Items seized from Palestinian suspects, October 2, 2014.
(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The dearth of weapons seizures from Israeli Arabs in 2014 is contemptible, and shows a lack of tenacity on the part of the police, MK Miri Regev said on Monday.
“The level of personal security in the Arab sector is a problem. These numbers don’t show that their [the police and the Public Security Ministry] intentions are serious,” Regev (Likud) said, speaking in a Knesset Interior Committee meeting held to discuss illegal firearms held by Arab citizens.
Lawmakers from Arab parties and representatives of the police and the Public Security Ministry participated in the meeting, which was called after high school principal Yussuf Haj Yahya was shot and killed in his office in Taiba in August.
Police submitted figures showing that so far in 2014 in the Northern District – where most of the work against illegal firearms takes place – officers have seized 87 pistols, 86 rifles, 106 grenades, 21 bombs, 18 explosive bricks and 22 fire bombs.
Regev dismissed the statistics. “That’s enough for a single neighborhood,” she said.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said, “Politicians and local leaders from all ends of the political spectrum say unequivocally that the Arab sector does not want these weapons. It can’t be that the country is able to prevent security incidents and doesn’t know how to handle issues dealing with the safety of civilians in these communities.”
Arab legislators spoke of a desire for increased police work in their communities to fight firearms and better cooperation with community leaders.
“We are still seen as a security threat, but as police show determination and seriousness in dealing with these problems we will stand by their side,” MK Masud Gnaim (United Arab List-Ta’al) said.
MK Basel Ghattas (Balad) said former Palestinian “collaborators” with Israel from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were running around freely with weapons thinking they are above the law. In Arab areas across the country, former “collaborators” who have been relocated are often blamed for a disproportionate share of the gun violence.
The death of Kafr Kana man Kheir a-Din Hamdan, whom police shot dead on November 7 after he attacked their vehicle with a knife, was discussed in the meeting. His death triggered riots in the Galilee village and elsewhere.
“We feel that like in the recent instance in Kafr Kana, police are too easy on the trigger when it comes to an Arab citizen,” said Mazen Gnaim, deputy mayor of Sakhnin in the Galilee and the acting head of the Monitoring Committee of the Israeli Arab Leadership.
“We don’t justify the actions of the young man who came up to a police car with a knife, but if the head of the [police] district had suspended the cop who shot him until the issue was clarified, we wouldn’t see what is happening right now in the Arab sector,” said Husein al-Haib, head of the local council in Tuba-Zangariya, a Beduin town in the Eastern Galilee.