Netanyahu and Aharonovitch 311.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)
Last Monday, just one day after 41-year-old Lod resident Sami Hijazi was shot to
death while sitting in his car outside Lod City Hall, 27-year-old Emil Halili
met the same fate while waiting for a train to pass. Neither of the victims had
In response, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
announced that together with police and security officials he would take steps
“to return the sense of security” to the residents of Lod, a city with a long
history of conspicuous criminal activity, especially in the Arab community.
Undoubtedly, more needs to be done to improve the personal security of Arab
In the wake of the Lod killings, Arab citizens expressed
feelings of alienation and disenfranchisement from government authorities. Only
a few of the dozens of Arab representatives invited by Lod Mayor Ilan Hariri to
an emergency meeting to discuss the deteriorating situation agreed to
Instead, they held a meeting of their own, at which they resolved
to complain to the national ombudsman and the attorney-general about the police
force’s lax enforcement in their city. A mass demonstration is scheduled for
In interviews with this paper’s reporter, Ben Hartman, Lod’s
Arab citizens have described a police force that takes the murders of Arabs by
Arabs too lightly. “Honor” killings or casualties as a result of infighting
among vying crime families are barely investigated, they claim.
Police give the Arab residents the impression that they are not attuned to their
cultural and religious sensibilities. Police insisted, for instance, that
Halili’s murder was an “honor” killing, even after the family set up a mourning
tent, which is not done in Muslim culture after such killings.
feeling of alienation is not restricted to Lod.
A study released at the
beginning of the year by the Abraham Fund Initiative found that among some 1,000
Arab Israelis surveyed, 77 percent said the police gave preferential treatment
Sixty-two percent wanted more police in their community.
Respondents said lack of police response to crime in Arab towns contrasted with
“over-policing” of Arab citizens in Jewish or mixed towns.
relationship between the Israel Police and the Arab minority in Israel has
always been complex and sensitive, the Arab rioting of October 2000, in which 13
Arab Israelis were killed by police, bolstered mutual antagonism and
ARAB ISRAELIS have every reason to be concerned about
deteriorating relations with police. They make up 60% of murder victims although
they are just 20% of the population, according to a Knesset’s Internal Affairs
and Environment Committee report released in February.
Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has already launched a crackdown in Lod on illegal
arms smuggled in from Egypt and Jordan or stolen from the IDF. Dozens of rifles,
handguns and grenades have been discovered in graves, mattresses and other
hiding places, and hundreds more are thought to be hidden.
But more needs
to be done to build trust. Police officers should create ties with Arab
community leaders. They should familiarize themselves with Arab culture and
learn some Arabic. And Arab communities should be encouraged to set up their own
neighborhood patrols in conjunction with police.
But perhaps the single
most important step that can be taken is to actively recruit more Arabs into the
police force to work in Arab communities.
According to the
above-mentioned Knesset report, there are only 382 Arab Muslims in a police
force of 21,242, or just 1.8% of the force.
Aharonovitch has said that he
plans to enlist another 400 Arab police officers this year through a special
affirmative action program. Integrating more Arabs into police ranks would help
combat the community’s strong feelings of disenfranchisement.
officers would also serve as positive role models.
Arab Israelis are
entitled to the same level of security and protection from crime as Jews. They
should not be made to feel like second-class citizens.