. “We feel that it doesn’t matter so much to them, that we don’t interest the police.”
Police counter that they are fighting the violence. “The Israel Police has improved the connection with the Israeli Arab sector in all parts of the country,’’ said spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
“There’s been a strategic decision to recruit more than 1,000 Israeli Arab and Muslim officers to strengthen the connection with the communities.
There are ongoing operations all the time to take care of illegal weapons. There area operations every day and every night.”
In March, the government budgeted NIS 2 billion over the next five years towards policing in Arab communities, including the establishment of new police stations.
But Salaime says that is not enough to combat the problem.
Sikuy is demanding that the government formulate a comprehensive inter-ministerial plan to deal with the violence that will include not only the ministry of public security but also the education and social welfare ministries. “What is needed is a preventive longterm plan funded by the government, just like you build a plan to combat poverty or improve education.”
The main elements of the plan would in her view have to include: going into schools with a message of non-violence and teaching parents and children alternative means of solving problems besides violence; increased presence of police; taking care of youth who don’t have a framework so that they don’t become criminals; massive and constant collection of illegal weapons; and punishing criminals.
MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) says immediate urgent action is needed. “There isn’t a day when you don’t hear about murder, killing and gunshots.
It can’t be that this continues without the government taking elementary actions until it implements an operative plan to save the Arab society from destruction.”
Bahloul charged that “practically nothing has been done” about confiscating illegal weapons.
He added that any plan for tackling the violence would also have to address unemployment.
“The youths who lose hope of employment go into the world of crime. Arabs are at the top of the ladder in unemployment and poverty.”
Bahloul said there are societal factors that lead to crime, such as the murder of Abu Sharkh.
“We need to empower the status of the Arab woman to enable her to go out to work, to safeguard work opportunities for the woman so she can be economically autonomous.”
This, he says, will reduce forced marriages and marriage at a young age.
He added: “And we need to change the Arab men who still have the worrisome stereotypical view that they are responsible for the behavior of the woman. Those who still have this view bring us to disasters time and again. It’s a very primitive and tribal view.”
In Bahloul’s view, education and strict punishment are needed in the face of this outlook.
“You have to impose severe punishments and not look the other way with these things. At times there is a feeling that the punishments are not so tough and that an iron fist is not being used against the people who commit these terrible acts.”
Muhammad Barakeh, head of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, said a two-pronged approach is needed to tackle the violence. On the one hand, police must collect the weapons, while on the other Arab society must impose a boycott on those engaging in violence and those “who treat women as if they are unequal.”