Arab Voices Raised as Local Israeli Authorities Join Nation-wide Women's Strike to Protest Violence

Nine out of 12 local authorities that have announced their support for the strike are Arab ■ Demonstrations underway after two female teens found killed in one week

A demonstration protesting violence against women in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, November 27, 2018.
Emil Salman

Twelve Israeli local authorities announced on Saturday their endorsement  of a country-wide strike planned for Tuesday protesting violence against women, in particular after a recent uptick that included the murders of two girls aged 12 and 16 this week.

Nine Arab local authorities, in addition to the Tel Aviv, Haifa and Ramat Gan municipalities, announced their support of the strike, allowing their employees to strike without any pay cuts. This means that vacation days  will not be deducted from the salaries of the women who choose to demonstrate and not work. 

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The nine Arab municipalities that have joined the strike are Tamra, Jaljulia, Tira, Taybeh, Qalansuwa, Kafr Qasem, Sakhnin, Kafr Bara and Arabeh.

The organizers demand that the government finally fund a program to prevent violence against women. Last year, the cabinet approved both the plan and its budget of 250 million shekels ($67 million), but as Haaretz reported last week, the money has never actually been disbursed.

Protesting violence against women in Tel Aviv, November 25, 2018.
Moti Milrod

The strike is being promoted under the slogan "I'm a Woman I'm Striking" and has been organized by the Red Flag coalition, which includes over 50 feminist organizations from all sectors of Israeli society.

In addition to the strike, protests are planned across the country, including a mass gathering in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee has also called for mass mobilization to protest the violence, planning another protest in northern Israel on Friday.

Activists in women's organizations in the Arab sector have said that they are continuing to apply pressure on more authorities to join the strike.

Manel Shalbi, a researcher and feminist activist who has co-founded an NGO fighting against violence against women, notes that this is the first time that local authorities are officially announcing a strike to protest the murder of women. "The purpose of the strike is to make people realize that the murder of women is not a marginal topic; it isn't related only to women but is rather a relevant topic for society as a whole that should be fought like any other legitimate social and political issue," Shalbi says.

"On Tuesday, we will join protests throughout the country against the harsh violence women are treated with, and against the state's helplessness when it comes to aiding victims of this violence," Shalbi added.

Over the weekend, several rallies took place in Arab communities and across the country. Among the protesters were also Knesset members who raised signs with slogans against violence that called on police to end the phenomenon and displayed pictures of Yara Ayoub, a 16-year-old Israeli Arab who was found dead this week after being reported as missing for several days.

Since the beginning of 2018, 59 people, including 12 women, were killed in the Arab sector in Israel.

Naila Awwad, director of the Association of Women Against Violence, said: “The proportion of Arab women murdered is double their share of the population. Ten of the 24 women murdered this year were Arabs.”

On Monday, a 12-year-old female Eritrean asylum seeker from south Tel Aviv, Silvana Tsegai, was murdered, allegedly by her mother's former domestic partner.