Editorial |

Rampant Violence in Arab Society Is Israel's Badge of Dishonor

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Demonstration against violence in Israel's Arab society, Umm al-Fahm, northern Israel.
Demonstration against violence in Israel's Arab society, Umm al-Fahm, northern Israel. Credit: Gil Eliahu

The murder of Sharifa Abu Muammar, the 30-year-old mother of three and schoolteacher from Ramle, who was shot to death on Monday night in her home, is a badge of dishonor to Israel’s police, who have lost all control over crime in Arab communities and over the possession of illegal arms there.

It is also a badge of disgrace for Israel’s government, which has not placed the dealing with crime and violence in Arab society at the top of its list of priorities, and a disgrace for the state, which treats its Arab citizens as second-class citizens, giving them second-rate police protection. Israeli society should also be ashamed for relating to violence in Arab society as a natural phenomenon with no chance of being uprooted.

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Abu Muammar is the 56th homicide in Arab communities since the beginning of this year. This inconceivable number underscores the fact that criminal gangs are operating unhindered, without being apprehended, tried or deterred. Abu Muammar’s relatives denied earlier reports that suggested she was hit by a stray bullet. They say their family is in conflict with another family, against which they had filed earlier complaints due to violence, but police had done nothing about it.

“I asked several times for the police to do a search for weapons at the other family’s home, but to no avail,” said one family member. Another said he had filed a complaint in early July after members of the other family had beaten up his young son in the street, but nothing was done about it.

In recent years, police have opened new stations in Arab communities, but this is far from satisfactory. Police are unsuccessful in fighting organized crime or in removing illegal weapons, they do not catch lawbreakers and do not file indictments. They effect no deterrence at all.

One mustn’t make do with criticizing the police, since the force lacks sufficient resources and tools for handling the situation. As long as the government and public relate to violence in Arab society as an internal Arab community affair, it will continue. This is a problem that requires steps taken on a national scale, with clear objectives and an allocation of resources.

Along with these, Arab society must mobilize in a campaign against crime and violence, with a change in attitudes to weapons and gunfire, often used in celebrations. Last October, masses of people took to the streets in the hope of bringing about change. Now, a year later, the situation is unchanged.

Recently hopes have been pinned on a national plan for combating crime, but it’s unclear whether this plan will take effect and if the government intends to allocate the required resources. Arab citizens of Israel have the right to feel safe on their streets, to enjoy police protection and live in a society without guns. The tragedy of Abu Muammar must not become just one more statistic reflecting incompetence.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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