Israeli-Arab Leaders to Start Hunger Strike to Protest Violence Within Community

Last week four people were murdered in Arab towns in Israel

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A protest against violence next to the home of Israeli Public Security minister Gilad Erdan, October 2019.
A protest against violence next to the home of Israeli Public Security minister Gilad Erdan, October 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Leaders in Israel’s Arab community are expected to begin a three-day hunger strike Sunday to draw attention to the spike in violent crime in the community and what they say is the government’s failure to combat it effectively.

Last week four people were murdered in Arab towns in Israel, including two who were killed over the weekend. Among the people who are expected to join the hunger strike are Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh and his fellow lawmakers Aida Touma-Sliman, Osama Saadi, Yousef Jabareen and Jaber Asakleh, Higher Arab Monitoring Committee chief Mohammad Barakeh and a number of Arab mayors and council heads. In addition, the hunger strikers and their supporters will erect a so-called protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

A demonstration against violence in front of Nazareth police station, October 2019.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Barakeh told Haaretz that it was decided to continue the protest despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement last week of the formation of a team to combat rising crime in the Arab community, as well as the ongoing talks between senior police officials and community leaders.

“The Arab public will not settle for announcements and meetings, it wants an action plan to fight crime, with an emphasis on the crime organizations,” Barakeh said.

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.

Man, 47, murdered Friday

A 47-year-old Bedouin man from the Lower Galilee region was shot dead on Friday. Police said they launched an investigation into the matter and are searching for the perpetrator.

At about 6 A.M. a private vehicle brought a man with several gunshot wounds to the entrance of the Bedouin village of Ibtin, north of the town of Kiryat Tivon. He received initial medical treatment at the scene, and was later evacuated to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa in serious condition, where he was pronounced dead.

The man, identified as Hussein Muhammed Khawaled, worked as a contractor, and left behind a wife and children. He lived in the Bedouin village of Khawaled, and was not known to the police.  

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

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

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.

The figures do not include the three civilians shot and killed by police this year. The police spokesperson declined Haaretz’s request for data on the number of murders solved, which is defined as cases in which indictments have been filed.