2021-10-16 19:13:44 Neglect of Palestinians in Israel fuels killing spree | Israel-Palestine conflict News
Neglect of Palestinians in Israel fuels killing spree | Israel-Palestine conflict News
According to analysts, the deadly crime wave engulfing Israel’s Palestinian community must be addressed urgently after years of being ignored by Israeli authorities.
Until now, the Israeli government has largely ignored the Palestinian sector, establishing only a few police stations in predominantly Palestinian villages and towns. Financial constraints in the police force were frequently cited as an excuse. The end result is illegal weapons, gangs, and an extremely high crime rate.
According to Ian Lustick, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, the violence is a severe problem.
“Murder is rampant, with systematic failures to investigate properly and extremely rare cases of perpetrator arrests and convictions,” he said.
While Israeli police solve 71% of murders in Jewish communities, only 23% are solved in Palestinian communities.
The Palestinian community, which accounts for one-fifth of the total population, has been subjected to a murder rate that is two times that of Jewish Israelis.
According to statistics, a Palestinian aged 17 to 24 is 21 times more likely to be shot than a Jewish person of the same age. The risk is 36 times higher for Palestinians over the age of 25 than for Jewish Israelis.
According to Yaniv Voller, senior lecturer in Middle Eastern politics at the University of Kent, the problem of violence in Palestinian society predates former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years in power.
“And all governments have ignored it, primarily because dealing with violence in Arab [Palestinian] society has required significant resources, but it also posed an additional risk of clashes between the authorities and Arab citizens,” Voller told Al Jazeera.
“Although Arab leaders have frequently urged the government to address the issue, they have been hesitant to cooperate with authorities, particularly the police.”
As a result, 2020 was a record-breaking year, with 96 Palestinian Israeli citizens killed.
However, 2021 has already annihilated the previous benchmark. Since the beginning of the year, approximately 100 Palestinians have been murdered, often as part of gang wars.
One of the issues is that Israeli authorities regard violence in the Palestinian sector as a security issue, one for the Shin Bet intelligence service rather than the police, according to Lustick.
“Policing, like all public services in the Arab sector – education, sewage, recreation, infrastructure, housing, and so on – has been underprovided,” he said.
However, the issue is more than a lack of resources and neglect; it is “most fundamentally, the segregation of Israeli society and the exclusion of Arabs from the real concerns of most government bodies and most Israeli Jews,” according to Lustick.
“On top of that, but related to it, is the confiscation of vast tracts of land from Palestinians and Palestinian villages, as well as refusals to approve master building plans.” These conditions result in severe overcrowding and high-stakes conflicts between families and clans over minor pieces of property.
“Add to that thousands of collaborators and informers who are shielded from prosecution, as well as the weapons that they and competing gangs and clans can obtain, and you have a recipe for the bloodshed we are witnessing,” he continued.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced the implementation of a new plan to combat crime in Palestinian communities.
“My government is determined to take action and wage an unrelenting, constant, and persistent fight, with full force, against crime and violence in the Arab sector,” Bennett said earlier this month in a statement.
Calls to involve Israel’s domestic security agency, Shin Bet, which operates primarily in the West Bank, in addressing the problem “are probably not very helpful,” according to Voller.
“The most immediate solution is to put more money into crime-prevention programs, strengthen police forces, and try to collect weapons, which are abundant in Arab society.” However, this program will not be successful in the long run unless trust is established between the authorities and the Arab society. “No solution is possible without population cooperation with authorities, whether in enforcement or education,” he said.
The new Israeli government’s shared interest in resolving the problem could be beneficial.
“The coalition, in its entirety, is eager to solve the problem.”
This includes right-wing elements who recognize that violence in Arab society is not limited to Arab villages and towns. The main difference is in approach, with right-wing elements pushing for increased use of law enforcement, including the Shabak and police, at the expense of other measures, as Voller noted.
The United Arab List (Ra’am), which is committed to the rights of the Palestinian minority, is one of these coalition members.
“Ra’am is the key to addressing the issue of criminal violence in Arab society.” It has earmarked budget as part of its negotiations to join the coalition, and its leadership has expressed vocal support for government intervention,” Voller noted.
However, Ra’am cannot bring about change on its own; greater collaboration with local Palestinian authorities is required, and many do not support Ra’am, according to Voller.
What is also likely to be problematic is that the police, like the military, represent Zionist state power, with which many Palestinians do not want to identify for political and ethnic reasons.
“Right now, the level of mutual trust is low.” However, Arab citizens and political leaders continue to protest the government’s inaction, implying that they still have some expectations and hope that the situation will improve. Ra’am can enter the picture here, in the process of rebuilding trust,” Voller explained.