In Israeli-Arab City, 381 Shootings in a Single Year - but Only One Indictment

The dismal record proves that the authorities are shirking law enforcement in the Arab community, Israeli Arab leaders say

Nitzan Shorer

Only one indictment was filed this year out of 184 cases opened into 381 shootings in the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, the Public Security Ministry said in response to a parliamentary question by MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List).

Jabareen said the statistics revealed “a serious and dangerous failure by the law enforcement agencies.”

“Criminals feel they have a free hand, with no law and no judge, as long as the victims are from Arab society,” he added. “It’s unacceptable that Arab citizens should be hostages in the hands of a small group of criminals.”

Statistics for previous years were similarly grim for the city of around 50,000. In 2016, there were two indictments out of 163 cases and 358 incidents, while 2015 saw three indictments for 174 cases and 264 incidents.

But the data did show a decline in the number of serious-violence cases, from 173 cases resulting in 41 indictments in 2015 to 133 cases resulting in 25 indictments this year.

In a letter to Jabareen, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the local police were well aware of the problem and had made it a high priority. He said  he considered improving police service in Arab communities a high priority and had allocated “huge budgets” to the issue.

But attorney Reda Jaber, director of the Aman Center, which combats violence in Arab society, said shooting cases generally “aren’t complicated,” and once a suspect is identified, preparing an indictment shouldn’t take more than a month. The problem is one of priorities, he said.

“The more the law enforcement agencies see this issue as important, the more effort, time and manpower they invest,” he said. But the Umm al-Fahm statistics “are sad proof that the law enforcement agencies’ policy hasn’t changed to reflect the importance of this issue .... Neither effort nor resources are invested in finding the criminals.”

As he put it, “When there’s a policy decision to deal with something, it gets dealt with. But no such decision has yet been made by the policy-setters.”

This year 72 Israeli Arabs have been killed, Jaber said. “That’s a significant increase from previous years, even though the government said three years ago that it would address violence in Arab society,” he said, adding that the low indictment rate undermined deterrence and made the community feel abandoned.

Over the past five years, 75 percent of Arab murders have been committed with guns, he noted.