Saturday, October 24, 2020

Police negligence blamed for sharp death-toll rise in Arab-Israeli communities

By K. Künzl - October 01, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Palestinian citizens of Israel]

An ongoing debate between Israeli police and Arab officials over their negligence of Arab communities in Israel has peaked after seven locals were shot and killed this past week.

Four were killed during a wedding in the town of Basmat Tab’un, east of Haifa on 21 September, a day after the murders of Edib Dirawi and Iyad Badir, shot just two hours apart.  

A study conducted by the Knesset Research and Information Center into gun violence within Arab communities found that between 2014-2017, 64 per cent of murder victims in Israel were Arabs.  

Today, Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, while making up for just one-fifth of the Israeli population, account for 80 per cent of those murdered this year. 

The study also concluded that 57 per cent of murder suspects are Arab as are 53 per cent of victims of attempted murder.


Both the murders of Badir and Dirawai were committed in broad daylight on the streets as numerous civilians stood witness. 

The police have yet to commit any arrests and have chalked up the violence to a “vendetta culture” of revenge killings, and blamed Arab leadership for not allowing them to build more police stations. 

However, the debate is multifaceted with theories on both sides. Some Arab officials believe an increased police presence has wrought local communities with more violence.

“The history of the relations between the police and the Arab population is filled with suspicion and prejudice… Police view the Arab as an enemy, and we view the police as a hostile entity, and this affects everything,” MK Basel Ghattas of the Joint List Alliance stated at a meeting with Internal Affairs Committee chairman in 2016.

“In the 1970s and 80s there was much less police presence and there were no weapons. How is it that suddenly police stations are popping up in the villages and the amount of weapons is increasing?” Ghattas continued. 

In the coastal town of Jisr al Zarq south of Haifa, a new police station was installed two years ago. “We made absolutely no progress, twelve people were shot in the legs and drug trading goes on,” local council leader Amash Morad Fathi commented

Fathi argues that police have been unresponsive in his efforts to connect them with impressionable youth within the community and neglected to file numerous reports on illegal activities.

Others believe the increase in gun violence is due to the accessibility of illegal firearms from army bases.  A 2016 report by the Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan found that 90 per cent of illegal firearms in Northern Israel is obtained from the army.

However, former commissioner Bruno Stein argued that a more effective solution could be increased protection for informants of the illegal arms trade.  

An initiative to have citizens turn in all firearms free of penalty is scheduled for next month by the Public Security Minister, however many are sceptical of its effectiveness after the 2017 effort brought in only three weapons. 

Member of the Knesset Yousef Jabareen from the Joint List alliance, spoke at a conference in London earlier this year stating that “both the Israel State Comptroller’s report and the daily reality show that police forces repeatedly fail to protect the Arab citizens, to control this phenomenon or the criminal organisation.” 

“The Arab citizens to a sense of helplessness mixed with a lawlessness, inaction, and lack of effective response of governmental authorities to protect the most basic human right – life!” Jabareen added, referencing how political tensions between the two communities have left Arabs continually alienated from proper security.

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