Opinion

Arab Leaders, Police Share the Blame for Crime Afflicting Israeli Arab Towns

Israeli Arabs protest against violence, organised crime and recent killings among their communities, in the Arab town of Umm-Al Fahem in Northen Israel on October 4, 2019.
AFP

Much has been written about Arab Israelis’ protests over the crime wave that has hit their towns and villages. The Arab community has rightly pointed a finger of blame at the government, and also at the police, which abandoned it to the mercy of criminal clans that sow fear and have taken many lives. The police counter that they are making great efforts, and they blame the Arab community’s leadership for not helping them fight this battle.

The truth must be stated right away: Both sides are correct. It is indeed hard to expect the current government to do anything about this issue when the person heading it, Benjamin Netanyahu, is the chief inciter against the Arab community, as we saw during the last election campaign. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is also no slouch when it comes to the job of inciting against Israel’s Arab citizenry.

Israeli Arabs protest against violence, organised crime and recent killings among their communities, in the Arab town of Majd al-Krum in Northen Israel on October 3, 2019.
AFP

Nevertheless, the Israeli Arab political leadership also continues to wallow in the mire of populist slogans that reveal the schizophrenic status it seeks for the Arab community. On one hand, it demands that the police enter Arab towns and take action against the criminal clans. But on the other, many members of that same leadership oppose opening police stations in Arab towns, and they also oppose Arab citizens joining the police force.

The time has come to resolve this contradiction. It’s inconceivable for citizens who seek full civic equality not to integrate into all government agencies, including the civilian police force, whose job is to maintain order in the streets and defend all Israelis, without distinction.

Granted, over the years, serious rifts have developed in the relationship between Arab citizens and the police. But responsible leaders in both the Arab community and the police have an obligation to rebuild trust between Arab citizens and the police force, which is responsible for their safety.

It’s enough to listen to what’s being said in these crazy days of the campaign between the election campaigns to understand the root of the problems of Israel’s Arab community.

Year after year, Arab voters have gone to the polls on Election Day and sent representatives to the Knesset, but they have always been left behind; nobody includes them in calculations about possible governing coalitions. So what are Arab citizens supposed to think? Does Israel truly see them as an integral part of the state?

If we examine the political conduct of all the Jewish parties, the answer to this question is “absolutely not.” After a0ll, none of the prime ministerial candidates is thinking about including them in his coalition. Moreover, most of the Arab Knesset members, astonishingly, are also excluding themselves from the government.

The key experience of Israel’s Arab minority, from the establishment of the state to this day, has been the experience of dual abandonment. One could compare this minority’s tragic situation to that of a child whose family has fallen apart. First he is abandoned by his clan – the surrounding Arab world, including the Palestinian leadership. Then he finds himself abandoned by his adoptive parents as well – that is, Israel.

This is the background to the Arab community’s downward spiral. It’s a society that has been abandoned, with no agenda and no dream that unites its members. It doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up. Its entire experience consists of sitting on the fence, one leg on one side and one leg on the other.

This schizophrenic condition requires emergency treatment, for the sake of future generations. The obligation to fix it rests on the leaderships of both the Arab community and the Jewish community. And it should have been done long ago.