Protesters hold signs and chant slogans during a demonstration against violence near the house of Public Security Minister Omer Barlev in the central Israeli town of Kokhav Ya'ir; sign reads: 'Blood'

#Arab_lives_matter sparks calls for more policing in Israel

With at least 78 Arab citizens killed so far this year, community is seeking to raise awareness about spiraling rate of violent crime under the hashtag, but unlike similar campaign in U.S., they are calling for more policing, not less

Associated Press |
Published: 09.28.21, 18:55
Arab citizens of Israel are seeking to raise awareness about the spiraling rate of violent crime in their communities under the hashtag “Arab lives matter,” but unlike a similar campaign in the United States, they are calling for more policing, not less.
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  • The Arab minority, which makes up around 20% of Israel’s population, has been convulsed by violent crime in recent years, with a rate in killings that far exceeds its share of the population and is driven by criminal gangs and family disputes.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Protesters hold signs and chant slogans during a demonstration against violence near the house of Public Security Minister Omer Barlev in the central Israeli town of Kokhav Ya'ir
    Protesters hold signs and chant slogans during a demonstration against violence near the house of Public Security Minister Omer Barlev in the central Israeli town of Kokhav Ya'ir
    Protesters hold signs and chant slogans during a demonstration against violence near the house of Public Security Minister Omer Barlev in the central Israeli town of Kokhav Ya'ir; sign reads: 'Blood'
    (Photo: AP)
    Activists say Israeli authorities have historically ignored deadly crime among Arabs. Israeli officials have touted a number of initiatives in recent years, including larger budgets for law enforcement in Arab communities, but police say community leaders could do more to help them.
    At least 78 Arab citizens have been killed so far this year out of a total of 93 slayings nationwide, according to the Abraham Initiatives, an Israeli civil society organization fostering Jewish-Arab coexistence.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pledged last month that after years of neglect, his newly inaugurated government would combat violent crime plaguing Arab communities. That was one of the top demands of a small Arab party that made history by joining his narrow coalition.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    עמר בר לב בהלוויתו של חוסאם סגייר מתנדב המשטרה שנדרס למוות בנהריה
    עמר בר לב בהלוויתו של חוסאם סגייר מתנדב המשטרה שנדרס למוות בנהריה
    Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attending the funeral of a volunteer police officer who was run over last week
    (Photo: Shaul Golan)
    After another two people were killed in Arab towns last week, Arab blogger Sheren Falah Saab tweeted “#Arab_lives_matter” in Hebrew with the aim of opening a dialogue with Israel’s Jewish majority.
    “The inspiration is from the Black Lives Matter movement, but it’s important to note that the violence in Arab society in Israel is not brought on by the police or law enforcement, it’s between Arabs,” she said. “It’s important to say there’s neglect and lack of enforcement by the police, and lack of follow-up when murders are committed.”
    Her statement went viral on social media. Lawmakers, activists and organizations joined in the chorus, as did the minister in charge of the police.
    Public Security Minister Omer Bar-lev blamed the problem on “decades of neglect, disregard and fear of getting into the thick of the problems of the Arab sector and the prevailing assumption that ‘as long as they kill each other, then this is their problem.’”
    “In the first 100 days since taking office, I did more than was done in last decades dealing with crime in the Arab sector. Yes, #Arab_Lives_Matter,” he tweeted.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    "חיי ערבים חשובים!" הפגנה מול ביתו של עמר בר לב על האלימות במגזר הערבי
    "חיי ערבים חשובים!" הפגנה מול ביתו של עמר בר לב על האלימות במגזר הערבי
    Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh with protestors calling for more action against violent crime in the Arab sector outside the home of Public Security Minister Omer Barlev
    (Photo: Yair Sagi)
    Israel’s Arab citizens have citizenship, including the right to vote, but face discrimination in housing and other sectors. Most speak fluent Hebrew, and they have an outsized presence in universities and medicine, among other professions.
    They also have close family ties to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and largely identify with their cause, leading many Israeli Jews to view them with suspicion. Within the community there is widespread distrust of the mostly Jewish Israeli police but also growing calls for them to intervene more forcefully to combat violence.
    Last weekend, protesters gathered outside Bar-Lev’s home to call for more policing.
    “I want the police to do its job properly. Enough,” said Muna Khalil, whose son was shot and killed in June. She criticized the police for not doing enough to find her son’s killer and bring him to justice. “They know who killed my son, but they are not doing the right thing.”
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