Israel’s security service 'refuses to help curb crime' in Palestinian-Israeli communities

Israel’s security service 'refuses to help curb crime' in Palestinian-Israeli communities
The Shin Bet Israeli intelligence agency has refused to intervene in Palestinian-Israeli communities, where crime is on the rise due to unemployment and marginalisation.
3 min read
23 August, 2021
Palestinian Israelis have protested the prevalent gun violence in their communities [Getty]

Israel's security service Shin Bet has reportedly refused to intervene in a crime wave in Palestinian-Israeli communities linked to illegal guns, family feuds, and organised gangs.

Shin Bet rejected a request by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the police commissioner demanding that director Nadav Argaman begin a crackdown on the possession of illegal weapons in Israel, which have been blamed for the increase in gun crime.

These communities have seen dozens of gun-related deaths and murders this year, while police have only solved one-third of cases when Palestinian-Israelis have been murdered.

Argaman has so far reportedly refused to intervene and sources told news outlet Haaretz that there are plans to discuss a way forward with his successor after his mandate ends in October.

Shin Bet was identified as the competent authority to deal with gun crime, as the possession of weapons is deemed to pose a threat to Israel's national security.  

"It's clear that the weapons that organised crime rings maintain for criminal activity can also be used against the security forces or civilians during the next riots," a senior police officer told Haaretz. "Any agency that could help with this would be more than welcome."

According to Israeli law, Shin Bet - which usually deals with counter-terrorism issues - is authorised to intervene in crime aimed at undermining national security. It is not clear whether this includes collecting arms from ordinary criminals.

Israeli authorities have failed to deal with crime in Palestinian communities the same way it does with Jewish ones in Israel, according to a report published by Haaretz earlier this month.

Palestinians in Israel have decried the police's lack of interest in their welfare, along with the overriding issues of poverty and discrimination which they say has contributed to the crime wave.

Police have only solved 23 percent of murders in Palestinian communities in Israel this year, compared to 71 percent in Jewish communities, the report said, citing the senior police official.

At least 64 Palestinians living in Israel have been murdered so far this year - including 10 from East Jerusalem - compared with 51 last year.

The police attribute crime levels to the Palestinian community's high unemployment among young people, while rights groups say bigger issues, such as state discrimination against Palestinian communities, remain at play. Over half of Palestinian citizens in Israel live in poverty.

Around 20 percent of Palestinian citizens of Israel aged 18-22 are unemployed,  while the national average rate in Israel hovers at around four percent.

A lack of land and banking services have pushed some to the informal economy, including drug dealing and money laundering, reports say.

Demonstrations against the high rate of crime in Palestinian communities in Israel and the apparent indifference of Israeli police to the issue have so far yielded little success in having authorities clamp down on the violence.