Bennett Must Change Israel's Attitude Toward Its Arab Citizens

Haaretz Editorial
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A policeman collects evidence after a murder in Lod, last month.
Haaretz Editorial

The National Council of Arab mayors in Israel is crying out in desperation, and it must be heard. “Arab society is still under violent and barbaric assault by crime organizations,” the committee stated in response to shootings on Monday. This time, a 24-year-old man was shot to death in the city of Zarzir near Nazareth, and a few hours later a 25-year-old man was shot to death and five others were wounded at a wedding in Taibeh in central Israel. In both cases, the motive was a feud between criminals.

For most people in Israel’s Jewish society, these are nameless young men, with no families who mourn them. No public body is held accountable for these murders. There are no reverberations in the political world or the media. The murders are all detached from any context.

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Eighty-eight Arabs have been murdered since the beginning of the year under circumstances associated with organized crime. Out of these, 73 were Israeli citizens. The Arabs in Israel are living under the shadow of assaults by crime organizations as a matter of routine. There was nothing special about Friday. Another ordinary day in Arab communities. A special project by Haaretz reporter
Deiaa Haj Yahia followed events on a random weekend in August, during which two young men were killed and others were taken to the hospital, and many suffered from violence and crimes against property. Haj Yahia tried to give a sense of the insufferable reality in which Israel’s Arab citizens live.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was chosen by Time Magazine last week as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2021. The person Time chose to explain the choice was Bennett’s coalition partner, United Arab List chairman MK Mansour Abbas. Bennett, Abbas wrote, “threw himself into a political firestorm in order to forge previously unimaginable ties.” Bennett rightfully deserves this praise. But his achievement cannot end with the establishment of a government with an Arab party as a partner. Bennett must promote paradigmatic changes in the attitude of the state to Arab society and Arab citizens, first and foremost by harnessing the entire system to uproot crime in their communities.

The Israeli government must show that it is committed to the personal security of its Arab citizens – a commitment equal to that it makes to its Jewish citizens. The Arab cities must be treated the same way as Tel Aviv. Bennett must lead this battle publicly and enlist all the government ministries in it. This issue is clearly a national priority. All-out war must be waged against organized crime, clearing the streets of weapons and fighting violence against women. And no less important – the horrific percentage of unemployment in Arab society, which leads to violence and crime, must be brought down.

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

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