Arab Israelis: Six Month Plan Against the Murder Wave

As of: 23.10.2021 4:28 a.m.

There have been more than a hundred murders of Arab Israelis this year. The violence has been simmering for decades, now it’s spiraling out of control – and the government wants to act.

By Sophie von der Tann, ARD-Studio Tel Aviv

Khalil Abu Ja’u Agbariah was on his way to work when he was shot dead Tuesday morning. The 25-year-old from Umm el-Fahm in northern Israel is the sixth murder victim in his family in the last year and a half – and the 101st Arab Israeli murdered this year. The residents of Umm el-Fahm therefore struck on Thursday – and protested against the growing violence.

Sophie von der Tann
ARD-Studio Tel Aviv

Hardly a day goes by without a new murder report. Most of the victims are young men, explains Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, co-director of the “Abraham Initiatives”. The organization works for equality between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

Some of the victims have a criminal record and have connections to organized crime, he reports. But many are innocent and get caught up in local conflicts. Some are also victims of family and clan conflicts.

Poverty and unemployment fuel crime

“For decades, the Israeli state has neglected Arab Israelis,” says Be’eri-Sulitzeanu. More than a third of Arab Israelis live below the poverty line. The Arab citizens make up about 20 percent of the total Israeli population. Lack of job prospects, poor infrastructure, too little living space – all of this is the origin of crime. Because it is difficult for many Arab Israelis to obtain credit, they go to the black market and fall into the hands of organized crime.

Mudar Yunis, chairman of the Association of Arab Mayors in Israel, speaks of an atmosphere of violence. Also because many young people have the impression that this is how you solve problems – and illegally possess weapons.

There is also a deep skepticism among Arab Israelis towards the Israeli police. “Even if something has happened in the area and you urgently need the police, the police officers will probably be the last to call you,” says Be’eri-Sulitzeanu. Yunis accuses the government of deliberately wanting to weaken the Arab population in order to better control them.

Controversial police and military powers

The government has now recognized the problem. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett admits that “the problem was long pushed aside and neglected before it reached such proportions”. The Arab population must understand that the security authorities are not their enemy, but the solution.

Omer Bar-Lev, Minister for Public Security, points out that the violence between Arab and Jewish Israelis in Israel in May also demonstrated the deep crisis of confidence that has long existed between the Arab population of Israel and the government institutions.

All ministries should be involved

Therefore, all ministries should now be involved in the new plan against violence in the Arab sector. Be’eri-Sulitzeanu welcomes this holistic approach. The government plans to spend 2.4 billion shekels, the equivalent of around 650 million euros, on the fight against crime. In addition, a lot of money is to flow into education and the infrastructure of Arab cities, among other things.

The use of the domestic secret service Shin Bet and the military in the six-month plan is controversial. Above all, they should ensure that fewer weapons are smuggled from military bases and across borders. In addition, the police should be able to carry out searches in the future without an appropriate order.

Mudar Yunis, the chairman of the Arab cities and municipalities, is cautiously optimistic: “The new government says that it really wants to solve the problems, but now they have to implement it.” It will take a while until something really changes in the deep-seated problems.

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