Thousands of Jews and Arabs gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Thursday evening, March 18, to protest the inaction of the far-right government and police amidst the surging wave of crime and violence in Israel’s Arab communities.
Addressing the protestors, Joint List chair, MK Ayman Oded (Hadash) accused the police of turning a blind eye to the violence, which is a result of poverty and years of under-investment in the Arab-Palestinian national minority in Israel.
Former Hadash MK Mohammed Barakeh, today the head of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab citizens of Israel and a senior member of the Communist Party of Israel told the crowd: “The escalation of violence and crime is not a defect in the far-right government, it is not a mistake. Rather, this is a political project that the Israeli ruling class has put in place, and has allowed criminal gangs to operate freely, pumping weapons to them, not for the sake of killing so-and-so, but in order for ours to be a disjointed society, full of anxiety. A mass expression of the frustration and anger felt by the Arab community has been manifested in anti-violence protests by tens of thousands in Umm al-Fahm and other Arab towns.”
Death Toll Mounts in Real Time
Only hours after the Thursday evening protest in Tel Aviv, two young Arab men, residents of Qalansawe in central Israel, were shot and killed in the early hours of Friday morning, in a apparently gangland-related incident. Another three persons were wounded — two of them are reportedly in serious condition. The fatalities were identified as Leith Nasra (19) and Muhammad Khatib (22).
This latest incident brought the number of Arabs who have died violently in Israel since the start of the year to 26: 20 Israeli citizens, four Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem, and two Palestinians from the occupied West Bank. Police have shot three of those killed, while the remaining 23 were murdered in intra-communal violence, the Abraham Initiatives NGO has said. More than 90% of shootings in Israel last year took place in Arab communities, according to police. Arabs in Israel account for around one-fifth of the country’s population. The shootings, most often crime- and gang-related, have become a central issue in the Joint List’s electoral campaign ahead of a March 23 general election.