A ray of hope
At a time when government offices, as well as public and commercial bodies, are scared to enter certain Arab communities, Israel Police seem to be serving as a rare point of contact between the government and Israeli Arabs.
The Arab community is clearly a victim of discrimination by the government. Israeli Arabs have never received what has been due to them, as far as budgets or positions. The mirror image of reduced rights is reduced duties, in practice if not in theory. A close look at Arab towns and villages reveals a troublesome picture of citizens ignoring state laws and the regulations of local councils. Israeli Arabs have told their government: if we don't get the honey, we don't want the sting either.
In this grim reality, a ray of hope has lately began to shine: a trend of better service and improved activity on the part of the Israel Police.
At a time when government offices, as well as public and commercial bodies, are scared to enter Arab communities in the Galilee, the Sharon Plain and the Negev, the police seem to be serving as a rare point of contact between the government and Israeli Arabs. During times of rising tensions, such as when violent clashes between Arabs and police officers resulted in the death of 12 Israeli citizens in October 2000, the police were seen as a bitter rival. But in quieter times, Arab citizens are aware that the police aren't the cause of all their grievances.
Police have long implemented a policy of minimum intervention in Arab communities, similar to the old-fashioned approach to crime family rivalries: "let them shoot each other as long as they don't harm innocent civilians." The response to rising crime in Arab communities was a decrease in police presence.
But Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino seem to be taking a different approach. According to data presented this week to the government, there was a 22 percent decrease in murder cases in the Arab community in the past year, meaning there were 10 fewer victims; there was a 15 percent rise in indictments for murder cases, to 50 percent; a 24 percent decrease in shooting incidents; and a decrease in the percentage of Arabs among victims of car accidents - from 39 percent to 33 percent of all accidents - meaning that 40 fewer Arabs were killed in car accidents last year.
This is a welcome trend, but it is a far cry from enough. Kafr Qasem residents will never feel as secure as in Kfar Shmaryahu. But the government cannot hide behind the police. Instead, state authorities should learn from the police and each government unit should act to initiate more positive changes in the Arab community, and to decrease our Arab citizens' sense of discrimination.