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Tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens in Israel protest gun violence, organized crime

Citing years of police indifference and a state policy that has exacerbated gun violence and organized crime among Palestinians in Israel, members of the community consider boycott as a new tactic.

By Suha Arraf

Chairman of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, at the protest against gun violence and organized crime in Palestinian communities in Israel, October 3, 2019. (Courtesy of the Joint List)

Chairman of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh, at the protest against gun violence and organized crime in Palestinian communities in Israel, October 3, 2019. (Courtesy of the Joint List)

More than 20,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel protested against gun violence on Thursday, in the northern Galilee town of Majd al-Krum. Demonstrators called out Israeli police for failing to do their job in fighting organized crime in Palestinian communities in Israel.

The protest came in response to the murder of two brothers, Ahmad and Khalil Mana’, who were killed in a brawl in Majd al-Krum earlier this week. The murder took place in broad daylight, as children were leaving a nearby school, not far from the local police station. The third victim, Mohammad Saba’, died of his wounds on Thursday.

The demonstration coincided with a general strike in Palestinian cities and towns inside Israel over the same grievances. Both actions were organized as part of a ‘state of emergency’ declared by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, an umbrella organization that represents the country’s Palestinian citizens, together with the Joint List party and the mayor of Majd al-Krum, Salim Salibi.

Since the start of the year, 72 Palestinian citizens of Israel have fallen victim to gun violence and organized crime in the community. In search of new ways to confront this epidemic, Palestinian clerics, mayors and political representatives called on the Palestinian community to boycott families and businesses associated with arms dealers and gun violence suspects. Some even urged members of the community to boycott weddings and funerals of those implicated in gun violence.

Some lawyers joined the boycott, pledging not to represent clients suspected of gun violence from now on. “One rotten apple can spoil the barrel,” said attorney Noreen Nashef from the city of Taybeh in central Israel. “We all need to play a part in this struggle against violence. As lawyers, we must lead by example. We have a moral part to play, and it is just as much our responsibility as that of the politicians.”

Criminal attorney Maram Hamoud from the village of Deir Hanna in the north wrote in a Facebook post: “It is a matter of principle. It is the moral and ethical thing to do, after realizing that Israel has an intentional policy, dictated by the Defense Ministry and the police, to fuel the flames and let the violence spread in Palestinian towns and cities.”

“Israeli police easily release those suspected of holding [illegal] arms. Even in interrogations, police do not take their job seriously, sometimes purposefully sabotaging an investigation,” added Hamoud. “The criminals walk free among us with full backing from police. Most of them are recruited as informants for the state’s intelligence.”

“The internal security service surveils our every move, so how likely is it that they still cannot figure out who the criminals are?” asked Hamoud. “In Deir Hanna, we know who the shooters are, how is it possible that police have not figured it out yet? They have not even brought anyone in for questioning.”

Hamoud believes this is a political strategy the state is implementing to push Palestinian citizens toward despair, so that they leave the country of their own will. “They legitimize this violence against us by claiming we are dangerous criminals,” he added.

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Fidaa Tab’ony, a political activist from Nazareth and a member of the Committee for the War Against Violence, agrees: “It is a deliberate government policy intended to fragment Palestinian society,” she said. “When there is a shooting, the police take an hour to arrive at the scene, and even then, they send only a single cop car. But when there is a demolition of even a dilapidated [Palestinian] home, 30 cop cars and a hundred officers show up.” According to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, 90 percent of illegal firearms in the north of Israel can be traced back to the military.

Boycott is a relative new tactic among Palestinian citizens of Israel. It was previously utilized during the First Intifada, when popular committees targeted the families of informants who cooperated with Israeli authorities, in some cases leading to deadly confrontations.

Not everyone agrees with this tactic as a way to combat organized crime and gun violence, though. The mayor of the northern town of Kufr Yasif, Shadi Shweiri — perhaps the youngest elected official in the last municipal elections — is opposed to an absolute boycott. He believes a boycott of social events where gun carriers roam free could work, but to totally ostracize entire families is “too much. You cannot punish an entire family if one of the sons is a criminal. It will only lead to more violence in our community by pitting those supporting the boycott against those who are against it,” he said.

“The way to combat violence is stricter law enforcement,” added Shweiri. “Police must do their job. We cannot take the law into our own hands. We are not talking about individual criminals, but organized crime. The police lack the political mandate to do something about it. We must apply pressure on them, by going on strikes and taking to the streets, and through the work of members of Knesset and the Higher Arab Monitoring committee.”

In addition to Thursday’s general strike and demonstration in Majd al-Krum, Palestinian citizens will hold local protests on Friday, highlighting Israeli police’s failure to collect illegal arms or hold suspects of organized crime and gun violence accountable.

A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. itshak Gordine

      Complain rather than act. Israel’s Arab community, which makes up 20% of the population and 60% of the prison population, complains about the violence it causes. Its primitive traditions prevent it from adapting to life in a modern Western-style state. Fortunately, its salvation will come from its women when they attend school in large numbers and throw their primitive traditions and their scarves in the trash.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        As usual this is a quarter-truth from you, not even making the bar for a half-truth.

        It is going to take several things coming together, going hand in hand, because that is how societies in the modern world work, Halevy. So the Israeli state has to begin to demonstrate that it cares in even the most basic ways (way that it evidently cares about Jewish people) and follow through and stop the relentless discrimination in the most basic services and make Arab citizens actual stakeholders—instead of telling the nicest person, Ayman Odeh, to f–k off. I mean, even build ONE town or one city for them since the founding of the state or allow them to expand one centimeter outside their existing perimeters, or devote anything like the funding for schools for girls and boys that go to Jewish schools. (And we are talking west of the green line here, all the while you of course do much worse east of it.)

        It is always interesting how fully modernized, liberated, feminist women like Hanin Zoabi, Hanan Ashrawi, Khalida Jarrar, and Ahed Tamimi raise the hair on the back of your neck and set your teeth on edge the most. You, the poseur of feminism.

        You mention education for women. A good thing. What about basic education for Haredi men AND women, you know, like math, science, English, social studies, history, so that they too can fully participate in the modern world? Instead of the men sitting on their sitzfleisch all day parsing obscure saying of “Great Sages” while the state uses your tax dollars to feed them? (Of course, if we went down that road for any length we will come to the issue of why is it, Halevy, that hardworking Israeli taxpayers’ shekels go to massively, crookedly subsidize you in that West Bank settlement of yours.) When are Orthodox women going to go, in large numbers, to something other than patronizing talmudic finishing schools and hence escape “The Role of The Jewish Woman, Huge, Paramount, in Charge of the Home”?

        While you’re pontificating on feminism and the future, let’s hear your sensitive future-oriented ratiocinations in this regard. How about diverting those massive amounts of shekels that subsidize organized crime in the settlements towards basic police services and girls schools in Arab towns—just to make a start.

        In other words, how about you act rather than complain?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      “You don’t need decades to suspect that the police have deliberately imposed anarchy on guns and crime in the Arab community. At a time when gangs in the Jewish community are handled with an iron fist, organized crime in the Arab community is flourishing and drowning the Arab population in blood and tears.
      The security forces, which keep an eye on every move an Arab makes, even in his bedroom, have suddenly gone AWOL. Isn’t that a decision – to do nothing when action is called for?
      Inexcusable decisions usually aren’t written down. Sometimes they’re transmitted via seemingly empathetic statements like “God have mercy,” as happened at Kafr Qasem, where those comforting words were the signal for the cold-blooded murder of 49 people by the security forces in 1956. Sometimes the order is sent with a wave of the hand, like the one Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion made when asked what do with the residents of Lod and Ramle during the War of Independence. As a result of that gesture, residents of both cities were expelled.
      Given the apathy with which the police have responded to the widespread possession of guns in the Arab community, the shocking acts of murder and the anarchy that lets people open fire in the main squares of Arab towns, it’s impossible not to conclude that something chilling is going on among the police’s top brass. I don’t know if a written decision exists in some drawer in some dark room, but the lack of action is itself a resounding decision….”
      https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-israel-s-great-betrayal-of-its-arab-citizens-1.7949283

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Renowned Israeli Expert Slashed U.S. Crime Rates. Why Isn’t Israel Police Following His Lead?
      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israeli-expert-slashed-u-s-crime-rates-why-isn-t-israel-police-following-his-lead-1.8007124

      “Violence doesn’t prevail in 95 percent of Arab communities, and 99 percent of the population in these communities is normal,” Weisburd says…
      Most crime surveyed in the United States is gang-related, but Weisburd doesn’t see a major difference there as compared to Israel. “You can always say that in the United States the national Israeli-Palestinian struggle doesn’t exist, but not everything is for or against Zionism. If you think that relations with the police are good in poor neighborhoods and black population centers, that they see Trump as a wonderful leader and they think there’s no discrimination, you’re living in another world. The problems are the same problems and the feelings are the same feelings. There, too, they feel the police are against them.”
      According to Weisburd, what works in the U.S. could also work in Israel. “The situation in the Arab communities in Israel is even better than in black communities, immigrant or poor communities in the United States. The communities in Israel are mostly well-off and educated. They simply want less crime. And therefore it’s a mistake to say, like Erdan has said, that there’s a culture of violence [there], because in the end it’s a small minority that can be dealt with.”

      Reply to Comment