Kafr Keystone
Hebrew media review

Kafr Keystone

After a deadly riot throws some light onto a murder spree in an Israeli-Arab town, many see deeper problems that they say police not only aren’t fixing, but are making worse

Police forces in Qafr Kassem on June 6, 2017  (Courtesy)
Police forces in Qafr Kassem on June 6, 2017 (Courtesy)

With much of the world focused on the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, and 50 years of Israel’s military occupation of West Bank Palestinians, a violent and deadly anti-police riot in an Israeli-Arab town just on the Israeli side of the Green Line early Tuesday served as a reminder that Israel’s challenges have more dimensions than simply finding a way to a peace deal.

For weeks, resident of Kafr Qassem have complained of shoddy law enforcement failing to deal with a deadly crime wave, but the issue only got any press coverage starting Tuesday, as the city was set aflame by hundreds of people attacking a police station and setting police cars ablaze. Coverage of the disturbances focus both on the shooting death of Mohammed Taha at the hands of a guard securing the police station that was attacked and on the deeper problems that led to the disturbances.

“City of Fury,” reads the headline in Yedioth Ahronoth, while Haaretz leads off its paper with a large dramatic picture of a burned police car.
Words, though, are needed to explain the deeper ills behind the disturbances, which Haaretz writes came as no surprise to residents of the town.

“We are on the verge of a civil uprising,” the broadsheet quotes a local man saying three days before Tuesday’s riots, explaining that with police unable or unwilling to crack down on crime, the city has been the scene of a war between criminal gangs and a local Islamist vigilante group, the head of which was arrested late Monday, setting off the riots.

“The clashes yesterday, residents say, are just a taste of what could still come,” the paper reports.

Yedioth recounts that the city has seen 15 unsolved murders, including six in the last six months, and residents don’t only think cops are bad at solving them, but are causing them.

“Before the police were here there was no murder,” one man is quoted saying, explaining that the cops coming in set off a power struggle between local security groups. “I told the cops, leave Kafr Qassem and see how there will be quite,” a friend of Taha adds.

In another column in the tabloid, though, Yoaz Hendel calls the police “an island of stability” and an essential ingredient in “ending the chaos in the sectors,” code for Arab communities.

But others disagree that simple more police will help the matter without police changing the way they work.

“Police do not only need to increase these resources. They need to change their policy and treat Arabs as citizens with full rights, not just as a security threat. Only this way can they produce results in the fight against organized crime and improve their relationship with the Arab community,” Jack Khoury writes in Haaretz.

“The police have betrayed the basic values they were created for, and have betrayed us, the citizens, that put or faith in them and are disappointed anew every time,” columnist Amna Farij adds in Yedioth. “Instead of being a watchful eye, the police have chosen to be the oppressive bully. And you can’t rely on a bully.”

Israel Hayom buries the story deeper and runs it smaller than the others, leading off what little coverage it has with the guard who shot Taha saying he feared for his life — “it was like a lynching,” reads a highlighted quote — and citing exclusively police sources in it’s main story on the subject (a separate story goes into some detail on Arab anger in the town).

“The protest in Kafr Qassem occurred after police decided to wage a campaign against deadly violence in the city,” the paper reports, making it seem as if residents don’t want the murders solved and crime to end.

Police accused of acting like Keystone Kops is also in the background of another story getting top real estate: a suspected pedophile arrested while teaching Tel Aviv second-graders, given the job despite having a conviction for touching kids hanging over his head.

“The teacher, 49, of Rishon Letzion, was arrested Tuesday morning by the Tel Aviv police after students told their parents that he had kissed them. The parents went to the principal, who passed the complaints on to the police,” Haaretz reports. “During questioning it emerged that the man had been convicted by a Rishon Letzion court of indecent acts against a 12-year-old girl, to which he confessed. … Despite his conviction, in January the man applied to the police for a certificate saying he had no criminal record, which was granted, which meant he could work as a substitute in the Tel Aviv school.”

The more colorful Yedioth calls the case “absurd,” and quotes parents saying they are in “shock” and there is “chaos in the school.”

“This case needs to trigger a red light, especially in the Education Ministry, over the failure that allowed a man convicted of sexual offenses to enter classrooms and teach our kids,” a father tells the paper.

Israel Hayom leads off with different scourges in school and among school-age kids, namely a study showing 1 in five underage teens has admitted to getting blackout drunk and other figures the tabloid calls “worrying.” These include 27 percent of kids saying they have been exposed to violence at home, 35% percent reporting being pushed around by bullies in school and 10% being exposed to drugs.

For all the teeny boppers who may be reading the paper, a column by kids’ TV presenter Tom Baum pushes getting high on life during the summer break instead.

“Let’s find a way to enjoy, not at the expense of other and not with unneeded aids. Let’s remember at the start of each night that we want to come home the same as we left, and not have to scrape our memory to remember what happened. Let’s have real fun but make sure to experience as it is and not in a fog,” he writes. “Let’s not wake up full of shame and regrets. Let’s not do things we’ll be sorry about and it will be too late to fix. Our break shouldn’t be somebody else’s trauma.”

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