Israel’s Minister of Public Security, MK Gilad Erdan, has admitted that during 2017 only a single indictment has been filed among the 184 investigations opened for 381 shootings in the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm. Erdan’s written reply was in response to a parliamentary query submitted by Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List). Jabareen, himself a resident of Umm al-Fahm, said the statistics constitute admission of “a serious and dangerous failure by the law enforcement agencies.”
“Criminals feel they have a free hand, with no law and no judge, as long as the victims are from Arab society,” Jabareen added. “It’s unacceptable that Arab citizens should be held hostage by a small group of criminals.”
Statistics for previous years were similarly grim for the city of around 50,000. In 2016, there were two indictments out of 163 cases opened for a total of 358 shootings, while 2015 saw three indictments for 174 investigations into 264 gun-related incidents.
However, the overall statistics do show a decline in the total number of cases of serious violence (i.e., not necessarily gun-related), from 173 cases resulting in 41 indictments in 2015 to 133 cases resulting in 25 indictments this year.
Attorney Reda Jaber, director of the Aman Center, which combats violence in Arab society, told Haaretz that shooting cases generally “aren’t complicated,” and once a suspect is identified, preparing an indictment should not take more than a month. The problem is one of priorities, he said.
“The more the law enforcement agencies see this issue as important, the more effort, time and manpower they invest,” he said. However, the Umm al-Fahm statistics “are sad proof that the law enforcement agencies’ policy hasn’t changed to reflect the importance of this issue …. Neither effort nor resources are invested in finding the criminals.”
This year 72 Arabs in Israel were victims of homicide, Jaber said. “That’s a significant increase from previous years, even though the government said three years ago that it would address violence in Arab society,” he said, adding that the low indictment rate undermined deterrence and made the community feel abandoned. Over the past five years, 75% of Arab murders have been committed with guns, he noted.