Members of Knesset from the Joint List led a convoy of vehicles from the north, the south and center of Israel to Jerusalem on Thursday morning, October 10, ahead of a meeting with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to discuss ways to combat the rising violence in Arab communities in Israel.
The High Follow-Up Committee, headed by former Hadash MK and Communist leading activist Muhammad Barakeh, organized the convoy of one thousands of cars of Arab citizens, in protest at what it called the police inaction to counter the violent crime.
Erdan, who oversees the police force, sparked outrage Monday when he told a radio station in Jerusalem that “Arab society, and I am sorry to say this, is very, very violent. It is connected to the culture there. A lot of disputes that end here with a lawsuit, there they pull out a knife and a gun.” After several protests, he later walked back the remarks, tweeting that the “main responsibility” for fighting crime lies with the government and police, and describing the Arab public as “normative and law-abiding.”
Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said that Erdan “was evading responsibility by blaming the victim. His statements embody racist and patronizing attitudes. If the police had fulfilled its duties and handled crime as it does in the Jewish sector, we would not reach the current levels of crime. Erdan should apologize and resign.”
Hadash Member of Knesset and head of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh said “We demand laws that will ensure prison time and heavy fines for any civilian who is in possession of illegal weapons” adding “this is a battle for basic rights of civilians: the right to live in security.”Shortly before the meeting, Odeh wrote on Twitter: “We’re going into a meeting with Erdan and the police chief after 1,387 unnecessary funerals. The solutions have been on the table for years — the eradication of crime is only a matter of will.”
Erdan told Arab leaders during their meeting Thursday that police would allocate 600 officers to handle violent crime in the Arab community, as well as focus resources on investigating organized crime. Erdan, along with interim Police Commissioner Motti Cohen, met with Arab politicians and community leaders to discuss the problem of violence in the Arab sector, amidst ongoing protests in the Arab community against a lack of law enforcement in their communities.
After the conversation, MK Odeh said it was “an important meeting, but our main demand is a government decision and a wide-ranging plan to eradicate violence and crime in Arab society… the talks will continue and the struggle will go on.”
Since the deaths of three men last week in a midday shootout in the Arab town of Majd al-Krum in northern Israel, the country has seen mass protests, complaints of police negligence and a public debate about violence in Arab communities that has veered into racist generalizations. More mass protests are planned for October 21 and 27, outside police headquarters in Nazareth and Ramle, respectively. On the 27th, organizers plan to set up protest tents outside government offices in the Jerusalem. Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) said she and her friends were determined to keep the issue of crime in the Arab sector at the top of the government’s agenda. She too accused the authorities of neglect, adding, “We are fighting for the lives of our children and for the basic right of living in security.”