Why do the majority of gender-based murders happen in the Arab community?

Of the 25 women who were murdered in what was classified as gender-based violence last year, approximately half of them were from the Arab community.

July 30, 2019 17:21
4 minute read.
ONE OUT OF four women in the Arab community have faced verbal or physical violence in the past year.

ONE OUT OF four women in the Arab community have faced verbal or physical violence in the past year. . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

In 2019, thousands of Israeli women (and men) took to the streets to protest the slew of murders against Israeli women, and the government’s lack of accountability in holding the perpetrators accountable.

Since 2000, over 20 women have been murdered annually, and the police and the government has been woefully lacking in protecting women against domestic violence, rape and other forms of gender-based violence.

Yet the elephant in the room is that of the 25 women who were murdered in what was classified as gender-based violence last year, approximately half of them were from the Arab community. In 2017, the figures were similar. How can it be that 50% of the victims are from a population that consists of 20% of the entire population – with little or no intervention from the state?

Even more appalling, based on research conducted by the Knesset, one out of four women in the Arab community has faced verbal or physical violence in the past year. Additionally, there are over 420,000 Arab women over 18, and over 105,000 of them have experienced gender-based violence. In murder cases against Arab women, the state has only a 20% success rate in holding the perpetrators accountable.

When criticized for these figures, the common response on the street is that the Arab community is too “conservative” and hinders the investigative process – the “it’s their problem” mentality.

At the state level, despite the disproportionate amount of violence against Arab women, no significant effort has been made to combat this trend in the Arab communities.

If the violence against Israeli-Arab women is disproportionately higher than in other communities, should not the state be investing more resources in combating violence against women in those communities?

An average of 70 criminal domestic violence complaints are filed every day, with 13,000 violent assault complaints by women over the past year.

Of all complaints filed, nearly 70% are closed without any charges brought. Of 24,424 complaints of violence filed by women to police, only 17% resulted in indictments against the alleged perpetrator.

These statistics are shocking and demonstrate a systemic problem in dealing with gender-based violence in the State of Israel, and the situation is even more dreadful for Israeli-Arab women. In the Arab community, according to Knesset research, half of the women who were murdered in 2018 were already known to the state by social services.

Additionally, in 2018, Haaretz reported that only two women’s shelters specifically cater to the needs of battered Arab women; zero shelters cater to Israeli-Bedouin women; and there is a severe lack of social workers who speak Arabic and/or understand the cultural challenges in various Arab-Israeli communities. In the past decade, the number of Arab women turning to the police for help in issues of domestic violence has been steadily increasing, yet the police do not have enough Arabic speakers to provide adequate support.

Furthermore, the police routinely fail to enforce restraining orders that are granted to protect Israeli-Arab women.

The Israel Police’s lack of accountability in protecting and serving the Arab communities has a trickle-down effect that also contributes to the disproportionate rates of violence against Arab women. Siha Mekomit reports that on average, one-third of Arab women who are murdered in Israel are killed with illegal weapons. Disturbingly, 80% of all illegal weapons are found in Arab communities.

WHILE THE state has an obligation to protect all its citizens, the leadership of the Arab community and the community itself also need to take part in solving this cycle of violence.

In particular, for one of us (Muhammad), the violence is personal. In Sulam, a village in northern Israel, a relative was murdered for refusing to live with a man she was forcibly married to. After she ran away and married someone else, she was later found murdered, shot to death alongside her husband in Nazareth. Until this day, the police have been unable to find the perpetrators, despite the fact that their identities are commonly known within the family.

This type of community silence is part of the reason police continue to neglect the horrific trend of violence against Israeli-Arab women. The tragic reality today is that these women are ignored by their leaders, ignored by their communities, ignored by their government and ignored by the public. That is not acceptable.

Far too often, Israeli society sees the Arab community as “the other” and views violence against Israeli-Arab women as an internal and isolated community problem. This toxic and racist mentality promotes further societal divides and alienates Arabs and Jews from one another even more. The reality is that an attack on an Israeli-Arab woman is an attack on all Israeli women.
Domestic violence and gender-based violence occur in nearly every community within Israel, yet the state treats cases of gender-based violence against Arab women differently.

Whether because of explicit or implicit bias, the government continues to shirk its responsibility to protect women, particularly those from Arab communities. As Arabs and Jews, we cannot stand for this any longer.

Emily Schrader is the founder of Social Lite Creative and a freelance writer, and Muhammad Zoabi is an LGBT activist from Nazareth.

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