Israeli Arab town goes on strike in show of solidarity with murdered school principal

"The Jerusalem Post" spoke with residents of the city who appeared upset and complained about the lack of security.

Closed school gate in Taibe (photo credit: Ariel Ben Solomon)
Closed school gate in Taibe
(photo credit: Ariel Ben Solomon)
The Israeli Arab city of Taiba went on strike on Monday, keeping schools closed on the opening day of the school year, in solidarity with the high school principal murdered a week ago.
The Jerusalem Post spoke with residents of the city who appeared upset and complained about the lack of security in the city, many putting the blame on the police.
“Youth walk the streets carrying handguns and even large automatic weapons,” said a worker at a local market across from city hall, who did not want to be identified.
“Just the other day a kid shot at the police, and he escaped without being caught,” said the worker, adding that when one calls the police over a burglary, the police fail to act.
A masked gunman shot and killed Yussuf Haj Yahya, the principal of a Taiba high school, a week ago before a horrified group of teachers.
Yahya was speaking to a group of teachers at a meeting in his office when the assailant walked in and shot him several times in the head and chest before fleeing on foot.
Paramedics rushed Yahya in critical condition to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where he was pronounced dead shortly afterward.
The strike was kept quite strictly, especially when compared to other strikes observed by the Post in other Israeli Arab cities, which were called for more national issues such as Land Day.
But this murder was taken personally by many in the city who did not even know the successful school principal personally.
United Arab List-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi criticized the police and told the Post that there is “discrimination against Arabs – both living and dead.”
“If someone would use a weapon against the state, the person would be caught immediately,” argued Tibi. “The police are not solving crimes and this encourages criminals to engage in criminality and murder.”
The failure of the police in the Israeli Arab sector is an ongoing problem that allows murders such as this one against Yahya to happen, he explained.
“We cry out against violence and about the need to educate against it. Murder is not a tool nor a solution,” said Tibi.
Yahya comes from a well-respected family in Taiba, and his son, Ameed, a physician, told the Post that his family “does not have any enemies” and is clueless over a possible motive or suspect.
Speaking in his home as mourners congregated outside in front of his house, he said, “People are living in fear, thinking that they could be next.”
“Kids can get weapons like candies,” he asserted.
Ameed, proud of his father, explained how people from all over the country, and even internationally, would approach him with their problems.
He noted that President Reuven Rivlin, Education Minister Shai Piron and other Jewish politicians visited their home, along with all the Arab MKs.
Regarding the investigation, he said the police said they would report on their progress on September 27.
“I have faith in the police,” he said.
Yahya’s cousin Kussai, a lecturer in anthropology, said that cameras caught the perpetrator.
“The police in Taiba know everything about the crime families but do not intervene.
We believe we are living in a chaotic situation,” said Kussai. “We are living on the periphery of the periphery of the country… alone and without any law,” he added.
Kussai said Arabs are scared of the police and have a negative image of them. Arabs perceive that they intervene only for national or terror-related issues.
Another family member, Nur Jaber, said that the country views Arab-on-Arab crime as not too concerning.
Police said that this was a targeted killing, as the gunman fired directly on Yahya, adding that they are pursuing a number of motives.
Yahya was the brother of former mayor Rafik Haj Yahya, who died in 2000. Yussuf had recently announced his desire to run for mayor of Taiba.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.