Arab convoy heads to Jerusalem to protest ‘government inaction’ after domestic crime wave

Arab leaders criticized the police, saying they turn a blind eye to violence in the Arab sector.

By World Israel News Staff and Associated Press

A convoy of Arab-Israeli’s led by Arab Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh headed to Jerusalem on Thursday morning to stage a large protest in Israel’s capital.

The pre-planned protest comes in conjunction with a high profile meeting set for later today between leading members of the Joint list and Israel’s Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan to discuss the recent uptick in violence  in local Israel-Arab communities.

“We will be campaigning for the most basic right of every citizen, the right to life and security,” Odeh said. “We will be demanding that prison sentences and heavy fines for any citizen who is in possession of illegal firearms be anchored in law, and that the heads of organized crime gangs be put on trial.”

Israeli Arab communities went on strike Thursday throughout the country to protest what it called “government inaction” in the face of a rising domestic crime wave that has taken at least 70 lives since the beginning of the year.

The strikes followed the murder of two brothers last week in the northern Arab-Israeli town of Majd al-Krum

On Saturday night an Arab Israeli man, Bha’a Arar, 35, was shot dead in the central region Arab town of Jaljulia. Two others were also injured in the shooting. In the village of Bayada close to Umm al-Fahm in the north, another man was shot and moderately injured.

The Abraham Initiatives, an advocacy group that promotes coexistence between Jews and Arabs, operates in Arab communities and investigates violent incidents in order to encourage better cooperation among residents, local leaders and police. Ola Najami-Yousef, co-manager of the group’s Safe Communities Initiative, said violence in Arab communities is rooted in years of discrimination and neglect by Israeli authorities.

“The lack of investment in the development and growth of Arab society in all fields, whether in construction, infrastructure, education, or economy, all this has led to a society that is very violent,” she said. But she said it’s unfair to hold the community fully responsible.

The police “aren’t doing their job, so they blame the victims,” she said. “It’s not the responsibility of local leaders or Knesset members to come and collect weapons from the Arab community. That’s the responsibility of the police.”

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In an interview on Monday with Radio Jerusalem, Erdan blamed Arab society’s violent nature as the cause for the uptick in attacks within the Israeli Arab communities.

“Arab society, and I say that with sadness, is a very violent society,” he said. “It’s connected to the culture there. A lot of disputes that end here with a lawsuit, there they pull out a knife and gun.”

“It has to do with the fact that a mother can give a son permission to murder his sister because she is dating a man who isn’t liked by the family,” Erdan added.