In a crude attempt to absolve himself of responsibility for the national failure registered in his name, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan gave an interview Monday in which he accused Israel’s Arab community of violence. “Arab society is a very, very – and a thousand more ‘verys’ – violent society,” he told Radio Jerusalem. Instead of apologizing for having abandoned the Arab communities to gangs and organized crime and promising to reverse this policy of neglect, he added to his list of failures the sin of victim-blaming, claiming that the violence stems from “cultural codes.”
As if he were an expert in sociology and anthropology observing society from afar, not the official responsible for protecting Israelis, Erdan spouted baseless notions smelling of racism – which, largely due to him, has become the hallmark of the government of which he is a key member. “In many disputes that would end in a lawsuit here, they pull out a gun there,” the self-appointed sociologist opined. He even hypothesized about the reasons for this culture gap: There, “A mother can let her son murder his sister for dating a man the family disapproves.”
There’s no end to the chutzpah: The towns are forsaken, then when violence soars the racism appears. Erdan’s logic is soothing to Jewish ears, but make no mistake: Had the police, for which Erdan is responsible, done its job and treated crime in Arab towns as it does in the rest of Israel, the gaps would be smaller. As is true the world over, crime flourishes where there is no law and no police.
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After the interview, Erdan took to Twitter to try to correct the impression it left, saying, “The main responsibility for the war on crime and violence in Arab society falls on the government and the police” and “The Arab community is normative and law-abiding.” Erdan evidently forgot that the public has a memory. This wasn’t his first racist performance, nor was it the only time his hatred of Arabs has interfered with his ability to do his job as the minister responsible for law enforcement.
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Only someone who sees Israel’s Arab citizens chiefly as terrorists could have called Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, who was shot dead by police, “a terrorist in the Islamic Movement ... who sped toward our forces with the goal of killing as many policemen as possible.” Erdan has never retracted this claim, even though all the agencies that investigated the incident rejected his conclusion.
Preventing violence in Arab towns, as everywhere, is one of the state’s most basic functions. The failure to prevent it is above all a failure of the person responsible for the police. Erdan should have been dismissed immediately after Kiyan’s death. We can only hope that a worthier person will hold the post in the next government.