In one the latest in a string of shootings in Arab communities in Israel, the former mayor of the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, Dr. Suleiman Aghbariah, was seriously wounded on Thursday night, January 7, by armed assailants.
Aghbariah, a well-known figure in Arab politics in Israel, not only served as mayor of the major Arab city in central Israel, but was also a senior leader in the Northern Islamic Movement until it was banned in 2015. Following Aghbariah’s shooting, hundreds of residents of Umm al-Fahm protested outside the local police station on Friday to demand that police step up their fight against organized crime and the illegal possession of firearms.
“No one is immune anymore to the murderous violence and the weapons flooding Arab society. This is an emergency. We’re living in a civil war,” tweeted Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen (Hadash), himself a resident of Umm al-Fahm whose home is not far from the site of the shooting. “There is no Arab citizen who is not exposed to the fatal threat posed by organized crime. The criminal indifference of the government is what allows them [the criminals] to destroy our society,” said Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash).
On Wednesday evening, June 6, the police used smoke grenades, tear gas and water cannons to disperse a protest march attended by hundreds of people along Wadi Ara’s Route 65 near Kafr Qara, 8 kilometers west of Umm al-Fahm, following the funeral of Sliman Naziye Masarweh, 25, a local resident who was killed by gunfire in on Tuesday. “Our children’s blood is dear to us,” demonstrators chanted, as others yelled, “The police force is the cause of the terror,” the communist papers Al-Ittihad and Zo Haderech reported.
Overnight between Friday and Saturday, January 8-9, a 19-year-old was killed in a massive altercation in the southern Arab-Bedouin village of Drijat. That death brought to four the number of Arab citizens of Israel who have been victims of homicide since the start of the year; another three homicides have taken place in occupied East Jerusalem since January 1.
In 2020, there were 113 murders in the Arab community in Israel, 96 men and 17 women, the highest annual count ever. Numbers have been steadily climbing since 2015, when there were 58 murders. Since 2000, 1,528 people have been killed in the Arab community according to the Aman Center, an Arab anti-violence organization,
Hadash blames the crisis on police inaction, saying that they do not enforce the law in Arab cities and towns. The absence of the rule of law, Hadash lawmakers say, has left unhindered the free proliferation of illegal weapons, protection rackets and organized crime organizations in Arab communities. Last month a convoy of hundreds of cars blocked one of Israel’s main highways to protest government inaction in fighting crime in Arab communities in Israel.