On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Arab citizens to help police officers stamp out crime in their community, saying lawlessness has imposed a reign of "civil terror" and turned Arab towns into "the Wild West."
Netanyahu was addressing a parliamentary inquiry committee on integrating Arabs into the civil service. Its chairman, MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al ), had convened a special session on the high Arab crime rate. Tibi noted, for instance, that the Arab community's murder rate is three times that of the rest of Israel.
Several government officials accused the community of contributing to the problem by not filing police complaints or helping the police locate criminals. But Netanyahu added that combating crime required improving education and employment in the Arab community.
"Integration into Israeli society would ease many of the tensions," he said.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud ) agreed, saying the high Arab crime rate was "umbilically connected" to the community's high poverty and unemployment rates and its distrust of state institutions, including the legal system. Responsibility for changing the situation, he added, falls jointly on the state and Arab community leaders.
Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said he has ordered officers to stop using the term "honor killing" for cases where men murder female relatives over suspected sexual improprieties, because it has a positive connotation. Instead, police have been told to use the term "domestic murder."
Tibi approved this decision, saying the term "honor killing" was "outrageous."
"There's no honor in murder," he said. "A man who murders a woman has no honor. This is a primitive, criminal act. Therefore, no leniency should be shown to this type of crime. We shouldn't give explanations or justifications or background or use positive terminology."
This goes equally for murders in the Jewish community that are sometimes described as having a "romantic" motive, he added, saying "romantic" has an unacceptably positive connotation.
Tibi said the crime problem is being intensively discussed, and denounced, in the Arab community, which provides a "window of opportunity."
"The responsibility is also ours," he acknowledged.
But, he noted, the police must also help: "We urge you to collect the weapons. Deal with the crime. And if a murder happens, solve it," Tibi said.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch admitted that crime data for the Arab community is unreliable, because many crimes go unreported. Yet even so, he said, more than 1,100 shooting incidents were reported last year in Arab towns, where illegal arms are commonplace. Some 30 percent of all nonterrorist prisoners are Arabs.
Umm al-Fahm resident Siham Agbaria's husband and two sons were murdered by gunshots fired at their house. She told MKs about the constant fear she experiences, since the killer has yet to be found. Previously, she said, the door of her house was never closed, because she felt safe. "But since then, there has been no safety - not for me, and not for my children."
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