Almost two years ago, in September 2021, a 25-year-old man was shot dead at a run-of-the-mill wedding in Taibeh. That same day, another young Arab man was murdered. The proximity of these incidents, combined with the fact that the shooting occurred at a wedding, infuriated young men and women from the Arab community.

That was one of the most difficult nights for Arab citizens of Israel to date. Following it, a virtual protest erupted on social media under the hashtag #Arab_Lives_Matter, and it received widespread coverage from both the Hebrew- and Arabic-language media.

This occurred during the previous "government of change," who listened to the protesters and took action. MK Yoav Segalovitz, then the deputy public security minister, was put in charge of fighting crime in the Arab community and unveiled an emergency plan intended to halt the intensifying violence.

This gave young Arabs hope. They felt that their outcry had been heard. And in fact, the number of murder victims fell by 15 percent during that period. But after this past Thursday, a day when five people were murdered in one incident, another was killed in a separate incident and a 3-year-old girl was seriously wounded in a third incident, it’s no longer possible to talk about hope.

To Arabs in Israel, it’s clear that their lives don’t matter as much as they had wanted to believe. Their faith that the decision-makers wouldn’t abandon them after the Netanyahu government was formed has been shelved.

This government of poison and destruction has left no doubts about its intentions to abandon the Arabs to organized crime and violence, without a drop of sympathy or compassion. This is a government in which Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai once told National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir in a private conversation that “they murder each other, that’s the Arab mentality.”

Shabtai isn’t the only one who thinks that. The view that Israeli Arabs are to blame for their current situation because murders are “part of their culture” is an extremely common prejudice among Israelis.

Yet despite this, Arabs have taken to the streets time after time to demonstrate and beg that someone heed their distress – from demonstrations by the group Mothers for Life to the outcry of Arab activists in civil-society organizations. This newspaper and other media outlets have done investigative reports and interviewed mothers who saw their children murdered before their very eyes and went to the police, but haven’t seen the murderers caught.

The police have also failed in their fight against the use of illegal weapons in Arab towns, and they have failed to gain the Arab community’s trust.

In July 2022, director Bilal Yousef made a documentary film that shows the wretched reality of living in the shadow of death. He accompanied mothers of murder victims, spoke with experts and filmed demonstrators in the streets to illustrate the depth of the fear and despair in the Arab community. But in the wake of this film, once again, nothing happened.

For Israelis, these murders are still “part of the culture” of Israeli Arabs. How easy it is for someone who has never experienced a real threat to their life, gunshots at their home in the middle of the night or death threats that forced them to move homes, to say this is “part of their culture.” This statement removes all responsibility from the state and the police, while systematically ignoring all the underlying factors that have led to the rise in crime and violence.

Five people murdered in a single incident ought to have the entire country in an uproar. But not in Israel, where Arab lives are worth nothing and the outcry by young men and women is unheard, unseen and ignored. Nothing makes people despair more than this feeling of powerlessness, when the hope of being able to live in safety goes down the drain.

On Thursday, after the shooting near Nazareth, police spokesman Eli Levy said that “setting aside this tragedy and disaster, the police have a great many successes.” It’s superfluous to point out that the police’s department for fighting crime in the Arab community was a resounding failure that didn’t lead to any change in Arab citizens' sense of personal security.

Neither the police spokesman, Ben-Gvir nor the police commissioner has grasped the magnitude of Thursday’s murders and their impact on young people in the Arab community. How much courage does it take to leave your home and shoot five people to death? Zero. Only one thing drives the murderers – the understanding that they will never be caught or punished thanks to the police’s policy. That is what causes murderers to leave their homes time after time to commit more crimes – the fact that in Israel, Arab lives are worth nothing.

QOSHE - In Israel, Arab Lives Don't Matter - Sheren Falah Saab
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In Israel, Arab Lives Don't Matter

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09.06.2023

Almost two years ago, in September 2021, a 25-year-old man was shot dead at a run-of-the-mill wedding in Taibeh. That same day, another young Arab man was murdered. The proximity of these incidents, combined with the fact that the shooting occurred at a wedding, infuriated young men and women from the Arab community.

That was one of the most difficult nights for Arab citizens of Israel to date. Following it, a virtual protest erupted on social media under the hashtag #Arab_Lives_Matter, and it received widespread coverage from both the Hebrew- and Arabic-language media.

This occurred during the previous "government of change," who listened to the protesters and took action. MK Yoav Segalovitz, then the deputy public security minister, was put in charge of fighting crime in the Arab community and unveiled an emergency plan intended to halt the intensifying violence.

This gave young Arabs hope. They felt that their outcry had been heard. And in fact, the number of murder victims fell by 15 percent during that period. But after this past Thursday, a day when five people were murdered in one incident, another was killed in a separate incident and a 3-year-old girl was seriously wounded........

© Haaretz


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