The police have solved only 22 percent of murder cases in Arab communities this year as opposed to 53 percent of murders in Jewish communities, according to figures obtained by Haaretz.
As in previous years, 65 percent of the victims of violent death this year were Arabs – more than three times their percentage of the population. More than 90 percent of shootings in residential neighborhoods occurred in Arab communities. In 2020, 74 Arab Israelis have died of violence, including 13 women.
Last year was a record year for violence in Arab communities, with 91 Arabs who died violent deaths. The police and the welfare authorities had hoped that this year would see a major drop in such cases due to the coronavirus lockdowns and the opening of new police stations in Arab communities. But the figures confounded these expectations.
Last month nine Arabs were murdered, four of them just last week. More than a third of murders in the Arab community took place in the central district, which includes the towns of Ramla, Lod and Arab cities in the so-called triangle region, bordered by the towns of Baka al-Garbiyeh, Taibeh and Tira.
The police said in response that Haaretz’s figures were not precise, but they did not provide alternative figures.
“It’s true that the trend is worrisome, but it does not tell the whole story of police efforts,” a senior police official said. “It is impossible to place responsibility solely on the police for this matter. All government ministries and local government must be involved in the efforts, not come to the police when there’s a body in the street and ask ‘where were you.’”
The government has put together a program to fight crime in Arab society, but it has not yet been finalized or funded. “During the coronavirus crisis we thought that things would calm down because people were in their homes, but unfortunately the routine continues and the police also continue the routine,” said the chairman of the committee of Arab mayors, Arara Mayor Murad Yunis. “It has changed nothing since last year and it’s even worse, because its resources are allocated to the coronavirus, and it’s not enforcing the law properly in that regard, either. In this chaos it doesn’t have the forces to deal with the violence. If a year ago at least we felt there was dialogue, now the subject of murders in the Arab community is nonexistent.”
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Thabet Abu-Ras, associate director of the Abraham Initiatives for the promotion of equality between Jews and Arabs, said there are unprecedented numbers of police in Arab communities, “not because of crime, but because of the coronavirus. I wish they would enforce the law against shooting or possession of guns the way they enforce the wearing of masks.”
However, Abu Ras doesn’t only blame the authorities. “Arab society is not without responsibility. The time has come for the Arab public to take to the streets and put the issue on the agenda. I’m very critical of the government, but it has actually taken a step in the right direction by promoting a crime-fighting plan. This plan must pass as soon as possible, there’s no reason to wait, we are in an emergency situation.”
According to the police, the economic crisis that has come with the coronavirus pandemic will worsen violence in the Arab community. Yunis agrees. “The worst is yet to come,” he warns. Abu Ras says that the ramifications of the crisis are already clear. “Many of the violent incidents are over money. People can’t pay their debts, they turn to the gray market and from there the road to violence is short. In addition, business that paid protection fees have to close, money isn’t flowing and more and more gunfire is being heard.”
In a few cases this year, criminals have attacked rivals’ family members. “Unfortunately, we see people paying the price for the involvement of their relatives in the underworld,” Joint List lawmaker Mansour Abbas said.
Abbas also pointed a finger at the police. “Last year we were in the same situation and when we spoke out, the police went on as usual. We don’t feel there is any special effort or any organized plan and when cases are not solved there’s no deterrence, and criminals have immunity in Arab society. This year alone, dozens of murderers are walking around free.”
The police said in response: “In recent years the police have significantly increased their forces in communities in Arab society. But we stress that enforcement is not the only way to uproot unacceptable cultural phenomena. Only deep-rooted change from within Arab society in Israel in education, culture and cooperation with the police, in uprooting undesirable norms and an active role by the leadership will lead to change.”