Yamina lawmaker Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday that in order to combat the phenomenon of illegal weapon possessions in Israeli Arab society, "extreme measures of conducting raids on civilian homes must be taken" because “in this case, the legislation is not enough."
Shaked’s remarks were made at a conference organized by fellow Yamina lawmaker Amichai Shikli in the wake of riots that broke out over the past two weeks in mixed Jewish-Arab municipalities across the country.
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According to Shaked, a former justice minister, "the state has invested half a million shekels and has managed to collect three weapons. Unfortunately, dialogue and information campaigns do not work, and if we do not take extreme measures it will not succeed." According to her, weapons in Arab society are a "status symbol," and the issue must be addressed "only by force."
The remarks came as Israel Police arrested more than 300 suspects this week, the vast majority of whom are Arab, on suspicion of involvement over the past two weeks in the riots and clashes in Arab towns and mixed Jewish-Arab cities, in a bid to restore "law and order." Of all the detainees, only 60 were brought in for extended detention. Despite the criticism voiced by the heads of Israeli Arab society about the operation, the police do not intend to stop the wave of arrests.
The year 2020 saw a record number of shootings in Arab communities, but a steep decline in the number of indictments issued for weapons infractions, despite a significant increase in the number of arrests made. These findings are from new figures and an opinion submitted by the police to the State Prosecutor’s Office, as published by Haaretz on Tuesday. The police want prosecutors to attach the document to indictments, in order to persuade judges to hand down harsher sentences for such infractions. The document, which has been distributed to district prosecutors, also contains veiled criticism of court rulings on the matter. According to the report, the number of indictments issued against Arab citizens for weapons infractions in 2020 was less than half of the indictments issued in each of 2018 and 2019, despite a record-breaking increase in the number of arrests made by the police last year.
The document, written by the head of weapons research in the police intelligence and investigations branch, Superintendent Eti Sisso, states that in 2020 a record number of shootings were reported – 1,655 – of which 90 percent involved non-Jews. The number of murders involving firearms in the Arab community also rose.
According to the document, murders in Arab communities remain mostly unsolved because of the difficulties the police have in gaining the cooperation of the community in their investigations. “In most cases those under interrogation do not cooperate and sometimes obstruct the investigation,” Sisso wrote.
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Due to the failure of enforcement, Sisso states that even ordinary families find themselves hoarding illegal weapons to maintain the ability to defend themselves if needed. “Among some in the Arab public, including normative citizens, firearms are a means of dealing with internal conflicts in the community, and with struggles for control among crime organizations, or as a substitute for turning to the police or the courts. Against this backdrop, a good many people in the Arab community possess weapons to protect their lives and the lives of their families. Investigations officials have the impression that they are in possession of weapons as a kind of insurance policy [providing them with] strength and fortitude. In addition, in the culture of the Arab community, the firing weapons to express joy is seen on a daily basis at celebrations,” Sisso wrote.