114 Israeli Arab Murder Victims Call for Community to Self-reflect

Israel bears responsibility for many years of neglect and discrimination, but it is time the Arab community will also share the blame

Jack Khoury
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A girl lights candles in a vigil against violence in the Arab community
A girl lights candles in a vigil against violence in the Arab communityCredit: Ilan Assayag
Jack Khoury

Thursday’s murder of Rasha Sitawi in Maghar coincided with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The timing of this terrible murder merely underscores the Arab community’s ongoing descent into the abyss of crime.

Every murder is a loathsome crime and every victim has a life ahead of them. But Sitawi’s murder on this particular day encapsulates everything that is wrong with the violence spreading through the community. A 32-year-old mother with three children, aged five, seven and 12, was murdered by gunfire in her parents’ home, in broad daylight in a densely populated neighborhood, while helping her daughter do her homework.

The murderer, who has not yet been captured, evidently wasn’t afraid; nothing made him think twice about committing this abomination, including the women who demonstrated against violence in Maghar and other Arab towns. Such demonstrations, mainly attended by feminist activists, have become a common sight.

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But the murder in Maghar sent a painful message to these activists, and to the entire Arab community – violence against women isn’t an issue of concern only to feminists. Until that is understood, they will continue to demonstrate and women will continue being murdered.

A few hours before the murder, Arab social media was preoccupied with two other incidents connected to the current crime wave. The first was in Rahat, where a brawl erupted in a mourning tent. Three people were stabbed, including two brothers who attacked each other. An old family quarrel ignited before the eyes of the people who had come to console the mourners.

Protester stands next to a sign reading 'born to live' while protesting violence against women in the Arab community Credit: Rami Shllush

Arab leaders in the Negev often complain that the mainstream media incites against the local Bedouin community. But on Thursday, they too were left speechless.

The second incident occurred in Kafr Manda, where a resident of the town was released on house arrest after being detained last week during a large-scale police operation. An event that should have been routine and under the radar became a party that included fireworks, loud music and feasting.

The police saw this as a provocation and rearrested the main celebrant for violating the conditions of his house arrest. But aside from the legal issue, one has to wonder why the release of a suspected criminal is reason to hold a party. The very fact that this was celebrated is unacceptable and raises serious moral questions.

These questions were also raised after another disturbing incident this week in which a school principal in Arraba was shot in front of her students, her own daughter amongst them. The woman is still hospitalized after undergoing a major operation. Arab leaders have been pointing their fingers at Israeli authorities, and rightfully so. Decades of neglect and discrimination by the government and the police have led the Arab community to where it is now.

Women protest against violence in the Arab communityCredit: Rami Shllush

This year, which hasn’t even ended yet, has been one of the worst the Arab community has ever known, with 114 people murdered to date, including 15 women. Hundreds more have been wounded or been left with psychological scars.

Though the incidents in Maghar, Rahat and Kafr Manda can’t be seen as the rule, they do indicate norms and patterns of behavior that must be changed. The battle to end violence against women can no longer be a women’s issue only. The murder of a woman in front of her daughter can no longer be just another killing included in the statistics, and a man’s attempt to murder his brother can’t be just a family dispute that is ignored.

What happened over the course of a few hours on Thursday in Maghar, Kafr Manda and Rahat shows that the Arab community is falling apart, from both a societal and a moral standpoint. The state bears responsibility for many years of neglect and discrimination. But it’s time to tell the truth – we also share the blame.

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