An estimated 30,000 demonstrators marched in the Upper Galilee town of Majd al-Kurum on Thursday, October 3, to protest violence in the Arab communities in Israel and demand action from police and authorities to put an end to the bloodshed. The demonstrators carried signs reading “Violence – not on our streets” and “Living in peace has become a dream” as they passed the town’s police station.
Many women, youths and children participated in the march, many wearing black shirts as a sign of mourning. During the nine months since the start of 2019, 72 Arab-Palestinians have been murdered in Israel.
Protests were also held yesterday (Friday, October 4), on the main roads near Arab towns in Israel’s north and center. The leaders and organizations of the Arab community in Israel are also planning a protest to be held in the coming days outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
In the city of Nazareth, parents and students held local demonstrations in the square adjacent to Mary’s Well and in front of the police station in the center of the city. “We want to live in security and we want to live in peace,” said some of the signs, while others called on the police to act against those behind the crimes, overwhelmingly members of criminal gangs. Other demonstrations were held in Haifa, Jaffa, Umm al-Fahm, Najaf, Taybe and several villages in the Galilee.
Government offices and schools in the Arab sector were closed Thursday as part of a national strike called for by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee. The Joint List’s 13 MKs participated in the strike by boycotting the 22nd Knesset’s inauguration ceremony.The general strike was announced during a stormy emergency meeting of leaders of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and Arab MKs in Madj al-Krum, where three young men were fatally shot last week during an altercation. During the meeting, protesters called on the Arab politicians to assume responsibility for the surge in the violent crime and submit their resignations. They also accused the authorities, including the government and police, of negligence.
Leading Communist activist and former Hadash MK, Mohammed Barakeh, head of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, described the situation as “disastrous.” He said that it would be a “second disaster if the Arab citizens limited their reaction to mere condemnations.” “We need to defend ourselves,” Barakeh said. “We need to defend our society.” Barakeh accused the Israeli establishment of “being in collusion with crime.” The far right government, he said, is “directly responsible for each crime” in the Arab community.
He pointed out that 1,380 Arabs in Israel have met violent deaths since 2000. “The issue of crime is at the top of our list of priorities,” Barakeh added. “We hold the authorities responsible; however, we also bear responsibility. However, we do not have the authority to confiscate [illegal] weapons or indict the criminals. This is the job of the state.”
Addressing the meeting, head of the Joint List MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) said, “70% of the solution to the problem of crime lies in the hands of the Israeli authorities, while the Arabs are 30% responsible. We blame the government. We hold [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Minister of Public Security Gilad] Erdan responsible.”
Odeh said that the No. 1 concern of the Arab citizens now was how to force the authorities to carry out their duties in combating crime. “The establishment is treating us with racism and is lying to us,” Odeh charged. “We need to take unprecedented measures until we force the authorities to acknowledge the gravity of the situation.”
Knesset member Yousef Jabareen (Hadash) of the Joint List stated, “The state is obligated to protect its residents, Arabs and Jews alike; however, 95 percent of shooting incidents are in Arab localities,” said Jabareen. “We can’t engage in ‘business as usual’ as blood continues to flow in Arab towns and villages with the police and enforcement agencies refusing to lift a finger.”