Abandoned by the State, Palestinian Citizens of Israel Face Unprecedented Crime Wave

Abandoned by the State, Palestinian Citizens of Israel Face Unprecedented Crime Wave

In a context of proliferation of weapons and worsening police negligence since October 7, the violence of criminal organizations in Arab cities has reached historic levels.

“If I can stay with my family abroad, I will be able to raise my children normally. But if I have to return to Israel, I will make criminals of my children.” A. is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, who was pursued by a criminal organization and is now trying to leave the country with his family. “In today's reality, you have to be a criminal to survive, and it is clear that the situation will get worse in the years to come.

Some will say that this is an exaggeration and insist that Palestinian citizens of Israel lead normal lives, better than those of most Palestinians and Arabs. But in addition to widespread discrimination and increasing political persecution of Palestinian citizens by the Israeli government, the number of Palestinian victims of organized crime continues to increase at a frightening rate.

According to a study by the Taub Institute, the Palestinian Arab community in Israel had the third highest murder rate among OECD countries in 2019 – just behind Mexico and Colombia – with 11.11 murders per 100,000. citizens, a figure which tripled for people aged 20 to 34. The study also notes that murders in Palestinian Arab communities more than doubled, from 109 cases in 2022 to 233 in 2023, with the murder rate steadily rising each month until last September.

“There are few villages where there have not been shootings, families threatened, requests for financial protection, car bombings, etc. “, declared Rawyah Handaqlu, lawyer at the head of the emergency staff for the fight against crime in Arab society, an emergency body created last September by the High Monitoring Committee and the National Committee heads of local Arab authorities.

“It’s not just about the number of deaths,” she explains. “Entire families have left the country or changed their place of residence, others are hiding in their homes, not to mention the daily explosions, the cars set on fire and all the injured in the attacks, which sometimes are not even reported by the authorities. media.

Since the start of the year, 86 Arab citizens have been murdered – a surprisingly high figure that suggests this year's murder rate will be similar to last year. Although the numbers are roughly the same, criminal organizations have recently stepped up their tactics, publishing target lists, kidnapping civilians and hiding the bodies of their victims.

“Today, for example, we no longer hear about a stabbing attack: there are now anti-tank missiles, mortar shells and drones. In the absence of law, things evolve terribly,” warns Mr. Handaqlu.

“The leaders of the criminal organizations know exactly how the police work, and they plan their work accordingly, so it seems like things are coordinated,” A. said. “In the absence of a real deterrent force, the pace of their activities is only increasing. He notes that in previous years, the gunmen would burn their getaway vehicle in a remote area in order to hide and destroy any evidence. Today, they detonate it near the scene of the crime and, if they previously limited their attacks to certain targets, they now also attack the family of the targeted person.

“I am not surprised that some have killed 10 or 20 people in recent years,” explains A. to +972. No one prosecutes them, most murder cases are closed or drag on, and all evidence from security cameras, witnesses, fingerprints and traces is “wasted.” He has no hope that the situation will improve; in the years to come, A. warns, “only your fists will protect you”.

“We hold the police unequivocally responsible”

In Israeli media, political discourse, and the public, Druze communities are often seen as distinct from the Palestinian minority – a perception that some Druze themselves reinforce, particularly during periods of heightened security, when they attract pay attention to the fact that Druze citizens serve in the army and security services. But when it comes to organized crime, home demolitions and other forms of discrimination, they face the same threats as the rest of Palestinian society.

In recent months, the number of killings has increased significantly in Druze communities, notably in Yarka, Isfiya and Abu Sinan. The village of Isfiya alone saw five murders between April 12 and May 12, with two of the victims found dead long after being kidnapped. According to journalist and social activist Wissam Ghoutani, many village residents came out to protest violent crimes and police inaction.

“We hold the police unequivocally accountable, as the institution responsible for our security, which has negligently allowed things to deteriorate here for years,” Ghoutani said. Five people were killed in Isfiya and no suspects were arrested. We only hear that 'the police are opening an investigation'.

Mr Ghoutani admitted that other factors – including unemployment, lack of public investment in education, sport and infrastructure, and even culture – contribute to crime. He also called for renewing the activities of reconciliation committees, a traditional forum for conflict mediation in Arab society, and granting them the authority to tackle crime head on.

“But the war between criminal organizations in Arab society and the chaos that exists today is bigger than anything the Arab community faces,” he insisted, “and that is the police, as a powerful state security apparatus, which is supposed to take care of it.”

A proliferation of weapons

After the October 7 attacks, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir moved quickly to expand gun ownership among Jewish civilians, and recently celebrated the approval of more than 100,000 new ones. gun permit. The weapons distributed today under the pretext of Jewish security will be used against the Arabs,” she predicts, “especially with the deterioration of the economic situation and the chaos of the war.”

Handaqlu's job is made even more difficult by Ben Gvir and his ministry's lack of cooperation – a change from the ministry's role under former Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev and his deputy Yoav Segalovich, who collaborated with the Arab members of the Knesset and heads of Arab municipalities. “Unfortunately, the minister incites hatred against Arab society or uses organized crime as an excuse to attack it, and he has even gutted existing government programs aimed at Arab society.

In March 2023, for example, Ben Gvir decided to freeze the ministry's cooperation with the “Stop the Bleeding” program, an initiative designed to address rising violence and crime in Arab society. Forced to find alternative solutions, Handaqlu convened a roundtable bringing together civil society institutions and representatives from several ministries, and continued to work with local authorities to help them improve their response to criminal activity and help those affected by it.

Regarding the problem of police negligence in the face of crime in Palestinian communities, Ms. Handaqlu admitted that “we must cooperate with them, despite the existing mistrust, because they are responsible for our security.” But she also acknowledged that the police are subject to policies dictated by the government, which currently seems determined to make the situation worse.

The Knesset is currently preparing to pass the law to expand the means to combat criminal organizations, which would give Ben Gvir, as minister of national security, exclusive authority to use counterterrorism tactics in the fight against domestic crime. This would be a remarkable expansion of Ben Gvir's powers, which he is almost certain to use against Arab citizens, not for their good.

“If this law had been adopted before October 7,” Mr. Handaqlu suggested, “the minister might have declared the entire Arab society a terrorist organization.

Baker Zoubi is a journalist from Kufr Misr who currently lives in Nazareth. Baker has worked in the field of journalism since 2010, first as a reporter for local Arab media outlets and then as an editor for the Bokra website. Today, he also works as a researcher and editor for television programs on Makan and Musawa channels. He writes and publishes on his Facebook page various opinion articles on politics and social issues related to Palestinian society. Recently, he also began writing for Local Call.

Translation: CT for Palestine Media Agency

Source: 972mag