'Can't Wait for the Next Victim': Israeli Arab Leaders Launch Hunger Strike to Protest Police Inaction

Some 30 lawmakers, political activists and local council heads are demanding that the government devise a plan to combat violence in the community

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Israeli Arab leaders at the protest tent across from the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, November 3, 2019.
Israeli Arab leaders at the protest tent across from the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, November 3, 2019. Credit: .Oren Ben Hakun

Israeli Arab politicians and public figures launched a three-day hunger strike on Sunday to protest the government’s failure to effectively combat crime in the Arab community.

Some 30 people are participating in the strike, including Knesset members, local council heads and political activists.

>> Read more: Israel's Arab community is crying out for justice. This is what its leaders must do now | Analysis ■ 'Like a war zone': Five Israeli Arabs recount living in fear without police protection

Four people were murdered in Arab communities in Israel over the past week, bringing the total in the year to date to 79. In October alone, when the protests began, 13 people were murdered.

Among the lawmakers striking are Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi, Osama Saadi, Aida Touma-Sliman, Yousef Jabareen and Jabar Asakla. Also striking is Mohammed Barakeh, chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, and Modar Yunes, chairman of the Committee of Arab Local Council Heads.

The hunger strike was launched at a protest tent set up Sunday morning across from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

“We cannot wait for the next victim,” Odeh said at the tent. “We cannot play with the lives of our children. We cannot accept excuses when we’re talking about human lives. We demand a government resolve and the implementation of a systematic plan to eradicate the violence.”

MK Asakla said the plan must include “an improvement in the educational system, employment, guidance services, planning and building.” MK Heba Yazbak added: “Our struggle will not stop until the government and the law enforcement authorities do their jobs.”

Committee chairman Barakeh, who also spoke, said that protesters "are here to place responsibility for the rampant crime in our streets on the prime minister and the government. The weapons come from the army and criminals’ immunity comes from the police.”

The monitoring committee said that since the beginning of 2000, crime and violence in the Arab community have claimed 1,395 lives, 79 of them this year alone.

“The protest tent is meant to convey the cry of Arab citizens and to demand that a state of emergency be declared,” the committee said. The committee is demanding a government plan that includes the allocation of resources to collect weapons in Arab communities.

Israeli Arabs have launched nationwide demonstrations in recent weeks to protest what they perceive as police inaction. Demonstrations were held in some 30 communities across the county recently, with protesters blocking main roads.

In October, two convoys, composed of hundreds of vehicles, drove toward the Prime Minister’s Office to protest spiraling violence.

The police solved murders of Jews at almost twice the rate as those of Arabs this year, a Haaretz investigation has found. The police solved only 30 percent of murders of Arabs in 2019 so far.