An anti-violence activist, the daughter of the deputy mayor of the northern town of Shfaram, was killed in a car bombing Tuesday evening.
Medics said that when they arrived, the car was on fire and they declared 28-year-old Johara Khnifes dead at the scene.
Khnifes worked as an activist for women’s rights and against violence in the community.
Police opened an investigation into the attack and set up roadblocks in the area. A preliminary investigation found that the explosive device was attached to the vehicle. There were no arrests made.
According to Hebrew-language reports on Wednesday, police were investigating whether a relative of Khnifes may have been involved in the attack.
The Ynet news site said police were probing whether the bombing was linked to Khnifes’ work as an activist.
Police have apparently ruled out the possibility that the killing was related to her father’s work. Faraj Khnifes serves as deputy mayor in the town and is a prominent member of the Druze community.
Earlier Wednesday, Faraj Khnifes eulogized his daughter and suggested that he may have been the target, although he said he was unaware of any threats against him.
“She was a flower and did no one harm. Maybe he was looking for me; it would have been better if he had gotten me instead,” he told the Kan public broadcaster.
“It’s hard to digest. You think you’re in a nightmare. The Middle East is cruel. Sometimes innocent people pay a price,” he told Army Radio.
“Our hearts are broken. It’s difficult for us to be at home without her,” he said in an interview with the Ynet news site. “I am a well-known social and political figure in Arab society, a public figure who has been elected for many years.
“I always help people without hesitation, and also lead a normal life. I did not expect the violence to reach me. I hope the police will find the killers and bring them to justice,” he said.
Johara Khnifes gave an interview last year in which she decried violence in Arab communities.
“The phenomenon of violence is one of the negatives we face. We feel insecure in our society and it hinders our progress in all areas of life and creates fear among members of Arab society,” she told the Arab 48 website in November.
She was also in a recent video that was part of a campaign against the violence. Her mother, also an activist for women’s rights, also featured in the clip.
الفتاة جوهرة شاركت في حملة ضد الجريمة والليلة قتلها مجرمونجوهرة خنيفس من شفاعمرو…الضحية المناوبة للجريمة ( الضحية ال 35 والمرأة الخامسة منذ مطلع العام) وسبق أن شاركت ووالدتها بديعة خنيفس( مستشارة رئيس البلدية لشؤون المرأة) في فيديو توعية وصرخة ضد العنف والجريمة وفيه مثلث دور العروس…وفيه تطلق الأم زغرودة فرح. هذا في الفيديو التمثيلي قبل عام لكن في الواقع الفستان الأبيض يتخضب بالأحمر والزغرودة تصبح صرخة فجيعة وفقدان تفطر قلب الأم الثاكل. تعازينا الحارة للأخت بديعة ولذويها
Posted by وديع عواودة on Tuesday, June 7, 2022
Her killing was condemned by US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides who tweeted that “Israel lost a shining gem in the community… a young woman from Shafaamer courageous enough to combat violence against women.”
The envoy revealed that Khnifes had participated in a State Department program on combatting violence against women. “May her cowardly murder strengthen us all to redouble efforts so that all women can live in peace and safety,” he added.
Khnifes was laid to rest late Wednesday, with hundreds of mourners in attendance.
“Finally you’ve arrived, talk to me,” her mom said, sobbing as her body was brought into the cemetery.
Those in attendance condemned her death, calling on the police to find those responsible and have them punished.
According to Ynet, Johara Khnifes was the granddaughter of Saleh Khnifes, a leader in the Druze community who served in the country’s second and third Knessets as a member of the Progress and Work faction, which was associated with Mapai.
Arab communities have seen a surge in violence in recent years, driven mainly, but not only, by organized crime. Arab Israelis blame the police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars, and violence against women.
The community has also suffered from decades of neglect.
Johara Khnifes’s death was the 32nd murder in the Arab community this year, including five women.