The murder rate in Israeli Arab communities has soared, and most of the responsibility for this dismal fact is assigned by media outlets to the State of Israel and its police. Among those piling on are the “usual suspects”: The Washington Post, The New York Times and other worldwide media.
Citing, in its headline, Israel’s “double standard in policing,” The Washington Post reported that a young Arab man named Ibrahim Mahamid, whose family was embroiled in a feud with another group, was shot twice in the back from a speeding Mazda 5 in the large Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. Mahamid was just one of the 15 Israeli Arabs murdered in the past month. Negligent Israeli policing was blamed for the tragedy.
It seems that no pathology in the Arab world arises without Israel actions—or inaction—being the cause. Rioters in Gaza try to break through the border to terrorize Israelis? Clearly, Israel’s defensive blockade of Gaza is at fault. A pre-planned, bloody intifada erupts in 2000? Simply the result of an Israeli politician “defiling” the sacred mosque atop the Temple Mount. Israeli buses, pizza joints and discos get blown up, and the press focuses on the evil predations of Israel’s “occupation” or “settlements.”
In this latest spate of violence, Arab gangs in Israeli cities murder each other, Israeli Arab thugs murder Israeli Arab passersby, Israeli Arab tribal groups and clans serially murder one another, Israeli Arab gun and drug deals turn lethal, young Israeli Arab women are murdered by their own families in “honor killings,” and—you guessed it—Israel’s government and police are to blame.
The murder rate in the Israeli Arab sector has shot up to nearly twice that of last year. Arabs make up 20 percent of Israel’s population, but now account for 60% of its homicide victims.
Shooting into the air is standard practice at Arab weddings, with the guns too often being fired horizontally before the end of the festivities. When the Israel Police arrive, witnesses suffer from sudden memory loss. The odd witness who does recall seeing a spray of gunfire from a car cutting down a pedestrian often recants his or her testimony, or is discovered days later in a bloody ditch.
Recently, in Ramla, a prominent imam, Sheik Ali al-Danaf, was hospitalized in critical condition after his car was hit seven times by assassins’ bullets. He had just given a sermon condemning local organized crime and demanding aggressive police action.
Arabs interfering with police investigations have removed closed-circuit cameras, collected and hidden evidence like bullet casings and used other means of tampering with crime scenes.
Israeli police have, in fact, taken steps to respond more quickly and effectively to the Arab crime wave. In the past few years, a dozen new police stations have been opened in Israeli Arab villages and towns. The Israel Police also launched an initiative three years ago to recruit more Arab cops to improve neighborhood policing, but this initiative is crippled by the difficulty in finding young Arab men and women willing to be identified as allies of the Zionists.
Even promoting an Arab to second-in-command of the national police force in 2016 hasn’t seemed to convince Arabs that they can serve their communities by helping to stop the bloodbath on their streets.
A recent summary article in The Washington Post helps readers to put the whole tragedy in the proper, anti-Israel context: “Arab citizens, who suffer from widespread discrimination, say Israel’s vaunted security forces are suspiciously powerless when it comes to combatting violence in their communities.”
The Post notes that: “Arab citizens have close family ties to the Palestinians in the occupied territories and largely identify with the Palestinian cause … and many in the community see the Israeli security apparatus as a hostile force.”
Quoting a local Israeli Arab former city councilman, The New York Times reported his accusations against Israel: “The Israeli government knows every detail about everything that happens inside and outside the country,” he said according to the Times. “They can reach Iran, Iraq, Syria, everywhere, and they can’t remove weapons from Arab towns?”
“They are happy with this situation, this chaos,” he added.
When Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan stated the obvious—“Arab society, and I am sorry to say this, is very, very violent”—he probably didn’t guess just how sorry he would be. He was forced to retract his words and abjectly apologize to the Arab citizenry for giving offense.
Recent mass rallies in Arab communities demanding an end to the violence loudly lay the bulk of the blame on an uncaring, discriminatory police force.
Even the police’s success this year in confiscating 3,500 illegal weapons and arresting more than 2,500 Arabs on weapons charges tends to be viewed and reported as just more Israeli persecution and discrimination against its Arab citizens.
Police in Israeli Arab towns like Umm al-Fahm and Ramla can certainly always do more to stanch the bleeding. So can the police in Chicago or Baltimore.
But the social pathologies and refusal of so many to trust and assist the police in their thankless work must be viewed as significant contributors. A recent poll showed that 78 percent of Israel’s Arabs “do not trust” the police. People who glorify murderers, fail to cooperate with investigations and do not discipline their own children and other relatives leave the police with fewer options.
Elders who do not control inter-clan passions and who condone the “honor killing” of their own daughters also contribute to the homicide rate.
At any rate, turning frustration and fury on the Israel Police does little to solve the problem and much to create increased Arab-Jewish hostility—and more Arabs in body bags.
Ken Cohen is editor of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.