Arab society in ‘state of emergency’

Report: 61% of all murder, manslaughter victims in Israel in 2018 were Arabs.

July 23, 2019 20:18
3 minute read.
Palestinians look on as Israeli police set up a checkpoint in the Arab east Jerusalem neighbourhood

Palestinians look on as Israeli police set up a checkpoint in the Arab east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ras al-Amud October 14, 2015. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

Arab society in Israel is in a “state of emergency,” MK Ayman Odeh said Tuesday in response to the release of the 2018 Personal Security Index: Violence, Crime and Policing in Arab Towns by the Abraham Initiatives.

According to the report, 61% of all murder and manslaughter victims in Israel in 2018 were Arab citizens, despite Arabs only constituting around 20% of Israeli citizens. Moreover, over one-third (36%) of Arab citizens of Israel have a sense of personal insecurity in the community where they live due to violence, compared to 13% of Jews.

The Personal Security Index, published for the second year, is meant to provide a picture of issues related to policing and violence in Arab society, with an emphasis on attitudes of Arab citizens. It is published in cooperation with the Samuel Neaman Institute at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

The study also found that 59% of Arab citizens are afraid of being victims of violent offenses. Furthermore, 90% of Arabs agree or tend to agree with the claim that it is easy to obtain firearms in Israel, compared to only 34% of Jews.

“Violence in Arab communities is acquiring the dimensions of a social disaster, as clearly indicated by the survey findings,” said executive co-directors of the Abraham Initiatives, Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu and Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, following the release of the report.
“Innocent people are murdered in the streets and the police do not lift a finger,” Odeh continued, demanding a “strategic plan to eradicate violence immediately.”

Trust in police is also low in the Arab community. Only one in four Arabs (26%) said they trust the police, compared to 42% of Jews. Relatedly, 62% of Arab citizens who were the victims of violence said they did not submit a complaint to the police about the incident.

The 2017 report found that the main reasons for violence in Arab society were an inadequate police presence; the socioeconomic situation of the Arab population – more than half of Arab families are defined as poor and almost two-thirds of Arab children live below the poverty line; high unemployment; tensions between tradition and modernity; lack of proper government services; and discrimination of Arab citizens of Israel.

“Violence and crime in Arab society in Israel are the by-product of profound discrimination against Arab society in every field of life,” said Beeri-Sulitzeanu and Abu Rass.

In 2018, new police stations were opened in five Arab communities, and between 2016 until the end of 2018, some 550 Arab police officers were recruited, according to the report. This includes 79 female Arab officers. However, a cut of NIS 400 million in the budget for construction of police stations – mainly in Arab society and the periphery – has reduced the number of police stations that were due to open in 2018 and were expected to open in 2019 and 2020.

“A citizen who has no personal security is a citizen without citizenship,” said Meretz MK Esawi Frej. “Being a citizen is two things: living with dignity and with security. When one disappears, your citizenship is compromised.

“For over a decade, my society has been suffering from a gang war, to which I and many of my friends do not see an end. Personal security is low, much lower than in the Jewish community,” he continued. “There is no reason why Kafr Kassem should not be at the level of Tel Aviv, where there is personal security, there is a future, there is a prosperous economy, there is pride and coexistence.”

Beeri-Sulitzeanu and Abu Rass offered recommendations for how to improve the situation, including that police should maintain a permanent and more positive presence in these communities. This would involve returning the NIS 400m. in budget cuts for police and enhancing dialogue among police and Arab citizens.

“It is also vital to address the root causes of violence, and particularly the policy of discrimination and chronic neglect of Arab society,” Beeri-Sulitzeanu and Abu Rass said in a statement. “The Abraham Initiatives urges the government to establish an interministerial team to eradicate violence and crime in Arab society.”

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