Israel's Arab citizens are not the enemy
Opinion: The social terror plaguing the Arab community is a result of organized gangs operating unhindered, as they institute a regime of fear and lawlessness and try to seize control of municipal governments; there is 'magical' solution but our entire community is ready to face it
What is more shocking than the number of dead, is the complete disregard by the government, the police and the Israeli public to it, as though someone had launched a program of self-annihilation in their backyard that was no one else's business.
Before 2000, the crime rate within the Arab community was much lower than it is today (just 5% of murder cases in Israel, compared to 60% today, three times higher than the percentage of Israel's population that is Arab).
In October 2000, 13 Arab protesters were shot dead by police, mostly by specialist sniper teams.
Since then – and this conclusion was adopted by the 2003 Or Commission tasked with investigating these deaths – the Israeli police have treated the Arab citizenry as enemies.
The distrust between Arabs and police has deepened, along with increased hostilities, police violence, discrimination and neglect.
We have been calling out for more than a decade: collect the illegal firearms in our communities, but to no avail. There has been a small operation by the police here and there, but nothing effective enough.
More than 70% of the weapons come from IDF bases, the rest smuggled in from across the border. It is delusional to think that police intelligence is unaware of who is bringing them in and where from. If it were weapons smuggled in to be used by terrorists, the weapons would've been confiscated, and the responsible individuals put in jail at a moment's notice.
This social terror plaguing the Arab community is a result of organized gangs operating unhindered. They institute a regime of fear and lawlessness - extortion money, drugs and arms trading, black markets and attempts to coerce and take control of municipal governments and their decisions.
Those local leaders who do not comply are either threatened by or become targets of these organizations. We are not far from the day on which local politicians become targets of assassinations.
People tend to remind us of the phenomenon of indiscriminate shooting in the air at weddings as a pretext to lash out at the Arab community and its leaders.
I was the one who legislated to increase the penalty for these crimes. All that is left is to implement these laws. I don't go to weddings where I foresee a shooting might happen and leave immediately if the gunfire does start.
What about the murder of women? All cases involving Jewish women have been solved, but not so when it comes to Arab women. Many were shot after complaining to the police or the welfare services.
The police and government's complete disregard of responsibility just keeps adding more fuel to the fire.
The view that the Arab community is not cooperating with the police is nothing but victim blaming. Cases where state witness were targeted and killed, or witness were exposed and threatened are already known.
Who can stop the crime, the drugs and the arms trafficking other than the police? The Joint List does not have militias or private police forces.
The police are more than capable handling this situation. It managed to decrease crime in Jewish cities like Nahariya and Netanya just by wanting to do so.
At the start of 2015, we Joint List leaders met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanded his government to make a commitment to stop the violence. He agreed and promised to do so.
Well, you probably know already how that went. We have demanded to same from Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, to facilitate a multi-ministerial plan to thoroughly solve the issue.
The increasing violence is not a cultural issue, but an issue of policy and social welfare. Arab culture didn't suddenly change after 2000.
More than that, we and the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are all the same. There are far more weapons there than within Israel, but far less cases of crime and shooting.
There are about eight cases a year in the Palestinian territories for every million citizens, in contrast to 46 cases a year for every million citizens within the Arab community in Israel (the Israeli average is around 13 cases per million). And over there the police don’t treat citizens as criminals.
Lately, multiple police stations have opened in Arab villages, such as in Umm al-Fahm and Jisr az-Zarqa, but this has done nothing to reduce the crime rate.
The Israel Police does not need Arab policemen to provide a solution, but rather effective and committed policemen to deal with these agents of death instead of giving out traffic fines.
As I mentioned earlier, a stated initiative by the government, a multi-ministerial committee, an emergency plan and a change in penalties within the judicial system – where the light penalties for arms trafficking and shootings are at best a joke and at worst encouragement of more violence.
A special investigative committee - or at the very least a parliamentary committee - should be duly considered in accordance with the state comptroller's report on the matter, to investigate the causes of this wave of violence within the Arab community.
I know there is no immediate "magical" solution. The solution will be a long and painful process that will demand vast efforts from all of us: The Arab public, our leaders, our clergy and educators and our entire community. We are ready.
MK Ahmad Tibi is the head of the Joint List faction in the Knesset