President Isaac Herzog has called the wave of murders in the Arab community is “civil terrorism.” Speaking at the Israel Bar Association conference on Thursday, Herzog said, “These are huge organizations that function like an army and control a wide network of connections and resources, terrorists who decide for all of us. And let me be clear – this terror threatens us all.” The president warned: “This is a national emergency.”
Herzog said he felt that “our tendency to use minimizing terms like ‘crime families,’ ‘clan feuds’ and ‘honor killing’ make it harder for us to really go to war on this problem.”
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Also in attendance at the conference were Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai. The police chief told the conference that he recently met with Sa’ar and Hayut to discuss working toward changes in legislation that would stipulate harsher penalties for certain offenses. “Together we need to stop the revolving door through which the guilty return to crime, in the war on crime and in Arab society in particular, especially when it comes to illegal weapons,” he said. “Minimum punishments and steep fines need to be set.”
In his speech, Sa’ar called on the legal system and law enforcement “to mobilize for a resolute and uncompromising campaign to stamp out violence and crime in Arab society, with an emphasis on the criminal gangs and the crime families.” He added, “Right now, the state and the law do not exert control over a very widespread area. We must restore good governance and the rule of law to the Galilee, to Lod and to south Tel Aviv.” Sa’ar said that crime families’ infiltration into local government in the Arab and Druze communities is “a very dangerous thing that could harm the major efforts the government wants to make to bolster infrastructure and reduce the inequality toward Arab society in Israel.”
Since the start of the year, 78 Arab Israelis have been murdered – a sharp increase over the same period last year (55 murders), which at the time was considered a peak year. Meanwhile, 26 murders have been committed among Jews in Israel this year, compared to 31 over the same period in 2020. Three weeks ago, Shabtai inaugurated a new division dedicated to fighting crime in Arab society, marking another attempt to bring down the crime rate and the level of violence in that community.
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A report issued last month by the Knesset Research and Information Center said that 90 percent of shooting victims who were brought to the hospital in 2017-2020 were Arabs. The frequency of gunshot wounds among Arab under age 25 is 21 times higher than in the Jewish community, and above age 25 the gap is even wider. At the same time, in 90 percent of shootings, the main suspect is Arab.