Amid another bloody weekend in Arab towns in Israel, which have been plagued by gun violence for years, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said Saturday that the government was responsible for the ongoing scourge and claimed lawmakers were more interested in protecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from his personal legal troubles than protecting Arab citizens’ lives.
Odeh said in a statement that following mass protests in the community, “a wide-scale program to combat violence” in the Arab community had been delayed because of the latest national election.
Earlier this fall, large numbers of Arab Israelis participated in protests against violence in their communities, calling on authorities to take greater action to curb the phenomenon.
Arab leaders say the Israel Police largely ignores the violence in their communities, which includes family feuds and mafia turf wars, domestic violence and so-called honor killings.
ירי על ביתו של ראש עיירית סכנין ד"ר ספואת אבו ריא והבוקר רצחו את ג'והר אבו ג'אבר בן 27.
אחרי המחאה התקדמנו אל עבר תוכנית מערכתית למיגור האלימות אבל היא נדחתה בגלל הבחירות החוזרות. זאת התוצאה של ממשלה שמעדיפה להגן על העבריין העומד בראשה מאשר להגן על אזרחים בפני ארגוני פשיעה. pic.twitter.com/XkLXoKZaRK
— Ayman Odeh (@AyOdeh) December 14, 2019
In recent years, Arab Israelis have been involved in a significantly higher number of shootings than Jews. According to a 2018 State Comptroller report, the rate of gunfire-related violations was 17.5 times greater among Arabs than Jews from 2014 to 2016.
While many Arab Israeli politicians and activists maintain that the Israel Police has not taken sufficient action to crack down on violence in their towns, security officials have argued that they face challenges in gaining the trust of members of the community to aid their investigations.
In late October, Netanyahu announced the formation of a committee to combat violence in the Arab community. But the statutes of the effort is unclear given the country’s third plunge into an election season in under a year.
Referring to the delay in the implementation of gun violence reform, Odeh said, “this is the result of a government that would rather protect the criminal who heads it than the civilians [endangered by] criminal organizations.”
The statement by the chairman of the majority-Arab Joint List came hours after a series of gun-related crimes in Arab towns.
Shots were fired early Saturday at the home of the mayor in the Galilee city of Sakhnin. The assailants also set Mayor Safwat Abu Raya’s car on fire.
Abu Raya was overseas at the time of the shooting, which resulted in property damage but no injuries. Two suspects were arrested in connection to the shooting, though there was no immediate word on a suspected motive.
ירי לעבר ביתו של ראש עיריית סכנין ספוואת אבו ריא והצתת רכבו.اطلاق النار على منزل رئيس بلدية سخنين صفوت ابو ريا واضرام النار بسيارته pic.twitter.com/JS2YvGFpBo
— sami abed alhamed سامي عبد الحميد (@samiaah10) December 14, 2019
Police called to Abu Raya’s home were gathering evidence and launched a search for possible suspects. The municipal council convened an emergency meeting Saturday morning to discuss recent violence in Sakhnin.
The incident came on the heels of other recent attacks on Arab municipal leaders, including a shooting Tuesday at the home of the head of the Jadeidi-Makr local council that left a security guard moderately injured.
Also Saturday, 27-year-old Juhar Abu Jabbar was shot dead in the central Arab town of Kafr Qassem.
Police were searching for a masked suspect who fled the scene of the shooting.
Police say there have been more than 70 killings in Arab communities this year, nearly as many as in each of the past two years, when Arabs, who are 20 percent of the general population, made up more than half of all murder victims nationwide.