'Nowhere Is Safe': Hunted, Shot, Israeli Arab Family Won't Leave Hospital Out of Fear

With mediation efforts within the community failing and police seemingly unwilling to provide protection, an entire family is left fending for itself

Yasmine Bakria
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A., M., and their family in the hospital, November 12, 2019.
A., M., and their family in the hospital, November 12, 2019. Credit: Rami Shllush
Yasmine Bakria

“They want to liquidate us; we have nowhere that’s safe,” said A., an Arab from central Israel whose family has been in hiding for months.

On Friday, A. and his father, M., were shot and wounded en route to a mosque. Since then, the family has stayed at the hospital, afraid to leave.

But when they begged police for protection, A. said, the response was, “We have more urgent cases.” Police denied saying any such thing, adding that the shooting is being investigated like any other shooting.

The family says it’s under threat from another family. The feud started three months ago when A.’s younger brother, S., got into a brawl that ended with a member of the other family being shot to death. Ever since, A. and his relatives have felt their lives were at risk.

After the brawl, they said, a police officer told them they should leave their hometown due to that risk. The family – including women and two babies – decided to go to the West Bank.

Since then, they have gone from one hideout to another, sometimes together and sometimes separately. Life has been completely disrupted.

“The children were sick, but we didn’t go to a doctor,” the mother said. “It’s impossible to even open the windows.” Two of her children even canceled their weddings due to the threat, she said.

The family asked community members to mediate, but so far, the mediation efforts have failed.

Israeli Arab women demonstrate against police failure to quell violence in Arab society, Nazareth, Israel, October 2019. Credit: Gil Eliahu

After the brawl, a policeman initially helped the family find hideouts and even accompanied them there, but only for the first two weeks, said the father, M. The cooperation ended after police arrested S. for his role in the brawl.

“After they found him and arrested him, the policeman virtually stopped answering” the phone, he said. M. now believes the policeman helped them only in the hopes of getting a lead on S.’s whereabouts.

Last week, the family decided to return to their area – though not their own home – after a mediator told them negotiations with the other family had progressed and tempers had cooled a bit. But when A. and his father left their hideout to attend a local mosque, they were shot.

“They fired a barrage of bullets, and more bullets; they wanted to liquidate us,” A. said.

Family members said that after hearing their story, police took the car in which A. and M. were driving to search it for evidence. The next day, they called and asked the family to pick it up.

“I told them I had no way to get there, since I was wounded,” A. said. “They said to find someone else to pick it up, with no sympathy... The police know who the shooters are, but they aren’t doing anything,” he added.

M. is still hospitalized, but A. has been released. Nevertheless, the family has been sleeping on benches near the hospital, for fear of being attacked again. “If we leave this place, we’ll simply die,” the mother said.

Wednesday morning, M. called the police to file a formal complaint against the shooters and ask, again, for protection. But police said he had to come to the station to do so.

M. replied that he was afraid of being killed if he left the hospital and asked that a police officer be sent to him. But according to M., the policeman on the other end of the line answered, “If you haven’t filed a complaint for three days, it’s apparently not so urgent for you.”

Nevertheless, an policeman was sent to the hospital. But on learning that M. had already given testimony about the shooting, he said there was nothing more he could do.

When A. explained the family’s predicament, the policeman said he wasn’t from the relevant police station, and they had to physically go to that station. When A. reiterated that they feared being killed if they did so, the policeman promised to talk with an officer. But the family hasn’t heard back.

The family also contacted the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which accused police of “making light of the lives of people in real, acute, life-threatening danger” and termed it unacceptable for a family “to live in fear and hiding for months without getting protection.”

Israeli Arabs protest what they call police inability to curb violence in the Arab Society, Ramle, Israel, October 2019. Credit: Moti Milrod

A police spokesperson said violence in Arab society is a social ill that police fight “every day with all the means at our disposal,” and that police are investigating the latest shooting, “just as we investigated the previous shooting, in which a member of the family in question was recently tried and convicted of murder.

When asked about the allegations made against individual police officers by the family, the spokesperson added that “based on our initial inquiries, we’re unaware of any such statements.”

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