Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan washes his hands of the problem of the police shirking responsibility for shootings and other serious crime in the Arab community. According to figures provided by Erdan in response to a question by MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), of the 500 files opened following shooting incidents in the city of Umm al-Fahm over the past three years, only six produced indictments. In cases of aggravated violence the situation was only slightly better; 500 files produced 93 indictments.
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These numbers should rattle the law enforcement agencies, not only because of the scale of the shootings and violence, but because Erdan, the prime minister and the police have committed to improve law enforcement, especially in the Arab community, which has become a neglected appendage to the country in terms of the rule of law.
Arab towns and villages have become unpoliced territory. Demands by elected officials and community leaders to augment policing and take all legal means to rid these communities of guns and put an end to shootings are met with declarations and commitments that remain on paper only. The level of personal safety in these communities is deteriorating, with people afraid to leave their homes after dark lest they be hit by gunfire, whether stray or deliberate.
The harsh figures presented by Erdan only confirm the criminals’ working hypothesis: They can continue to do as they please, imposing terror and depriving people of their basic right to security and property without fear of the law enforcement agencies.
From police responses to the claim that Arab society is neglected in terms of law enforcement, criminals can conclude they can keep operating as the masters of Arab society. “A real and thorough change demands the cooperation of several agencies, including local leaders,” the police say, adding that the main problem lies in witnesses’ unwillingness to cooperate and people hiding evidence after an incident.
This is a strange claim, one irrelevant and unworthy of an agency that in any society encounters difficulties in collecting evidence and persuading witnesses to testify, amid the antagonism toward the police of some citizens.
The police cannot wash their hands of this problem, claiming that a “cultural change” is required in Arab society, as if this were a society of criminals by nature. The police must show their full range of capabilities in relating to Arab society and prove to it that this community is as important to police as Jewish society is.
The police should follow through on their obligations to the rule of law everywhere throughout the country, without delay. Blaming the victim and his culture for law enforcement’s failures is a dangerous evasion of responsibility.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel