Not only Arabs: Killings spike in all parts of Israeli society, investigation shows

According to retired officers, 61% increase this year in rate of suspected murders among Jews and other non-Arabs is caused by deterioration of police force under Ben Gvir

The scene of a suspected murder of a woman in her 50s at her apartment in the central city of Rishon Lezion, May 12, 2023. (Magen David Adom spokesperson)
The scene of a suspected murder of a woman in her 50s at her apartment in the central city of Rishon Lezion, May 12, 2023. (Magen David Adom spokesperson)

Alongside the 102 Arabs killed in homicides since the beginning of 2023, there have been 29 non-Arab Israeli citizens and residents — Jewish and non-Jewish — killed in homicides in that timespan as well, according to an investigation by Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site.

This time last year, there were only 18 such killings, meaning there has been a 61 percent increase this year.

The most recent victim was 21-year-old Osher Gazi from Eilat, who was stabbed inside his car in what appears to have been an ambush orchestrated by criminals.

On Sunday, the tally of violent killings in the Arab community reached 102 following the death of Watheq Qashqush, a 28-year-old student from Qalansawe who was shot in the street, and 49-year-old Ashraf Karub who was shot inside a home in Jaljulia.

This time last year, the number of Arabs killed in suspected murders was 35, one-third the current tally.

Arabs are murdered in Israel at 12 times the rate Jews are, per capita. While most cases of murders in the Jewish community lead to indictments within weeks, the majority of Arab murders go unsolved.

According to police statistics published Monday by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, 75% of suspected murders committed in the Jewish community between January 2022 and April 2023 were solved, in contrast to 19% of Arab suspected murders during that timespan.

Illustrative — Medics and police officers are seen near the scene of a shooting at Jaffa’s port, October 23, 2021. (Magen David Adom)

The Israel Police does not reveal day-by-day crime statistics. The tallying of murders in the Arab community is done by the Abraham Initiatives organization. The statistics gathered for this article are based on a report by the Knesset’s Information and Research Center, which has recorded the number of suspected murders each month, by sector, up until May 3 of this year.

This investigation has counted an additional five victims of killings that occurred after the timespan covered by the above report: Osher Gazi, Rili Perry whose ex-husband allegedly stabbed her, a couple in Netanya whose son is suspected of murdering them, and a 4-year-old boy in Haifa who was killed by his mother, who then took her own life.

Police officers, police volunteers and social activists say that in the past months, the police’s ability to deal with the crime epidemic has dropped sharply. The Kan public broadcaster reported Saturday that 40 police prosecutors and dozens of investigators are looking to resign from the already severely understaffed force. Police chief Kobi Shabtai argued Saturday that he was being pressured by the government to make moves that would leave “scorched earth” when his term ends.

Retired police officers are blaming National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir for the organization’s deterioration. Dozens of retired senior officers, including six former police chiefs – Asaf Chefetz, Dudi Cohen, Yochanan Danino, Moshe Karadi, Rafi Peled and Shlomo Aharonishki – sent a letter Friday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for Ben Gvir’s dismissal.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene where five people were shot dead in the town of Yafa an-Naseriyye, June 8, 2023. (Fadi Amun/Flash90)

“The Israel Police is collapsing,” the letter said. “Excellent officers and commanders are fleeing the organization at an unprecedented pace. It is too soon to lay out all the reasons that have brought the police to where it is today.

“National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir is a central part of the problem. The first thing that must be done is to remove him immediately from office. His tenure as a minister is an immediate and concrete danger to Israel’s security.”

Retired officers say that the numerous arguments between Ben Gvir and the police chief, as well as with other senior officers, are creating problems that are being felt in the field.

They say that because the police force is a naturally hierarchical organization based upon the principle of following orders, having a minister who disrespects the law and proper conduct causes senior officers to treat him the same way, and that attitude goes all the way down to police officers in the field, who become confused and unmotivated. Meanwhile, criminals recognize this weakness and take advantage of it.

“The police’s problems have gotten significantly worse in the past six months,” says David Haliva, a retired security official who trains officers in martial arts.

“The police feel that nobody has their back, that their officers don’t care, that there’s an atmosphere of despair, and it affects them. They’re not functioning. There’s a growing gap between cities with and without Municipal Policing. Municipal police forces arrive within a reasonable amount of time and take care of problems. In other places, waiting times are getting longer and longer.

“The result is that the citizens lose whatever is left of the trust they have and decide to handle their issues by themselves. [This leads] to more and more violence – conflicts between neighbors, burglaries, fights – being settled without the police, with security companies or through bullying. This is true for the Jewish community as well.”

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