Israel must do more to prevent the next femicide - opinion

From the beginning of 2022, there is a 110% increase in femicide relative to the same period last year. When will it end?

ACTIVISTS PROTEST against recent cases of violence against women at Habima Square in Tel Aviv last week. (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
ACTIVISTS PROTEST against recent cases of violence against women at Habima Square in Tel Aviv last week.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

In the span of 10 days (June 2-12), four deadly femicides were perpetrated in Israel; in July, three additional femicides have occurred. When will the senseless murder of women at the hands of their dear ones stop?

Inconceivably, in one case, a father murdered his own daughter. In another, a son killed his own mother. And in other cases, the suspect is the ex-partner or husband of the victim. These types of femicides are often called “intimate partner femicides” (IPF) by criminologists.

Femicide is defined in the literature as the murder of women by men because they are women. That does not include cases of women killed as a result of accidents or negligence, or women who are victims of criminal activity. Of course, sometimes it is difficult to be sure if a woman has been killed because she is a woman, or because of some nefarious underworld activity. In time, the true story usually comes out.

Two years ago, at the height of the pandemic, Israel saw a rise in the number of femicide cases as a result of the coronavirus lockdowns. In 2021, when there were no serious lockdowns, the rate of femicide decreased. So what has happened this year?

From the beginning of 2022, there is a 110% increase in femicide relative to the same period last year. Femicides in Israel are monitored by the Israel Observatory on Femicide (IOF) (www.israelfemicide.org), established at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in November 2020. As is accepted practice around the world, the data include cases of murder in which the victim was aged 18 and above.

 An ambulance is seen parked outside the apartment building where a man killed his daughter and himself. (credit: ISRAEL POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) An ambulance is seen parked outside the apartment building where a man killed his daughter and himself. (credit: ISRAEL POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

There are cases in which the circumstances of a woman’s killing are unclear, or no suspect was found, and occasions on which information is lacking as a result of a court order banning publication, obtained by the police or the public prosecutor. Sometimes, the IOF has access to cases of femicide for which the police do not currently have sufficient evidence.

FEMICIDE IS not restricted to one sector of Israeli society. It can happen to any woman from any socio-economic background. So far, this year, 60% of victims were Jewish, and 40% were Arab or Druze (Palestinian). In the three cases in which there is also suspicion of a criminal background to the murder, the victim was from the Arab sector.

As has been portrayed in the news constantly, violence in Arab-Israeli villages appears to know no bounds. Sixty-four people have been murdered there as a result of family feuds and criminal activity. 

It is interesting that the ethnic identity of the suspect in all Israeli cases of femicide in 2022 has been similar to that of the victim, except in one case in which the victim was Jewish and her ex-partner was Arab; he is now a suspect.

In 2022, the victim’s age at death is known in all cases; the average age stands at 40.3. The youngest victim was 21, and the oldest was 70, so any age can be affected. The age of the suspect is known in 73% of the cases and the average age of the murder suspects is 41.3.

One-third of all victims were killed by stabbing, and 20% by gunshot. The rest of the cases involved different means, including the use of an explosive device.

Only one-third of the perpetrators were known to the police from previous violent incidents, which brings into question the effectiveness of the authorities in combating femicide. In two cases, the victim was known to welfare agencies due to their economic circumstances, but not due to complaints of violence. 

In a quarter of the cases, at least one child of the victim was present during the event. While we are not yet at the end of the year, and while the numbers are relatively small compared to many other European and North American countries, every case of femicide wrecks an entire family. We must stop the violence and eradicate this frightening trend.

The writer is senior researcher at the Seymour Fox School of Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and founder of the Israel Observatory on Femicide