With Coffins and Convoys, Low Turnout at Israeli Arab Protest Against Police Inaction

Arab political organization says it plans to take complaints about police handling of violence in Arab community to United Nations

Protesters outside the Northern District police headquarters in Nazareth, October 22, 2019.
Gil Eliahu

A convoy of cars carrying empty coffins bearing slogans like “Who’s next?” and “Women’s Blood is Not Cheap,” was part of a rally protesting the police's response to violence in Arab communities, held Tuesday in front of Northern District police headquarters in Nazareth.

Some 500 people attended the demonstration, which disappointed the organizers, who had expected thousands to show up in a city that has experienced its fair share of violent incidents in recent years. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee said the event was “an effort to convey to the police that any one of us could be a victim of violence and crime.”

The Committee Against Violence in Nazareth, which had organized the rally, admitted that it had not attracted the numbers they had expected. One reason, the organizers said, was that the protests have been going on for three weeks, and residents are starting to tire of them.

Another reason for the low turnout, residents noted, is political disputes. Most of the members of the organizing committee oppose Mayor Ali Salam, who did not attend the rally but sent his deputy, Mohammad Awaisi, in his place. According to Awaisi, the mayor could not attend due to personal reasons, but he supports the rally and the struggle against violence and crime, and that this matter should be a consensus in the Arab community.

The monitoring committee said the protests would continue until there is calm in Arab cities and towns, and until there is a practical plan for combating violence. The committee plans to erect a protest tent across from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem next week.

The committee’s legal forum said it would contact the UN Human Rights Council and protest powerlessness of authorities against the spread of violence and crime in Arab communities. The forum is also weighing the possibility of petitioning the High Court of Justice on the issue.

“The right to personal security is a basic right of every citizen," Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen, head of the committee’s international relations team, said, "and practically speaking, the Israeli government is denying this right to Arab society and discriminating against Arab citizens.”

Jabareen stressed that a complaint to the UN would include official data on the high crime rate in Arab communities, on the low solve rate of crimes and the low number of indictments, as well as on the quantities of illegal weapons found in Arab communities with no meaningful government activity to collect them.