Joint List to boycott Knesset swearing-in over violence in Arab communities
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Police minister says a 'state of emergency' is needed

Joint List to boycott Knesset swearing-in over violence in Arab communities

Move is part of general strike planned in Arab towns Thursday over wave of murders, with leaders blaming police and government neglect for the rise in crime

Joint List leaders Ayman Odeh (2nd-L), Ahmad Tibi (2nd-R), Mtanes Shehadeh (L) and Mansour Abbas meet at the Knesset on September 22, 2019, ahead of their alliance's meeting with President Reuven Rivlin on who they'll recommend should form the next government. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Joint List leaders Ayman Odeh (2nd-L), Ahmad Tibi (2nd-R), Mtanes Shehadeh (L) and Mansour Abbas meet at the Knesset on September 22, 2019, ahead of their alliance's meeting with President Reuven Rivlin on who they'll recommend should form the next government. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Joint List alliance of four Arab-majority parties said it will boycott Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony for the new Knesset to protest what it calls the government’s failure to address rising levels of violence in Arab towns.

“Tomorrow, the 13 members of Knesset of the Joint List won’t take part in the festive Knesset swearing-in plenum, as part of the general strike announced by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee over the wave of murders in Arab towns and the uselessness of the police,” Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi wrote on Twitter.

Recent weeks have seen a surge in murders among the country’s Arab minority, prompting its political representatives to promise to make the problem a primary issue.

Over 60 Arab Israelis have been murdered since the start of 2019.

“The dozens of people murdered since the start of the year are victims not only of violent crime, but also of the disinterest of the government and law enforcement,” tweeted Joint List leader Ayman Odeh.

Some Arab lawmakers have previously skipped Knesset swearing-in ceremonies for ideological reasons, including two after elections in April, with one lawmaker saying state symbols make them “feel like a sort of foreigner” and that he preferred to attend a party for his local soccer team.

At the ceremony in April, lawmakers from the four parties that make up the Joint List walked out of the Knesset hall when the national anthem was played.

Shortly after the Joint List announcement, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said he would hold an emergency meeting with police leaders.

“The level of violence and crime in Arab communities requires a determined fight with every tool at the state’s disposal,” Erdan, whose ministry oversees police, said in a statement.

“A state of emergency needs to be declared,” he added.

Erdan was also expected to meet with members of the Joint List, according to Channel 13.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during a ceremony for the outgoing Jerusalem police chief at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

As part of Thursday’s general strike, local government institutions and schools in Arab towns and cities will be closed, according to the Haaretz daily.

The strike was announced during a meeting Wednesday of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee in the northern town of Majd al-Krum, where on Tuesday two brothers were killed in a brawl that involved shooting and knifing.

Recent days have seen repeated demonstrations in the northern Arab city of Umm al-Fahm against ongoing violence in the town and in the greater Arab community in Israel.

On Friday hundreds protested in the Wadi Ara area demanding the closure of the police station in Umm al-Fahm, saying cops were not doing enough to confront violence in their communities.

On September 20, four Arab Israelis were murdered within hours of each other. Two days later, a series of brutal crimes left one dead and several seriously injured.

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