Israel's Palestinian Knesset leaders protest crime plague
Elected officials and representatives of Israel's Palestinian minority demonstrated in Jerusalem on Tuesday against the crime plaguing their communities, calling on the government to increase security.
Around 50 current and former members of parliament, as well as municipal representatives and Jewish supporters, gathered in a tent in front of the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a sit-in that began Monday.
"The police are complicit in the crime", read a large banner hanging in the tent in Arabic, Hebrew and English.
Mohammed Baraka, a former MP who heads the High Committee for the Arab Minority in Israel, a civil society group which organised the protest, told AFP it opposed the "spread of crime".
"Hardly a day goes by without gunshots, injuries or murders," he said. "Instead of working to develop our towns and society, we're thinking about how to get out of our homes safely."
Experts say gangs have amassed large quantities of illegal weapons over the past two decades and are involved in drug, arms and human trafficking, prostitution, extortion and money laundering.
The Palestinian community within the 1948 borders that compose the state of Israel are mainly those who were able to remain despite the ethnic cleansing by Zionist forces during the Nakba.
Palestinians citizens of Israel make up around 20 percent of the country's population, and have long been subjected to discrimination and police inaction against violence and crime within their communities.
Baraka accused Israeli authorities of responsibility for the "catastrophe", because the Palestinian community itself is not allowed to have "the power to arrest, prosecute or confiscate weapons."
According to Israeli police, 84 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been killed since the start of the year.
"There are thousands of wounded, and nobody talks about it," Mahmoud Nassar, a specialist in criminology at the non-governmental Center for Combating Violence and Crime, told AFP.
At a parliamentary discussion on Arab crime on Monday, Netanyahu invited the group of lawmakers to his office for a roundtable to address the situation.
"I hear your appeal for increased police presence and more gun confiscations," he said. "We'll have to act on many fronts, and I want your help and cooperation."