The Murder of Arab Women: A Badge of Shame for Their Society

These under-reported acts of violence have unique characteristics that must be addressed at the outset of any campaign to eradicate this evil

A demonstration against the murder of Bedouin women, following a "family honor" killing, August 13, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Last Tuesday evening I was sitting at one of the few cafés in my village, Ara. Between games of backgammon and light gossip, accompanied by thick coffee with no sugar, shots were suddenly heard in the northeastern section of town. To my regret, we’ve grown used to this routine, and there was no one in the café who gave it a second thought. But a few minutes later, ambulance and police-car sirens were heard, preceding their arrival. Without anyone saying a word, we understood that there were people injured or worse.

The exchange of fire continued well after midnight – despite the massive presence of police forces in the village, it must be emphasized. Even though I live in the western part of the community, where one doesn’t always hear what goes on in “downtown” Ara, there was almost continuous gunfire that night. On my way out of the café, someone said that one person had been injured.

Astonishingly, the next morning I could find no reference to these events on any of the Arabic news sites I looked at, let alone the Hebrew ones. Who cares if Arabs shoot at Arabs (Kais Nasser, Haaretz Hebrew edition, Dec. 11)? Haaretz's Vered Lee ("Criminal neglect: The Israeli government is complicit in the murder of Arab women," Dec.12) mainly blames the police for its incompetence in dealing with the murder of Arab women. Half of the female murder victims in Israel are Arabs, even though Arabs make up only one-fifth of the population.

To my mind, the under-reporting of acts of violence that do not result in death within Arab society is a badge of shame for that society. Some of the victims of this violence, including many women, are permanently maimed, but this evokes no shock or interest, even though such injuries often destroy the lives and careers of the people affected, as well as the way of life of the people around them. Arab leaders in Israel also do not take special interest in these cases and they’re barely mentioned at conferences organized by these leaders – events that have never brought about practical results leading to a reduction in the scourge of violence.

Returning to the murder of women: In light of the multiple cases in recent days, it seems that this blood-soaked chain will not be severed any time soon – the problem only seems to be intensifying. As I’ve said in the past, the basic fact is that the person pulling the trigger or wielding the knife is the main culprit, almost the only one. Don’t tell me about collecting illegal weapons – someone who shoots can also stab, and then what do we do? Will we collect all the sharp utensils in the homes of Arabs?

The murder of women in Arab society has causes and elements in common with other acts of violence, as well as having much in common with murders in Jewish society. But the murder of Arab women has several unique characteristics that must be addressed at the outset of any campaign to eradicate this evil. Most murdered Arab women are young, some of them in their early teens. These are not murders committed in a criminal setting, involving drugs, turf wars and control. Even if it is not admitted, nearly all these murders are committed over what is called “family honor.” The meaning of this term is that a woman’s body, in fact her entire existence, is not under her control, and when she uses her body for sex as she sees fit, she harms the status and dignity of the man she “belongs” to.

The Arab world is at a critical and very dangerous stage in its history. The accelerated technological advances experienced by the West are also experienced by Arabs, who acquire the technology without producing it. This creates a dependence on others, who do not refrain from harming Arabs in their exploitation of the region. The wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are clear examples of Western aggression and its exploitation of local agents (Saudi Arabia and its satellites) in order to establish supremacy over Arabs while exploiting their natural resources.

What is happening in Israel’s Arab society today is very similar to what is happening throughout the Arab world: accelerated technological development, a very partial embrace of the values of Western liberalism, but also a pulling away – a return to religion and its holy writings. Naturally, women, who are less free in traditional societies, will aspire to greater liberty in a society that is technologically quasi-modern while at the same time lagging behind in its approach to modernism. These aspirations are perceived as a challenge to male dominion.

This sterile academic description portrays, in fact, a scenario of murderous hypocrisy on the part of males, especially true for Arab males in Israel. Most Arab fathers will only superficially protest, or ignore, their son’s going out or having sex with a younger woman. If the woman is not Arab, they say: “Never mind, one day he’ll return to the fold, and anyway, those women don’t have families that can hurt her or him.” But when their daughters do the same thing with an Arab man, let alone a non-Arab – their fury knows no bounds.

I’ll say this in the bluntest and clearest fashion: Until there is no sexual freedom in Arab society, this society will remain backward and inferior.