Israeli Police Twice as Likely to Solve Murders of Jews Than of Arabs

Arab community leaders and police cite late arrivals to crime scenes, lack of cooperation in investigations as reasons for disparity

Israel's Arab citizens demonstrating against uptick in gun violence, Umm al-Fahm, October 2019.
Amir Levy

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 31 percent of murders of Arabs in 2019 so far, 22 out of 71, while in the Jewish community it solved 58 percent of murders, 21 out of 36.

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.

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The data shows a decline in the percentage of solved murder cases in which the victim was Arab. This was caused by the rise in Arab murder cases in comparison to past years, in conjunction with the relatively long time it takes the police to solve crimes committed within the Arab community. Statistics from the police’s investigations and intelligence division show that 40 percent of murders of Arabs in 2018 resulted in an indictment, and 38 percent in 2017. The figures relate to murders committed in those years.

Protesters demonstrate against police inaction towards violence in the Arab community in Umm al-Fahm, October 5, 2019.
Amir Levy

The police said that 31 murder cases had been solved so far in 2019, but some of the murders took place last year. In most of these cases, the killings were a result of disputes between criminals. Ten of the victims, though, were women, most of whom were killed by family members.

Both police and Arab community sources cite the fact that police sometimes arrive late to the crime scene, after passersby and relatives of the suspects have interfered or disrupted the investigation, as a reason for the low solve rate. The police stress the importance of having officers arrive to the scene of fights and violent confrontations, but they lack the manpower to do so quickly, some towns do not have a local police station and in some cases, the police officers fear for their own safety.

For example, last August, Mahmoud Mughrabi, known to be the “money man” of the Jaroushi crime family in Ramle, was murdered. The police located the car used by the shooters, two residents of Jaljulya, and caught them 20 minutes after the shooting. But after a murder in Rahat in July, police delayed in reaching the scene out of fear that they too would be violently attacked.

A senior police officer said another roadblock to solving these murders is a lack of cooperation from Arab residents. “The main problem is that we have great intelligence information and we know who committed the murder, but find it difficult to find evidence. Often people are afraid to talk.” The officer said that in some cases, "eyewitnesses to a shooting don’t cooperate with police, crime scenes are scrubbed or security camera footage is erased."

Police are sometimes unable to file an indictment even when they are very certain they know who perpetrated the murders. For example, the police have yet to file an indictment in the case of Diana Abu Qatifan, who complained to the police about threats made by her family before she was shot and killed the day before her wedding. The police arrested a number of her relatives and believe them to be behind the murder, but have thus far been unable to gather adequate evidence against them. Abu Qatifan’s family is not cooperating with investigators, and it is suspected that they have obstructed the investigation.

Over the past week, the Arab community has been protesting what it describes as persistent government and police inaction over violence in their towns. Last week, a number of demonstrations were held throughout Israel, and protests are expected to resume on Thursday.

Demonstration against spiraling violence in Arab community, Umm al-Fahm, Israel, October 2019.
Amir Levy

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee has set demands in ending this violence, one of which is that the police collect illegal weapons in Arab towns. Police figures for 2018 show that 78 percent of illegal weapons confiscated by the police came from the Arab community.

The police estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of illegal weapons in Arab towns, and in a discussion held at the National Police Headquarters two years ago, senior officers said that “there are weapons in almost every home in Arab society.” A large number of improvised weapons are manufactured in the West Bank and are sold at the low price of a few thousand shekels, making them more common in Arab communities, which has led to an increase in shootings.

Thousand of students match toward police station in Umm al-Fahm in protest of police inaction, October 2019.