Islamist Party, Meretz Reject Bill to Probe Crime in Israel's Arab Community

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh at the Knesset on Thursday.
Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh at the Knesset on Thursday.Credit: Noam Moskowitz / Knesset
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Lawmakers from the United Arab List and Meretz parties voted Wednesday against a bill by the Joint List alliance of Arab parties to form a Knesset committee to investigate the police’s failure in combating organized crime in Israel's Arab community.

Without the backing of coalition members Meretz and UAL, the legislation was defeated by a 57-54 vote.

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Joint List head Ayman Odeh, the legislation’s main backer, had tried to enlist the support of left-wing Knesset members, but they said they would adhere to the coalition agreements and oppose the proposal. The bill would have been only a declaration of intent to form the committee as part of an existing Knesset panel.

Moments before the vote, Odeh called on Meretz lawmaker Mossi Raz to throw his support behind the measure. “I’m looking at you,” Odeh said. “I know how close we are in our views. On the issues of violence and crime, don’t listen to Naftali Bennett. Stand with us – be firm and principled.”

Odeh explained during the deliberations that a committee was needed as 61 Arab citizens have been murdered since the beginning of 2021, while only about 20 percent of such crimes have been solved.

“Does this [police] neglect stem from racism? Are Arabs invisible? When the public security minister gets a phone call saying there’s been a murder and hears the name of the victim, Mahmoud, for example, he’s relieved because no one will ask him why the number of murders has risen during his term in office,” Odeh said..

He referred to a Channel 12 News report that most of the perpetrators of crimes in the Arab community are Shin Bet security service informers, who enjoy immunity and cannot be pursued by the police. “For this reason alone, we need to form an investigative committee. For this reason alone, the head of the Shin Bet needs to resign,” Odeh said.

Deputy Public Security Minister Yoav Segalovitz denied the accusations. According to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit organization, 54 Arabs have been murdered in Israel, 45 of them Israeli citizens. Nine of the victims were women and 27 of them age 30 or under.

In the most recent incident on Saturday night, 56-year-old Hassan Rahimi was shot to death and his sister, Subhiyah, 60, was beaten to death in the Bedouin village of Ibtin, near Kiryat Tivon. A family member was arrested on suspicion of murder.

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