Gender violence is once again triggering introspection and discussion among Arab politicians and opinion makers following the latest murder of an Arab woman in Jaffa on Tuesday.
While many leaders blame police for allegedly not doing enough to stop the spate of killings, there are also voices blaming faults within Arab society for the deaths.
In the killing in Jaffa on Tuesday, police units responding to reports of a woman who had been stabbed arrived at her apartment to find her seriously injured, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. The woman, Hoda Khil, died of her wounds shortly thereafter.
Within an hour, police arrested her brother, Said Abu Srari on suspicion he committed the murder, Rosenfeld said. At a remand hearing Tuesday in which his arrest was extended for nine days, Abu Srari denied he had killed his sister. Rosenfeld said the motive attributed to Abu Srari is unclear.
“We are looking to see if it is because of a psychiatric background or if it is family related,” he said.
On Sunday, the body of another Jaffa woman, Huweida Shawa, was found in a car in the northern West Bank. Her husband, Nasser Shawa, also found in the car, was lightly wounded. Police have arrested him on suspicion he murdered his wife although relatives say he and his wife were both victims of an attack.
Whatever the details and motives, the two crimes have accentuated a sense that murders of Arab women have spun out of control.
Khil was the eighth Arab woman to be murdered this year, according to Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman.
“The role for us as leadership in our society is to struggle against this phenomenon,” he said. “It’s connected to the whole status of women and the way parts of society look at women and their ability to make decisions about their own lives and to live their lives the way they want to. We need to look at it as part of the struggle to change our society and to make it more progressive.”
Of the fatalities, Touma-Sliman said, “some were killed by their spouses because they decided on divorce, some had backgrounds with domestic violence. The backgrounds are different, but the way of thinking is the same: ‘We can control women because we are men.’ It’s a gender crime.”
She put the responsibility on the state and the police for stopping the murder wave.
“The state shouldn’t wait until there is a murder. If welfare officers know there is a threat, police should act before the crime,” she said.
Touma-Sliman called on the government to formulate a “multiple authority plan” to combat the violence. The plan would also include educational programs in schools, activities in cultural centers, offering support to women in need, and getting police involved earlier so as to deter violent perpetrators, she said.
Rosenfeld said that when a complaint of a threat to a woman is filed, police work with social services to find solutions such as safe houses. “The problem is that many times the families don’t make complaints,” he said.
Rosenfeld denied that the police are less vigorous in solving murders in Arab communities than in Jewish ones. “There is no difference whatsoever in how police treat murders whether they involve Jews, Christians or Muslims,” he said.
Mtanes Shehadeh, secretary-general of the Balad party, pointed the finger not just at police but at internal factors in Arab society.
“There isn’t enough societal deterrence to prevent murders of women,” he said.
“Someone who decides to murder his sister or wife does it without caring about society. There is not enough awareness that it is not acceptable socially, religiously and as humans. There is a need to educate Arab society that murder is forbidden of women, men and children, and that every person who uses violence must be punished.”
Makbula Nassar, a broadcaster on al-Shams radio station in Nazareth, puts the blame foremost on police.
“They encourage murders by not catching the murderers,” she said, adding that it is a mistake to think of the killings as family honor crimes, noting that women are being killed after they decide to divorce or to remarry.
“It’s really a question of control over women,” Nassar said.
“These are crimes of ego with the male feeling defeated. When a woman says no to him, he wants to destroy her world. This is the fertile ground where murders develop. And why does a man like this allow himself to think he can punish and take a woman’s life? Because he grew up in a culture at home that says women are inferior and unequal to men.”