‘Honor crimes’ are murder, plain and simple, says MK

Lod mayor says real problem is socioeconomic, government must prepare a 5-year program that deals with all the problems together.

‘Honor crimes’, four of which reportedly took place among Arab residents of Lod in recent weeks, are nothing more than straightforward murders and should be treated as such. So asserted MK Tzipi Hotovely, chairwoman of the Committee on the Status of the Woman, during an emergency hearing in the Knesset on Monday.
Hotovely heard testimony from a wide forum: Arab MKs, Lod Mayor Ilan Hariri, representatives of the welfare services, police, and city residents.
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The problem, she concluded, must be tackled by increasing the number of social workers, and making clear to would-be murderers that they will face harsh punishment.
The meeting grew stormy when Ra’am-Ta’l MK Ahmed Tibi remarked that what lay behind the government’s sudden interest in honor killings is that Lod is a mixed Jewish-Arab town. Kadima MK Shlomo Molla weighed in claiming the police do not effectively tackle the problem because the majority of Lod residents are Ethiopian immigrants or Arabs.
Hotovely called on everyone present to focus on how to prevent the next murder. “This issue demands special treatment,” she told those gathered at the session. “Lod has become the crime capital of Israel and many people in the city feel unsafe.”
Hariri took issue with Hotovely’s comments, and insisted the real issue was the poor socioeconomic conditions of the 25,000 residents, especially the Arab community.
Arabs make up roughly one-third of the population there.
“The government must prepare a five-year program that deals with all the problems together,” he told the committee.
Hariri also rejected the notion that Lod’s lack of Arabic-speaking social workers was a factor in the murders; according to reports, there are only two such social workers – working part time.
“It’s all to do with education, what does it matter how many Arabic-speaking social workers there are in Lod?” he asked.
Hariri added that the social welfare department was one of the most active in country, and quite possibly, handled the most number of cases. The mayor stated that the city operated a center to help victims of domestic violence.
“Honor crimes are a cultural thing and even though there are many wonderful people in the Arab community, we need to approach this in a different way,” said Hariri, who left the meeting early. Brig.-Gen.
Yaakov Bright seconded Hariri”s comments, adding that women from the Arab community were reluctant to come forward and speak out against abuse or threats for fear of retribution. He said that unfortunately the “police are the last address for these crimes.” Bright’s comments were adamantly rejected by several Arab MKs who criticized the Israel Police’s lack of involvement among their public.
The MKs stated that the government had consistently neglected to deal with social problems in the community.
“I have a terrible feeling of failure,” said MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad). “I am against sweeping anything under the carpet, and in our community – just like in any community – there are men who use violence against women for all sorts of reasons, especially to prove their masculinity.”
“The police should not be the last address for this kind of violence, they should be the first address for someone who feels their life is threatened,” continued Zahalka. “If we want to deal with this problem today then the immediate solution is via the police.”
When it was suggested women in the Arab community are afraid to speak out, Zahalka countered, “We must encourage them to speak out, we have to get them to come forward. Women in our community are not going to all come forward en masse, but the more they complain, the more men fear the consequences.”
Two female Arab residents of Lod pointed out to the committee that cultural insensitivity by the police often added to the troubles the women faced.
“The minute the police describe a murder as an ‘honor killing,’ it is severely damages [the reputation of] the family for generations to come,” said a woman identified as Maha.
“Within minutes of the last murder in Lod, the police had issued a statement it was an honor killing. So why, four days later, did I see her family members walking around – and they‘d not even been interrogated by the police?” “The media is always so quick to label these murders as honor killings, but we have to take these words out of our lexicon because every murder of a woman must be viewed as a murder and nothing more,” said MK Afo Agbaria (Hadash).
“The minute police say it’s an honor crime, then the whole case is treated differently.”
Concurring with Agbaria, Hotovely said that the problem had to be tackled from within the community; people had to be educated to end the practice.
Plus, more outside resources must be brought to the task, especially Arabic-speaking social workers.
“It’s clear at the moment that Arab women who are in danger for their lives have no one to turn to,” Hotovely said. “We have to make clear to anyone planning such a murder that they’ll pay a heavy price.”