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Abu Yair, What About Mohammed?

Haaretz Editorial
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Beit Zarzir clinic in February.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Beit Zarzir clinic in February.Credit: David Cohen
Haaretz Editorial

The murder Tuesday of Mohammed Adas, 15, and critical injury of Mustafa Hamad, 12 – both shot within a few dozen meters from the police station in their hometown of Jaljulya in central Israel – are a chilling reflection of the personal security situation in Israel’s Arab communities. No one is immune, not even teenagers outside their homes, and there is no deterrence to gun violence, not even in the presence of police.

Less than two and a half months into the year, and Adas was the 23rd victim of violent crime in the country’s Arab communities. According to the figures of the Abraham Initiatives, 17 Arab Israeli citizens and six Palestinians were murdered within the Green Line or the Jerusalem area. In 19 of the cases, the murder weapon was a gun.

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These shocking statistics and the volatile atmosphere in Israel’s Arab communities attest, beyond all doubt, to a deep, protracted systemic and social failure. Nearly every Arab community in the country has been affected by violence, whether as a result of organized crime or internal disputes, often between extended families, or clans.

In October 2019, a reawakening began in Israeli Arab society. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets, calling for personal security. That reawakening continues today. In recent months the protests have been renewed in a number of communities – mainly by organized groups of young adults, unaffiliated with any political party, who have been able to rewrite their community’s agenda. Over the past several weeks the protests in Umm al-Fahm have stood out, gaining momentum last week when thousands of people traveled to the city to demonstrate under the slogan “Arab blood is no less red” and “Arab blood is not cheap.”

The murders and other violence continue at a time that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls himself Abu Yair – adopting the Arab custom in which parents are addressed as the father or mother of their eldest son – and wears out his shoes drumming up voters in Arab communities.

Netanyahu refers constantly to the March 1 cabinet resolution allocating 150 million shekels ($45 million) to combat violent crime in Arab communities, although opinions are divided about it. Many Arabs say it’s nothing but a program to improve police visibility on the ground that will do little to reduce crime. Even its supporters recognize that it’s unlikely to fully restore personal security in these communities.

Netanyahu, his government and the Israel Police must fully absorb the fact that the right to personal security is a fundamental right in every society. A right that applies to all citizens, irrespective of their voting patterns. “Abu Yair” is responsible for the security of all citizens, whether their name is Yair or Mohammed.

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

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