An urgent meeting of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality of the Knesset was held on Tuesday, May 22, in the wake of homicides involving women in recent months, in particular following the murder of two sisters in Jaffa last week.
At the start of the meeting, committee Chairwoman MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash – Joint List) said: “Since the beginning of this year, 13 women have been murdered in Israel, three of whom were young women. Homicides involving women have always shocked me, but it is unacceptable that within five months, 13 homicide cases have been recorded. What infuriates me the most in these homicide cases is that they involve such young girls who are murdered in their homes, the place that is supposed to be protected, and where they are supposed to feel the safest. Home has become a place where you can lose your life. After the murder is committed, yet another murder is carried out, a character assassination to protect someone’s good name, via the media, which publicizes that the reason for the murder was the desecration of the family’s honor. There is no honor in murder.”
While referring to the murder of the two sisters by their brother in Jaffa last week, Chairperson Touma-Sliman noted that “in this case the writing was definitely on the wall, and the shocking murder could have been prevented. The family was known to the welfare authorities and the brother himself had already served a prison term and was awaiting sentencing following his conviction [for another crime]. It was exactly at this time that he committed the murder, and this is something that is intolerable. It is not acceptable that nothing was done to prevent such a case, even though the writing was on the wall. I do not intend to drop this subject until all the authorities and enforcement agencies do all that is necessary to prevent the recurrence of such a case.”
Attorney Avishag Shaham Haddad, director of government relations at WIZO Israel, told the meeting’s participants that the ways to eradicate the scourge are via public information and raising awareness in education in schools; initiating programs for gender equality and respect; promoting an accelerated process for handling each case related to violence against women; promoting the law for developing prevention methods; and electronic handcuffs. All these can lead to a decrease in the cases of violence, she argued.
The head of the Organization of Families of Murder Victims, Lara Tzinman, claimed that “in many cases the murderers have a psychiatric background. We have brought this to the attention of people in a position paper that we published and they argued that there is a lack of communication between the mental health services and the welfare agencies and police, in terms of transferring mental health information, and it is exactly for this reason that such cases fall through the cracks and lead to murder”.
Joint List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) added, “I feel ashamed. How can we still talk about human values and value of women in contemporary times? The state and its authorities have the power and the capacity to eradicate such phenomena. I call upon the police, the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Economy and Industry — who can eradicate this phenomenon if not you? We must renew programs and act consistently in order not to wake up in the morning and hear about another murder. At the beginning of July, there will be a special session held in the Knesset on murder in general and murder of women in particular. I hope that until then we will find the way to eradicate and reduce this trend.”
MK Touma-Sliman summed up the meeting by saying that “this year there have been 13 homicides, of which three were Arab women and 10 were Jewish women. Since the beginning of the year there has not been one Jewish member of Knesset [participating in the committee’s femicide-related meetings]; they don’t even come here to argue with us. Human lives and this phenomenon of homicide is the most important meeting that is taking place in Israel’s Knesset at this time. What is the Jewish leadership doing about the fact that 10 [Jewish] women have been murdered since the beginning of the year? We cannot remain silent in view of the fact that the next woman victim of murder, number 14, is walking among us. We cannot stand idle, as there is a message in society that women are objects that need to be hidden, cordoned off and controlled. This is a message that we see in schools and on the street. I will not let any government entity responsible for the lives of women rest until there is a change and until we succeed in eradicating this phenomenon. We will continue to hold meetings because we care. We will not give in and we will continue to ask the difficult questions.”