A group of notable Israeli Arab journalists and media personnel announced on Tuesday that they were leaving all police spokesperson group chats as an act of protest over the Police policy of dealing with crime in the Arab sector, which they claim is unequal and discriminatory.
"We, the Arab journalists, correspondents, editors and columnists in the various media outlets both in Israel and abroad, are announcing that we are leaving, as a group, all police spokesperson groups in the Hebrew and Arab languages as an act of protest," a statement by the group said.
The journalists noted that the step is meant to protest "the various police statements that consistently blame the victim [and] the Arab community," adding that the decision was made following "the latest and most severe incident to ever take place in the city of Tamara."
The group was referring to an incident from Monday night that saw the death of Ahmad Hijazi, a 22-year-old nursing student from Tamra, during a shootout between Israel Police and a number of criminal suspects in the city.
Hijazi's death led to an unprecedented uproar in the Arab community in Israel, with an estimated 10,000 people participating in his mass funeral on Tuesday and expressing rage over his untimely death.
While the incident is being investigated and the police officers who were involved are currently under investigation by the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP), Northern District police chief Shimon Lavi decided to praise the officers involved before the situation could become clearer.
Moreover, the police statement issued immediately after the incident suggested that all four individuals who were shot to death were allegedly part of the criminal gang that confronted the police troops at the scene. The Abraham Initiatives, a Jewish-Arab NGO that promotes Arab-Jewish equality and integration into Israeli society, noted that such statements "increase the suspicion of Arab citizens towards the police."
THE GROUP of Arab journalists reaffirmed that notion on Tuesday by disconnecting its professional channel of communication with the Police. "In every single incident involving the Israel Police and citizens from the Arab sector, the Police hurries to issue inaccurate statements, false statements that consistently blame the victim, before even investigating the incident."
This, according to the group, "proves that the Israel Police is maintaining its suspicious security policy toward every Arab citizen in the country and does not treat us as equals."
In a broader sense, the statement by the group comes following several months of unrest in the Arab sector that has recently included mass protests over the government's continued failure to address the rising crime rates and violence in Arab cities throughout the country.
2020 was the bloodiest year for Arab-Israeli society since the recording of murder rates began, with the Abraham Initiatives reporting that 96 citizens were murdered and hundreds were seriously wounded, while the Aman Center for Combating Violence in Arab Society reported that 113 citizens were murdered. In comparison, 89 Arab citizens were killed in 2019.
December 2020 also marked the bloodiest month on record, with over 17 murders in just one month.
While the Police has repeatedly stated that it has reinforced its presence in crime-infected Arab towns throughout the country, the Arab public in Israel is not convinced, pointing to the alarming rates of violence that only seem to be rising.
Attorney Mudar Yunes, head of the Arara Local Council and chairman of the Arab Local Councils in Israel, told Walla that "the Police is trying to blind the public and presents so-called successes in locating and apprehending criminals, but unfortunately, we don't feel it in reality."
He added that the acts of violence and serious criminal activity are only increasing, and one can witness it on a daily basis by visiting any Arab town or city in the country. "The Police knows how to show up in a protest at Kafr Qara with reinforced troops and a helicopter to disperse a protest on road 65, but can't apprehend the murderers of an innocent individual such as Suleiman Masarwah," Yunes said. Tzvi Joffre and Idan Zonshine contributed to this report.