The Violence Raging in Israel's Arab Community Is a National Crisis

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The crime scene in Lod of the murder of 18-year-old Anas Wahwaah on Saturday.
The crime scene in Lod of the murder of 18-year-old Anas Wahwaah on Saturday.Credit: Ilan Assayag

The list of victims of the violence that is running rampant in Israel’s Arab community grows longer. The most recent of them was a man from Ramle, “known to the police,” whose body was found in a burned car with bullet holes near Moshav Hagor, some 36 kilometers away. This incident came after murders in Kafr Qasem, Tel Sheva, Lod and on and on.

The Lod incident demonstrates that innocent people are also paying the price of the violence. Anas Wahwaah, 18, was an outstanding student who graduated from high school two months ago. He dreamed of earning an academic degree in manufacturing and industrial management. He was shot to death over a long-standing blood feud between his family and another Lod family.

The bloody roster of victims of violence is proof of the failure of the Israel Police. In early August a new department was created specifically to thwart crime in Israel’s Arab communities. This should have been done years ago when it became clear that the police were incapable of dealing with the huge quantities of illegal guns in these town. Even Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev has admitted that normally law-abiding citizens in these communities have obtained guns for self-defense. That is clear evidence of the police’s failure to provide the most basic thing: personal safety for citizens.

In fact, the police have lost control of the situation. That has led to a loss of deterrence, as a result of which detectives go from one murder scene to the next. Cases from the not very distant past are neglected and the murder clearance rate is low. Criminals know that they are unlikely to be arrested and charged, and that the system is incapable of preventing them from using guns that are freely available.

The low crime-solving rate also leads to a loss of public trust in the police, which in turn leads to a lack of cooperation with law enforcement. Many in the Arab community choose to protect themselves by taking the law into their own hands. That’s a sign of total chaos – no police, no law and no order.

It should be hoped that the police recognize that this is a national problem and that stopping violent crime in Arab communities must be a top priority. Arab leaders – in the Knesset, in the cities and in smaller communities – also have a critical role to play: They should demand that residents stop using guns.

Most of all, the government has a duty to wage a tough, uncompromising battle for the security of the country’s Arab citizens. That includes seeing to the economic future of young members of the Arab community, about 40 percent of whom are unemployed according to police data. It is a short path from joblessness and poverty to the world of crime. Without short-circuiting this cycle, the cycle of bloodletting will only persist and expand.

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

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