Israel 'complicit' in perpetuating crime in Palestinian towns: community leaders

Israel 'complicit' in perpetuating crime in Palestinian towns: community leaders
The violence has been blamed on an inadequate police presence in these communities, poverty, unemployment and poor provision of basic services.
3 min read
30 May, 2023
Palestinian citizens of Israel are staging their anti-crime protest in front of government buildings in West Jerusalem [Ibrahim Husseini/The New Arab]

Leaders of the Palestinian community within Israel on Monday set up a "protest tent" in front of the government buildings in West Jerusalem to press authorities to address an escalating crime wave.

The protest, set to last three days, comes as scores of Palestinians in Israel have been killed in crime-related incidents this year.

1948 Palestinians  - meaning the Palestinian community who managed to remain despite the ethnic cleansing by Zionist forces during the Nakba - make up 20 per cent of modern-day Israel's population but account for over 60 per cent of murder victims nationwide. 

Muhammad Barakeh, a former Knesset member and leader of the Arab follow-up committee in Israel, said a series of actions are planned soon to pressure the government to tackle crime within Palestinian communities, which make up more than 20 per cent of Israel's population. 

This year is on track to become one of the deadliest for Palestinian citizens of Israel in recent memory.

At least 76 Arab citizens, including six women and two children, have been killed in crime-related incidents this year, according to the Arabic news site Arab 48. Israel's security forces are overlooking mob-linked criminality in Palestinian communities, critics say.

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According to the Aman Center, a civil society group that works to curtail violence in the Palestinian community within the 1948 borders, a record 128 Arab civilians were killed in 2021 due to violent crime. The group registered 113 such killings in 2020, 96 in 2019 and 67 in 2018. 

The violence has been blamed on an inadequate police presence in these communities, poverty, unemployment and poor provision of basic services.

Critics charge that the Israeli security services are not doing enough to fight organised crime and are even "complicit."

"The Israeli government gains by transmitting worry in our society. The spread of crime makes each of us fear for personal safety and neglect issues such as land, housing, Al-Aqsa and the occupation," Barakeh told The New Arab

"At the same time, criminal gangs are shielded by the intelligence services," he claimed.

Former Knesset member Usama Saadi told TNA, "We accuse all the Israeli government and the security branches of not doing their duty. Many criminals have immunity because they also work with the police."

"The Israeli police can fight crime. They've proved it when they dismantled organised crime within the Jewish society in Nahariya, Netanya and Tel Aviv," Saadi added. 

A large demonstration is also being planned in Tel Aviv, and the protesters also said they would contact foreign diplomats in Israel to engage in the matter. Protesters have picked "we want to live" as a motto for their campaign to get the Israeli authorities to tackle crime seriously.

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Recently, Maj. Gen. Sigal Bar-Zvi, the head of the Israel Police operations division, sounded the alarm in light of the increase in murders in the community.

"The Arab street is exhausted, broken and apathetic because organised crime rules," Bar Zvi said at a conference.

The deadly violence has blighted the Palestinian community in Israel for decades.

About 1,800 Palestinians within Israel have been killed since 2000 in crime-related incidents, while only 150 were killed between 1980 and 2000, according to observers.

Some 80% of Palestinian citizens of Israel are worried about violence a 2019 study showed. The same study found that between 2014 and 2018, homicides in Palestinian communities accounted for more than half of the overall homicides in Israel.