It is most unfortunate that it took the recent terror act by an Israeli Arab to bring to the attention of the wider Israeli public the acute problem of large quantities of weapons in Israel’s Arab communities. Not only were these weapons obtained illegally, but many of their owners make frequent use of them not only at celebrations but also to settle scores among themselves and with local inhabitants.
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This is a problem that has existed for many years. Anyone with friends or acquaintances in these areas has heard of this scourge, which makes life intolerable for the ordinary residents of Israel’s Arab towns. The police, the security services and even Israeli cabinet ministers must have been aware of this situation, of course, but nothing has been done about it all these years.
Now, finally, after the terror act on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street on January 1 in which Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi were murdered and six others wounded, the government is determined to do something about this problem. But it should be clear that whereas these weapons can be used in acts of terror that are occasionally committed against Jewish citizens, those who have suffered for years on a daily basis from these weapons have not been Israeli Jews but the Arab citizens living in these towns whose life has been made a hell by frequent acts of violence committed near their homes and not far from their children’s schools by criminal elements using these weapons.
It is the government’s responsibility to assure the safety of Israel’s citizens, to protect them not only from violence at the hands of Israel’s enemies but also from violence at the hands of criminal gangs. To make sure that Israelis can walk in peace not only in the streets of Tel Aviv, but also in the streets of Taibeh and of Tira. What has been happening in Taibeh, Tira and many other Arab communities is the result of shameful neglect by the Israel Police. They have been meeting their duties to Israel’s Jewish citizens, but have abandoned Israel’s Arab citizens to be terrorized by criminal gangs in their hometowns.
One is tempted to assume that this neglect stems from a feeling in government circles that the daily problems of Israel’s Arab citizens are of no particular concern.
The murders perpetrated by Nashat Milhem brought to light another aspect of the government’s indifference to criminal offenses by Israel’s Arab citizens that damage this community. It has come to light that Amin Shaaban, the taxi driver from Ramle who was murdered by Milhem shortly after the Dizengoff attack, had three wives. This is an example of marital conduct that is illegal in Israel but nonetheless practiced by some of the country’s Muslims. It is widespread among Bedouin in the Negev, where women are brought — and sometimes bought — from the Gaza Strip or from Hebron to create families with over 30 and even 40 children. Talab Abu Arar, a Bedouin Knesset member from the Joint Arab List, has two wives. This practice is not only illegal but also detrimental to the Bedouin community. The women are being abused and the children cannot possibly be given proper care and education. And yet these acts of polygamy go unnoticed and unpunished. The law is not enforced. The suspicion arises that the government is simply indifferent to violations of the law as long as they seem to affect only Arab citizens of Israel.
Equality before the law, a guiding principle of Israeli democracy, requires that the law be enforced everywhere, among Jews and Arabs alike. If integration of Israel’s Arab citizens into Israeli society is to be given top priority, then no exceptions should be permitted.