Hundreds of protesters gathered in the central city of Ramle on Tuesday to demonstrate against violence in the country’s Arab communities, calling for greater police enforcement to clamp down on crime after 74 people were murdered since the beginning of the year.
The protesters marched from the largely Arab locale of al-Omri Mosque to the police station, holding signs and chanting slogans against law enforcement and condemning what they said was the police’s inaction in addressing the spate of violence.
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh told demonstrators that the community’s protest “will continue until quiet is returned to the streets and the crime organizations are defeated. If we do not continue to count arrests and demonstrations, we will continue to count fatalities and funerals.”
Odeh’s fellow faction member Aida Touma-Sliman demanded greater cooperation between various police units to go after the various mob leaders in the Arab community.
“If the weapons were being aimed at Jews, the police would not wait for criminals to return the weapon voluntarily,” she said.
רמלה זועקת את מחאתה: נמשיך להיאבק בפשיעה ובאלימות! הערב הפגנו יחד עם ועדת המעקב ומאות פעילים ופעילות, ונמשיך למחות עד שדרישתנו תיענה. אנחנו דורשים מהממשלה לקחת אחריות למצב החירום בו אנו נמצאים ולגבש תוכנית ממשלתית יסודית למלחמה בפשיעה עכשיו! pic.twitter.com/TqNXpOMjmj
— MK Heba Yazbak (@hebayazbak) October 15, 2019
Ramle was chosen as the location for the latest in a series of protests, which began at the beginning of October, after a prominent imam in the town was shot on Friday night. Sheikj Ali al-Danaf, 40, was seriously wounded in the incident. Earlier in the day, the head of the Islamic Movement in Ramle held a sermon calling for action and protests against organized crime. His car was hit by seven bullets in what Channel 13 said was an attempted murder close to the mosque where he prays.
The Arab community has in recent weeks held strikes and large protests against rampant violence and the lack of law enforcement in their towns. Arab leaders say the Israel Police largely ignores the violence in their communities, everything from family feuds and mafia turf wars to domestic violence and so-called honor killings.
On Saturday, police uncovered a stash of thousands of bullets during searches in the northern village of Ara, and detained 13 suspects. Wadi Ara is a valley adjacent to the northern West Bank, southeast of Haifa, which is home to many Arab villages and towns, including Umm al-Fahm, Ara, Baqa al-Gharbiyye and Kafr Qara.
That operation came hours following the latest murder to hit the Arab community, after a 21-year-old was shot dead in Ara overnight Friday, possibly due to a family feud. He was the 74th Arab murder victim since the start of the year. Local leaders on Saturday held an emergency meeting, where they called for police intervention and warned of potential further attacks following his murder.
The victim was identified as Mohammed Hamdan. Israel’s Channel 13 said his father Adnan told local leaders he would forgive the killer “if the blood of my son benefits a mending of our society.”
On Thursday, Arab politicians led a protest convoy of vehicles from Majd al-Krum in northern Israel along Route 6 to the capital, where they met with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and interim Police Commissioner Motti Cohen to demand increased enforcement.
Erdan vowed to allocate 600 officers to handle violent crime, as well as focus resources on investigating organized crime.
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 capital.