A State of Emergency in Arab Towns

Knesset member Ayman Odeh at a protest against the failure of police to protect Arab citizens.
Gil Eliahu

The murder of Ofir Hasday in Lod earlier this week during an argument over a parking spot outraged the entire country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and many others expressed deep shock, voiced solidarity with the pained outcry of the victim’s wife and family and vowed to help them. Even though the suspected killer owned his gun legally and isn’t a known criminal, Lod Mayor Yair Revivo saw fit to ask the police to address the gun problem and restore security to city residents.

The Arab community has been raising a similar outcry for decades now. Wednesday night, in the Bedouin town of Lakiya in the Negev, a couple was shot before the very eyes of their 8-year-old son, who was with them in the car. This horrifying murder raised the number of Arabs killed since the start of the year to 40. Some of those killed were caught in the middle of a shoot-out by accident, and had no connection to the dispute that led to the violence. This statistic ought to shock every Israeli, Jewish and Arab alike, and should certainly keep the state’s leaders awake at night.

>> Read more: Murder of Bedouin couple timed to correspond with anniversary of rival family murder, police believe

The issue of personal security is one of the most burning issues in the Arab community today. It’s hard to find an Arab town in Israel that hasn’t experienced a shooting incident in recent years. Yet the decision makers treat violence and crime in these towns as if it were a norm decreed by heaven.

In recent years, the police have boasted of beefing up their operations and opening new stations in Arab towns. At every opportunity, senior police officers display graphs and charts that show a drop in crime and a dramatic rise in the number of illegal guns confiscated. Yet judging by the results, what stands out is lawlessness and chaos.

The police are just one link in a long chain that includes the relevant government ministries and the Arab community’s political, social and religious leadership. Cooperation among every link in the chain is essential to win this complex battle.

The government must decide that fighting crime in the Arab community is a strategic goal and allocate significant resources to it. It must also ensure that the Arab community’s leaders are partners in making the necessary decisions and involved in their implementation.

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