As Arab-Israeli protests against gun violence escalate, 36-year-old Taysir Salem from Acre, who was shot to death on Thursday becomes the 77th Arab Israeli to be killed since the beginning of the year.
Earlier this month, Arab-Israelis launched a series of protests across the country to protest gun violence, blocking major roads and calling upon the police to take on organized crime and illegal arms trade, as it did successfully in Netanya. The city, being home to some of Israel's greatest mobsters, was once considered to be the capital of the state's organized crime.
Another resident of Acre – a city that saw no less than three murders in the past few months – told Israeli media site Ynet that "gun violence endangers us and makes us stay in our homes so we won't get hurt. It can't be that in such a short period of time, three people have lost their lives."
"Where is the police? Where are the Sulh people [Arab reconciliation brokers] and the Arab leadership? It is time we finish the conflicts," she said. "Don't settle for mere speeches and meetings with police; we want you in the field."
According to Israeli media sources, data shows that since the beginning of this year, 4,017 illegal arms have been discovered, including 526 handguns, 435 assault rifles and 268 grenades – a 21% increase since 2018. The amount of illegal arms discovered in Arab cities and villages stands at around 3,600. The overall amount of arms confiscated in 2018 until late October stood at 3,314 items. 137 machine guns and missiles were also found.
Illegal arms in the Arab sector, according to statistics, come mainly from the IDF, the West Bank and cross-border smuggling from Jordan and Egypt. A poll conducted in 2017 found that while most Arabs oppose illegal arms trade, many purchase guns in the black market to protect themselves from gun violence.
Since the beginning of the year, 3,621 people have been arrested for alleged illegal arms trade and shooting in urban areas, Israeli media sources reported. However, only 940 people – about a quarter of the total – have been indicted.
A report filed by the State Comptroller last year shed light on the "system dysfunctions" that allow gun violence to thrive. According to the report, 85% of those convicted for crimes associated with gun violence, including illegal arms trade, smuggling and shooting in urban areas, were sentenced to less than a year – even though criminal law permits a seven-year sentence for those crimes.
The State Comptroller also criticized the State Attorney for the "minuscule amount" of indictments around Nazareth and other Arab cities and villages. He also criticized police for being "unable to cooperate," citing lack of communication between police stations in separate cities and districts.
Confiscation of illegal arms and ammunition, as well as combating gun violence, have been among the top demands of the Arab parties that comprise the Joint List in order for the list to support a coalition. Protests organized by the Joint List and the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel are expected to continue.