Stop the violence

Israeli Arabs are full citizens of this country, who deserve personal security as much as anyone else.

October 2, 2019 21:47
3 minute read.
The coffin of Arab-Israeli Ahmad Al Khatib is carried by friends is carried by friends and relatives

The coffin of Arab-Israeli Ahmad Al Khatib is carried by friends is carried by friends and relatives.. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

With the shooting in Majd el-Kurum of the two brothers Khalil and Ahmed Sami Mana’a in a fight over the weekend, the number of Israeli Arabs killed in violent altercations this year has reached 71.

This is a 20% increase in such incidents since last year. Seven of the murders took place in the span of one week in September, four in one day.

Ten of those murdered were women, including so-called “honor killings,” which are woefully misnamed, as they are among the most dishonorable acts a person could do.

Last Friday, hundreds of residents of the Wadi Ara area protested, calling to close the Umm al-Fahm police station – not because they don’t want the police to do their jobs, but because they see the police station as pointless. The demonstrators argued that the police have been ineffective in combating violence in the Israeli-Arab population and are not doing enough to prevent the murders. A larger demonstration, planned by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, is set to take place later this month.
The police have blamed Israeli-Arab elected officials for not cooperating. They say community leaders need to speak out against violence and point out that many of their leaders oppose the establishment of new police stations.

These complaints, that the police allocated funds to building new police stations and expanding law enforcement in the Israeli-Arab sector, but that it has not found partners in the community – whether for spreading positive messages in the population, or providing recruits to become police officers – are not new. And certainly it is no surprise that many Israeli Arabs may view the police with suspicion.

Tensions between law enforcement and minority populations are not unique to Israel and, unfortunately, will probably always exist at some level. But they are not an excuse. It behooves the police to try to reduce the tensions as much as possible and listen to that population’s concerns – in this case, that violence in the streets is out of control.

In addition, the argument that the Israeli-Arab leadership has not addressed the issue of violence is not totally true. Joint List MKs have long warned about the spike in violence in their communities and highlighted the fight against it in their campaign. They have brought up the issue in the Knesset repeatedly in recent years. Joint List faction chairman Ahmad Tibi listed it as one of their requests from Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, in return for their recommending to President Reuven Rivlin that he be tasked with forming the next government.

When four murders took place on September 21, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said: “This is the first issue that we will take care of. We have no choice but to bring security back to the streets and live in a society without weapons.”

Zionist left-wing parties also recognized the primacy of this issue for Israeli-Arab voters, and campaigned for it in their communities.
But writer and feminist activist Samah Salima asked an apt question in Haaretz last month: “How did we reach a civil low point in our relations with the institutions of the state, especially with law enforcement... that all we are left with are promises and more promises? [The victims] do not have the basic right in a democratic country: the right to live – simply to live.”

Certainly, a population pleading with the police to take action against violence on its streets is not asking for too much. All they are asking is that the police do their jobs.

Civil society leaders play a role here, as well, and the police are not wrong in seeking partners in the community. But the blame game is inappropriate, and clearly has not helped to improve the situation.

Israeli Arabs are full citizens of this country, who deserve personal security as much as anyone else. When 71 people are murdered in one community in one year, the onus is on the government. It must do more to protect the Arab citizens of Israel.

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