Israeli Arabs believe IDF isn't interested in protecting them

Sachnin resident: The IDF has given us no instructions whatsoever.

Israeli Arabs living in the north believe that the rest of the country has shown little concern for their fate, in stark comparison to the Jewish communities under attack. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs live in the north, comprising a major part of the population in the Galilee. "The IDF has given us no instructions whatsoever," Sachnin resident Laithi G'naim told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. The residents of Sachnin, some of whom speak only Arabic, have received no information from the IDF's Home Front Command telling them in their mother tongue what they must do to prepare for possible attacks. "This is a problem for the elderly in the community, particularly the older women, as their understanding of Hebrew is limited," he explained. "What message does this send?" asked Laithi. "The army and the government do not care about us; this angers me deeply." According to army officials, instructions are available in Arabic, explaining that "The Home Front Command works in total cooperation with Arab media" and that the "media passes instructions on to the public in different languages." However, the Home Front Command's Web site did not, as of Tuesday at 6 p.m., include any instructions in Arabic. "People here are afraid. While some shops are open, the streets are mainly empty. I have been to work every day, but life here is far from normal," said Laithi. "It was not until Sunday that any warning sirens were heard in our vicinity," he added. Laithi, who is the director of an environmental NGO, explained that the army has facilities near Sachnin. Due to the inaccuracy of the rockets Hizbullah has been firing, he believes that Sachnin stands a good chance of being hit. On Monday, Katyusha rockets were heard landing in an open area 500 meters north of the town; no one was wounded in the attack. When asked about the adequacy of bomb shelters, he said, "Sachnin has no bomb shelters, and I think this is the case for 98 percent of the Arab villages in the north." This contrasts sharply with the facilities available in Jewish communities, where the majority of buildings have bomb shelters. The IDF responded to claims that inadequate facilities exist in the Arab neighborhoods, saying it "never neglected the Arab population and even takes pride in having native Arabic-speaking officers in its command." According to the army, "The measures taken to protect the Arab population are totally equal in terms of statements and warnings. We have also recruited liaison officers especially to aid Arab towns." Majd el-Kurum, an Arab village a few kilometers north of Sachnin, was hit Thursday by rockets, with three people wounded. The village is not equipped with shelters. Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter met with the mayor of Majd el-Kurum following the attack. The Arab and Druse villages of Beit Jann and Ein Kunya have also been struck by rockets. Abeer Kobti, who has lived in Haifa for the last three years, described how she has been watching residents of the Arab neighborhood of Halisa stand on their rooftops trying to observe where the rockets land. "These people have no idea what is going on," she said. "There are two shelters in the neighborhood; however, the municipality has opened only one of them." She explained that there are some 3,500 people living in the neighborhood, but the shelter has room for a maximum of 200. "The municipality is not talking to the Arab community of Haifa," she said. The situation is considered even worse in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood, where no shelters exist, said Kobti. When asked about the situation in Wadi Nisnas, Roni Grossman, a spokesperson for the Haifa municipality, pointed out that Home Front Command instructions for the Haifa region are that residents are to remain indoors in secure rooms and not in bomb shelters. "The city's bomb shelters are currently empty," he said.