Ben-Gvir promises ‘total war’ against Arab crime, protection rackets

14 arrested in anti-mafia raid in northern Bedouin town; Ben-Gvir says operation just the beginning, pledges to restore governance to crime-ridden region.

By World Israel News Staff

Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir pledged that his ministry would engage in “total war” to restore governance to Israel’s crime-ridden north, where Arab crime families have terrorized local business owners and residents.

Following a raid in the northern Bedouin town of Tuba-Zangariyye, which saw 14 suspects arrested for crimes including arson and extorting businesses by charging them “protection fees,” Ben-Gvir told Hebrew-language media that the operation was only the beginning of a widescale crackdown on crime in the region.

Residents of the Galilee “call me, and I hear their pain and despair, due to this phenomenon of ‘protection…’ criminals are waging a brutal war against law-abiding residents here, Jews and Arabs alike,” Ben-Gvir said in a media conference in the town.

“We’re [launching] a total war [against] the criminals,” he added. Crime in the area has “crossed all red lines, and it’s important that we continue to be intense [in] responding to it.”

As the head of the Otzma Yehudit party, Ben-Gvir made clamping down on organized crime in the peripheral Galilee and Negev regions a central focus of his campaign.

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“We call on every citizen who has fallen victim to threats by criminals to avoid giving into extortion and instead to notify police immediately,” a police spokesman said in a follow-up statement.

“Obedience or payment to the criminal elements does not guarantee safety, and in fact it encourages them to expand their blackmail efforts and continue carrying out their plots against more victims,” he added.

In recent years, residents have suffered from a massive crime wave in the Galilee and Negev. Emboldened by a lack of serious consequences, mostly Arab crime families and mafias have demanded payments from merchants in exchange for them being able to operate their businesses unhindered. Business owners who refused to pay have seen their businesses torched in arson attacks or even shot at.

The phenomenon has expanded to include nearly all local industries, from restaurants and retail shops to transportation companies, including public bus operators.

On Sunday, dozens of Arab-Israelis protested what they referred to as a lack of police response to crimes in their community.

However, according to a leaked phone conversation between Ben-Gvir and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, police find themselves in a challenging conundrum when it comes to battling crime in Arab municipalities.

The vast majority of serious crimes in the Arab community, such as murder, go unsolved, largely due to residents’ resistance to testifying in court and refusal to provide eyewitness testimony to police. Arab MKs often complain of racism and discrimination when police do engage in crackdown efforts in Arab towns and cities.

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