Seven points to keep in mind in anticipation of the anti-violence protests planned across Arab towns
Arab citizens live in an atmosphere of perpetual crime-based terror and life in Arab towns across Israel has become a nightmare. However, it was not always this way. Exactly nineteen years ago, after the Israel Police demonstrated how it perceives Arab citizens (reminder: it ended in 13 Arab citizens losing their lives), Arab society rejected the presence of law enforcement forces in its towns. The Israel Police, on its part, minimized its contact with Arab citizens and thus did not provide law and order services across Arab towns. Under-policing services prevailed and resulted in a severe vacuum of policing services that lay the foundation for crime and violence to spread across Arab society. It is clear that this has had disastrous results.
Over half of murder victims in Israel are Arab (whilst they represent 20% of Israel’s population). 2019 marked a steady increase in the number of murders and crimes, with 65 Arab citizens murdered (55 male and 10 female) to date. This represents a 47% increase from last year’s statistics.
Today (October 3rd, 2019), the Arab public will begin strikes and demonstrations in protest against the violence and crime suffered across Arab society. These strikes are expected to take place across the State. The Abraham Initiatives has worked towards fair, equal and adequate police services for Arab citizens since the October 2000 events. Our work over the past two decades shows there is much more to do and there is no single magic solution for resolving the convoluted relations between law enforcement and minority populations. One must see the big picture of this situation in order to put an end to violence and crime in the Arab communities.
- Personal security is a basic right and thus, the frustration and anger across Arab towns is justifiable and understandable. This frustration needs to be translated into an uncompromising government-led demand for effective and fair policing services, protection and security across Arab society. We cannot allow for further rifts between the Israel Police and the Arab community. It is the Israel Police’s responsibility and jurisdiction, to put an end to crime across the State.
- Opening of new police stations in Arab towns in and of itself cannot guarantee the reduction of crime. New police stations are an important element for combating crime only if they are accessible and attentive to the public, and, demonstrate their capacity to improve the quality of life in their constituents’ town. The police’s efforts to open new stations, with the goal of improving the quality of its services to Arab citizens, should be backed and supported.
- No policing or law enforcement institutioncan provide services without the support and cooperation of the community it serves. The Israel Police must acquire the public’s trust by demonstrating its capacity to effectively respond to crime in a transparent manner. This can only take place when the Israel Police recognizes that Arab citizens – like their Jewish counterparts – deserve to be protected and fairly policed.
- The Israel Police plays an impossible dual role in its relationship with Arab citizens. On the one hand, Arab citizens are perceived as citizens deserving fair and equal policing services. On the other hand, in a national-security context, Arab citizens are perceived as a potential terror threat. A structural reform is needed in the Israel Police, canceling the police’s role in national-security matters. The Israeli Police must advance values of civil-servant attitudes that prioritize the needs of citizen populations.
- The Israel Police and the Ministry of Justice, must counter the widespread proliferation of illegal weapons by advancing amnesty campaigns for turning-in weapons. In parallel, the Israel Police must work towards seizing illegal weapons and dramatically decreasing the number of firearms available in Arab towns.
- The systematic discrimination against, and neglect of, Arab citizens by state institutions is the foundation of deep-rooted and widespread socioeconomic challenges across Arab society. These challenges require a systemic and inter-ministerial response. This must include steps towards mitigation of poverty, approval of urban and housing plans and development of new Arab towns, provision of loans and banking services tailored to the needs of Arab citizens so they don’t turn to black-market loans, development of employment opportunities and entertainment centers geared towards young adults aged 17-25, and investment in formal and informal education in Arab society with an emphasis on violence prevention, conflict resolution, and safe use of social media.
- Arab society and its leaders – at all levels – must play a role in combating crime by denouncing criminals (including those that act as role models for younger generations) and illicit behavior. These include violent acts that originate in lifestyle, culture and social norms.
Only a multilateral response, which includes the collection of illegal firearms, establishment of new police stations premised on equal policing services, and effective and holistic response to socioeconomic challenges, can provide the course of action to end violence and crime across Arab society. An immediate emergency plan must be developed by the Israel government.
This statement is a translation of an article by Mr. Amnon Be’eri Sulitzeanu and Dr. Thabet Abu Ras, Co-Directors of The Abraham Initiatives, as published in Hebrew in Haaretz newspaper.