Violence will stop only when it reaches Jewish areas - Arab Israelis

As the rate of violent crime - particularly homicide- rises in the Arab sector, the public demands action from authorities.

 POLICE AND MEDICAL personnel at the scene of the murder of a woman in Lod, last week. (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
POLICE AND MEDICAL personnel at the scene of the murder of a woman in Lod, last week.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

“The anarchy and crime in the Arab sector have crossed all redlines,” Lod resident Sami al-Hawwari said hours after his sister Manar, 34, and her daughter Khadra, 14, were shot dead in the center of the city on Monday night.

Hawwari’s remarks were echoed on Tuesday by many Arab citizens amid an increase in violent crime in the Arab sector, including homicide.

Some blamed the police for failing to take drastic measures to combat the phenomenon, while others said their local leaders were not doing enough to stop the violence.

The murder of Manar al-Hawwari and her daughter was the third case to send shock waves through Arab cities and villages in the country. Earlier this week, unidentified assailants shot and killed Nidal Aghbariya, a prominent and widely respected journalist from Umm el-Fahm.

“The murderers were following my sister, who was returning from a hospital, where she visited a relative,” Hawwari recounted. “When she approached her home, they opened fire at her and her two daughters. One of the girls, Mariam, managed to run away.”

 Police investigate the scene of a murder of a mother and her daughter in Lod (credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) Police investigate the scene of a murder of a mother and her daughter in Lod (credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

He said his sister was not under any threat and had never felt that her life was in danger.

“She has nothing to do with the world of crime,” her bereaved brother said. “That’s why she was walking around freely. Had she known that her life was in danger, she would have acted differently.”

Sources close to the family said the murderers wanted to punish her husband, who fled the country a few years ago because of a dispute with local criminals.

“Manar and her daughter are innocent victims,” said a close friend of the family who asked not to be identified. “The Arabs are paying the price for the negligence of the police and other law-enforcement agencies. Why is it that when a Jew is killed, the perpetrators are almost always captured, but when the victim is an Arab, most of the homicides are not solved?”

Nidal Aghbariya's murder

Mohammed Aghbariya, father of the slain journalist, said that in this case, the writing was on the wall.

“My son received several threats in the past,” he said. “He reported the threats to the police, but they did not take any real action. We did not hear that they arrested anyone.”

Residents of Umm el-Fahm said the journalist was apparently targeted because of a dispute between his brother and some people in the city.

“Nidal wasn’t killed because he was a journalist,” said Emad Aghbariya, a resident of Umm el-Fahm who belongs to the same clan as the victim. “The murderers wanted to send a warning to his brother because of an unpaid loan.”

Another clan member who also asked not to be identified said the murder of Aghbariya could have been prevented had the police taken the threats against him seriously.

“Last year, they shot at his home,” he said. “What did the police do to protect him? Nothing. Many people knew that he was under threat, but nothing was done. Nidal was a good man and had no enemies. He was returning from the mosque when he was shot inside his car. I doubt if the police will capture the murderers.”

The continuing crime wave

With the murder of the mother and daughter in Lod, the number of Arabs killed since the beginning of the year in incidents related to crime and violence has risen to 75, according to The Abraham Initiatives, a Jewish-Arab organization that works to promote coexistence and equality.

It said 64 of the victims were fatally shot in various incidents in Arab communities. Forty-two were under the age of 35.

The victims include nine women, who, except for one, were all shot or stabbed to death.

“The situation is very dangerous,” said social worker Sana’ Ibrahim, a resident of Kafr Kassem in the Triangle area. “There’s a feeling that the gangs control our cities and villages. They have many weapons and are no longer afraid of the police. Many people are afraid to leave their homes at night because of the gangsters.”

Apathy from the authorities

Ibrahim and other Arab-Israelis said the authorities were not doing enough because the violence was taking place mostly inside Arab communities.

“The new government announced a plan to fight against the criminals in the Arab sector, but so far we haven’t seen any real achievements,” said the social worker, a mother of two. “The authorities don’t seem to care because we’re talking about Arabs killing Arabs. But they don’t know that the violence will eventually reach the streets of Jewish areas.”

Reda Jaber, director of Aman Center – The Arab Center for Safe Society, said the authorities were not doing enough because the victims of violent crime are Arabs.

“The state’s policy has always been to marginalize the Arab sector and leave it to face the growing violence and problems without offering any solutions,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “There is no real attempt to deal with the crime and violence, and that’s why the criminals feel that they can do anything they want. They know that there’s almost no law enforcement in the Arab sector.”

Despite the efforts of the current and previous governments, the Arab sector has witnessed a significant increase in crime and violence over the past few months, Jaber said.

“The state’s attitude toward the Arab minority is essentially hostile,” he said. “As long as the crime does not reach the Jewish sector, nothing will be done to stop the violence in the Arab sector.”

Resentment toward the Arab MKs

Jaber said the “failed leadership” of the Arab community was responsible for the upsurge in criminal activities.

“Arab society itself is suffering from the weakness of social solidarity and the failure of our leadership to direct the people and help them solve problems and disputes,” he said.

Muhsen Izzadin, an accountant from Nazareth, said: “What have our [Arab] Knesset members done for us? Nothing. We are very good at blaming the police and the government for the crime in Arab society, but what about the role of our leaders? Our Knesset members are busy with the upcoming elections, and all they care about is how to hold on to their seats.

“I believe that the people will punish them in the next elections because of the anarchy and lawlessness,” he said. “We are living in the Wild West. We need to wake up before it’s too late.”