Arab-Israeli leaders on Sunday launched a three-day hunger strike to protest increased violent crime in the Arab sector. They also staged a sit-in strike in a tent outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem in protest of the failure of the police to adequately deal with the wave of violence sweeping Arab communities.The latest protest comes in the context of a campaign launched last month by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel following an upsurge in violence in the Arab sector. At least 79 Arabs have been killed in a series of violent incidents since the beginning of 2019.Inside the tent, the protesters hanged a large sign that read: “We want to live in peace and without violence and crime.” Another sign pointed out that 1,395 Arabs have been killed in various violent incidents in the Arab communities since 2000. Speaking to reporters at the tent, Joint List MK Osama Saadi said the protest was designed to sound the voices of the Arab victims and their families, including the widows and orphans.
“We will continue with the protest until we achieve our goal: to live in peace,” he said. “We hold the government and police responsible for the rise in violent crime.”Mohammed Barake, head of the High Follow-Up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, also accused the government and police of failing to curb the wave of violent crimes in Arab communities.“We want to live in peace and calm,” he said. “We are not a violent people, as some government officials claim. Only 2% of Arabs are involved in crime, and this means that 98% want to live in peace and security.”MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, who joined the protesters at the tent outside the Prime Minister’s Office, said an Arab restaurant owner recently complained to him that he was being forced to pay NIS 4,000 a month in protection money to criminals.“The man is afraid of going to the police,” Odeh said. “What will the police do? They will interrogate the criminal and release him after a short while. Then the criminal will kill the restaurant owner. That’s why the restaurant owner prefers to pay the protection money to save his life. The police can collect illegal weapons, but they’re not doing their job.”Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said he was “heartbroken” because of all the young men who fell victim to the ongoing wave of violent crime in the Arab sector.“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu considers us an enemy,” he said during the protest. “And as long as we are an enemy, we can kill each other without a need for government interference. That’s the thinking of this racist government. When it wants, this government can easily bomb a [weapons] convoy in Sudan. But when it comes to the Arab sector, the government is pretending that it can’t collect [illegal] weapons and punish criminal gangs. We want a new government decision; we want them to collect weapons and deter the murderers and criminals.”Meanwhile, thousands of mourners on Sunday attended the funeral of Faleh Dahleh, 36, who was killed during a brawl in the village of Turan, near Nazareth, last Friday. Several houses and businesses were set on fire during the violence. Police have detained more than 30 Turan residents on suspicion of involvement in the scuffle, which erupted between two rival clans.