Violence in Arab society passes breaking point

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Arab leaders claim the police have long turned a blind eye to the crime-riddled cities, towns and neighborhoods where gangs rule and where illegal weapons run rampant.

Shooting incident near Nahshonim Interchange, Dec. 28, 2020

(photo credit: ALON HACHMON)

It was like a scene from the Wild West or some lawless, under-developed country. In broad daylight Monday, a man was killed and another was critically injured when their car was riddled with bullets while driving, under police protection, along Highway 6.

Let’s repeat. Under police protection. Along Highway 6.

This shouldn’t be happening in Israel in 2020. But it is indicative of the lawlessness that is plaguing the Arab sector in Israel society and the inability or lack of effort by the Israel Police to get to the root of the problem. Arab leaders claim the police have long turned a blind eye to the crime-riddled cities, towns and neighborhoods where gangs rule and where illegal weapons run rampant.

According to one estimation by a Jaffa imam, there are some 450,000 illegal firearms sprinkled throughout the Arab sector.

But despite the ongoing reports of violence, shootings and murders, Monday’s incident was starkly different in its abandon and clear lack of concern about the deterrent capabilities of the police.

The police were accompanying a convoy of cars belonging to the Abu Salek family from Lod on their way to Kafr Kasem in the North. They are known by police and suspected to be involved in crime operations, working with another area family gang. The Abu Salek family members had left the city after the body of 60-year-old Yousef Azberga, a member of a rival crime family, was found overnight Sunday.

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Quentin Tarantino might have had difficulty conjuring up a plot line like that for one of his over-the-top crime-centric cinematic epics.

But instead of on the silver screen, these events unfolded on one of Israel’s most traveled highways.

As the convoy sped along Highway 6, in a convoluted series of moves, aggressors were able to penetrate the convoy and shoot at the car in which the Abu Saleks were driving. Two people were killed. Police later arrested two young men from Lod in connection with the shooting.

The incident caused shock waves throughout the country. Mansour Abbas, deputy speaker of the Knesset and head of the Committee on Eradicating Crime in Arab Society, said the shooting has changed all norms regarding the mounting violence.

“The situation has been getting worse for years, and today all the parameters broke new records,” he told KAN TV, adding that there are some 320 family vs family conflicts currently at play in Arab Israeli society that could boil over into violence at any moment.

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“We have to begin thinking out of the box – the government, the police and the Arab sector. It’s a matter of pikuach nefesh [saving lives].”

According to the Abraham Initiatives, more than 100 Arab Israelis have been killed since the beginning of the year, the highest in decades. The number of murders has been steadily increasing, having totaled 89 in 2019 and 75 in 2018.

Last month, at one of Abbas’s committee meetings, in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a five-year plan – called the 922 Plan – was unveiled to fight serious crime, increase enforcement and improve economic activities in the Arab sector. According to the plan – which was meant to end in December and has now been extended for another year – the state will invest some NIS 4.7 billion in the Arab sector and develop new infrastructure, including roads, public transportation and industrial areas, as well as increase the education budget for the sector.

Netanyahu promised at that meeting that he would bring the plan to approval within two weeks. But with a fourth election approaching, the plan could be shelved indefinitely. Abbas said, however, that he hoped the plan would be approved by the government next week.

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As evidenced by Monday’s outrageous events, inaction is no longer an option, not that it ever was. The government, the police, and especially the Arab citizens of Israel need to change their mindsets regarding violence in Arab society. First and foremost is approving the plan and starting the long process of gutting out the crime and enabling the good Arab citizens of Israel to live in peace and security. Unfortunately, this is not a Tarantino movie that can be enjoyed and turned off. It’s real life.

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