Israeli Arab towns gripped by wave of violence amid years of state neglect
By Pablo Duer
Nazareth, Israel, Oct 18 (EFE).- Soaring levels of violence plaguing Israel’s minority Arab community claimed the 100th victim so far this year on Monday as police face growing accusations of indifference in a state where many Arabs feel marginalized.
The latest casualty was a 44-year-old man who was killed in a drive-by shooting in the Arab town of Bi’ina in northern Israel.
Last Wednesday, another man, victim number 99, was shot dead while out on a run in Deir Hanna, and a week ago, a lawyer and father of two was killed in Umm al-Fahm, victim number 98.
“Today, Isam is a number, and he won’t be the last. Tomorrow there will be another, the day after, another, and that’s how it will continue,” Alaa Salti, whose nephew Isam Salti was the 97th Israeli Arab to be killed this year, told Efe at the funeral last week.
Violence within the Arab community in Israel has long been ignored by Israeli authorities but the epidemic of crime has now become one of the country’s most serious security threats.
Around two-thirds of those killed in violent crime between 2017-20 were from the Arab community, which makes up just 20% of Israel’s population and is descended from the Palestinian population that remained within Israel’s borders following its founding in 1948.
CLASH OF CLANS
Alaa was joined at the funeral by around 300 other men dressed in jeans and black t-shirts.
They watched in silence as the hearse carried the body of Isam, who was a 28-year-old newly-wed with a baby on the way.
Isam died on the operating table at a Nazareth hospital after getting caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between crime families in the small village of Ilut in northern Israel.
“I don’t know how this will end,” Alaa said.
Like many Arabs in Israel, he lays the blame on the police.
“There has to be equality, it cannot be the case that police defend some citizens and not others,” he added.
He is referring to the difference in the way police react to crime in Jewish and Arab cities, a concern that has picked up momentum online under the hashtag #Arabs_Lives_Matter.
The data reflects this imbalance: 70% of crime is resolved in Jewish towns whereas only around 25% in Arab areas.
“The major reason for this deterioration and these killings is that the police is not doing enough,” co-director of the Abraham Initiatives organization which keeps a tally of the killings, Thabet Abu Rass, tells Efe.
“They haven’t yet made the decision to combat criminal families. I believe the Police can and should eliminate criminal families like they did in the Jewish community, and they are not serious about this matter,” Abu Rass adds.
Of the 100 murdered Arabs this year, 85 were Israeli citizens and 15 were residents. Thirteen were women, 48 victims were under 30 and 83 of the crimes involved a firearm.
“There is no law and order in the Arab community and gangs and crime families started to take over into this vacuum,” Abu Rass explains.