To Israel, Arabs Are Second-class Murder Victims

Haaretz Editorial
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Law enforcement respond to the scene of a murder in Haifa, October 2020.
Law enforcement respond to the scene of a murder in Haifa, October 2020.Credit: Rami Shllush
Haaretz Editorial

The number of Israeli Arab citizens getting murdered continues to increase. Two months before the end of 2020, the number is 77. During the night between Saturday and Sunday three more were added; their bullet-ridden bodies were found in orchards near the Tel Dan nature reserve.

It seems as if the number of murdered Arabs isn’t of sufficient interest to the government. An examination by Haaretz found that police have solved only 20 percent of this year’s murders in the Arab community. In Jewish society the resolution rate is 50 percent. When the police want to solve a murder, they can.

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That’s what happened when gunmen seriously wounded a policeman during action in Tira. Within a month and a half the murder was solved and indictments were handed down, because the police allotted resources to find the perpetrators. It also happened after Rifa Abu Muamar, a teacher, was killed in her home just before school started from stray fire originating from a dispute among clans.

But not every killing in the Arab community gets such attention. Most of those murdered are known to police from clan conflicts, and only when the victim is not involved in such disputes and it becomes public knowledge is the crime solved quickly.

It’s no surprise that during a period when there is no permanent police commissioner there is a record number of murders. This past year the voice of the police has been heard in the Arab community only when there’s a wedding that violates the coronavirus guidelines. Sometimes it seems as if reports on refusal to wear masks are treated more seriously that shooting incidents.

But the police cannot cope with the phenomenon on their own. During the past year representatives of the Arab community have protested the inability of the government to deal with the violence. This year, because of the coronavirus crisis, there’s no trace of any attention. Anyone dealing with the issue understands that the economic crisis is expected to cause a rise in violence, in part because more people will be compelled to borrow on the gray market. Yet there have been no cabinet meetings on the issue nor has there been any public protest.

If the bodies of three Jews had been found near Modi’in, it would be in the headlines for days. If seven Jews had been murdered in one week, the police would be utilizing all its resources to find the murderers and contain the crime wave. Sixty-five percent of the murders in Israel are in the Arab community, more than three times their ratio of the population. Ninety-three percent of shooting incidents in Israel take place in Arab towns. These are unbearable numbers. The war on crime in Arab society and against illegal weapons must be a top priority for the government and the police.

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

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