Israeli Arab Leadership Presents Plan for Eliminating Gun Violence in Community

Committee highlights need for government resources, including enhancing police activity and closing of socio-economic gap

Jack Khoury
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A protest against violence in the Arab community at the Ramle police station, October 15, 2019.
A protest against violence in the Arab community at the Ramle police station, October 15, 2019.Credit: \ Moti Milrod
Jack Khoury

The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee presented a strategic plan on Thursday for combating violence in Arab society in Israel. The plan includes 14 points that committee members say could reduce violence, with the police constituting only one point in this plan. They added that without resources allocated by the state, this plan could not succeed

The meeting was also attended by Knesset members from the Joint List and by representatives of other parties that work in Arab communities, as well as heads of local councils and civil society activists. The plan is the result of research that looked into violence in Arab society and its implications. The study argued that the main reason for the current crisis is the social transformation Arab society is currently going through. Another reason, researchers say, is the neglect of consecutive Israeli governments, manifested in the current social and economic distress, as well as shortage of resources and infrastructure and the penetration of criminal organizations.

The plan lays out different points, which if implemented, could directly impact Arab society and eradicate crime. It calls for promoting programs in conjunction with government ministries, enhanced police activity against crime organizations, and community development that will close gaps in comparison with Jewish communities and improve quality of life.

The writers of the plan devoted a chapter to community centers and education departments in Arab communities, as well as to strengthening links with youth. Another point deals with the parameters to be employed by mediation (“Sulha”) committees which settle local disputes. There was also a demand to increase awareness among teachers and educators  and another section was devoted to the role of religious leaders.

Prof. As’ad Ghanem from the University of Haifa, who headed the committee, said that the plan will require many resources and the establishment of a progress-mentoring team to succeed. “One should be realistic. Without resources this will go nowhere,” said Ghanem. “If Arab society doesn’t mobilize the resources, everything we’ve presented here will remain on paper only.”

Ghanem came out against a demand made by Joint List Knesset members in their meeting with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and senior police officials. The meeting took place on the backdrop of popular and as part of political contacts between the sides. Arab Knesset members demanded that the government present and finance a plan for eradicating violence. “We don’t need plans coming from above, we need budgets for our own plans,” claimed Ghanem. “It depends to a large degree on the ability of local council heads and Knesset members to get such budgets, otherwise this can’t move forward.”

While the plan presents general outlines for combating violence, the Monitoring Committee and the heads of local authorities noted that the next stage will be detailed plans for each community, based on specific needs. The head of the committee of local authority leaders, attorney Mudar Yunes, told Haaretz that the main challenge lies in funding the plan and the allocation of resources. “We’re trying to operate professionally and approach state institutions with plans and opinions prepared by leading experts in Arab society,” he said. “We’ll present these in meetings with professionals in government and police.”

Mohammed Baraka, the head of the Monitoring Committee, noted that rising violence in Arab communities requires the mobilization of all sides, institutional agencies and the community itself, since the responsibility is borne by everyone. “The state bears a heavy responsibility, but we as a society must also examine ourselves,” he said. “Government and police attitudes won’t change that quickly and we can no longer remain indifferent in face of this bloodshed.”

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