Israel’s Arab community terrorised by rising crime and violence
People are being gunned down in the streets of neighbourhoods populated by Israel’s Arab community, part of a rising crime wave that many people say the Israeli police are doing nothing to stop.
Over the past 20 years, the crime rates have been growing in communities home to Israeli Arabs. Racketeering, murders linked to loansharking and score-settling have all become more common, according to a study carried out by Baladna in 2022. In 2021, the Abraham Initiatives, an NGO that documents violence within the Arab community, recorded a record 126 murders. The next year, in 2022, an association of Palestinian journalists recorded a total of 75 people killed, including nine women.
Israeli Arabs are Arabs who have Israeli citizenship and live in Israel. Part of this population is known as "Inside Palestinians", Palestinians who remained within Israeli territory after the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. They represent about 21 percent of the Israeli population.
Videos of shootings taking place in these communities are regularly shared on social media, like the one below, which shows a man getting off a motorcycle and shooting at two people on the night of September 19. Three people were consequently hospitalised with injuries. The Israeli police announced the arrest of a suspect, reporting that he had also been involved in a previous shooting.
This video, filmed in Jarrah, a village near Sakhnin, shows a family fleeing from a shooting on September 6. One young person was injured in this shooting.
On September 4, journalist Nidal Ijbaria, who was reporting on growing crime in the Arab community, was shot and killed in his car in the town of Umm al-Fahm. He had already survived one assassination attempt back in 2021 when he was on his way home from a mosque.
#Israel: #Arab-Israeli #journalist shot dead in his car in Umm al-Fahm— Shadi Alkasim (@Shadi_Alkasim) September 4, 2022
Local reporter Nadal Ijbaria, who was victim of assassination attempt last year, killed on his way home from mosque https://t.co/LDWQdcetqI
Two days later, on September 6, residents of Umm al-Fahm organised a rally to denounce police "inaction".
تغطية صحفية: تظاهرة أمام مركز شرطة الاحتلال في أم الفحم بالداخل المحتل احتجاجا على تقاعس الاحتلال في محاربة الجريمة. pic.twitter.com/JR9nMBGJn2— وكالة الرأي (@alrayps) September 6, 2022
'There’s a feeling of impunity amongst the criminals, who think they can do anything'
Mohammed (not his real name) is a journalist with a Palestinian media outlet. He requested anonymity for his own security.
The main reason for the increase in crime is the absence of the state. We have the impression that the police don’t do much. In Arab communities, there is not a large enough police presence. We are also lacking in infrastructure and banks [Editor’s note: this shortage of banking opportunities feeds into the growing problem with loansharking or unsafe loan practices with high interest rates]. The result is that there’s a feeling of impunity amongst the criminals, who think they can do anything.
Journalists in these communities live under immense pressure. When there are arrests, they don’t dare to publish the names of the people who have been arrested because they are afraid of reprisals, that someone will go after them or their families.
Our population has been taken hostage by organised crime, which makes its money largely through racketeering [Editor’s note: dishonest and fraudulent business dealings].
Many shopkeepers have to pay these gangs each month for protection. They also get money from some local businesses. And people are afraid to talk because of the consequences for them or their families.
'Some of their weapons are stolen from the Israeli army'
There is also a lot of firearms trafficking within these organised crime structures. Some of these weapons are contraband smuggled in from Jordan and Lebanon. Others were stolen from the Israeli army, mostly from training centres.
Over the last few months, there has been a worrying rise in loansharking. Many people living in Arab communities have difficulty getting access to credit. And so they end up having to turn to usurers. It’s a business controlled by organised crime and the interest rates are high. If someone isn’t able to pay back the loan in time, then the criminals go after them and their family.
In these communities, there are many young people, between the age of 18 and 22, who don’t have work and aren’t able to continue their studies. Without hope for the future or opportunities, they turn towards crime and are recruited by gangs because they are attracted by this lifestyle — luxury cars, money and weapons.
Many people accuse the Israeli police of failing to protect Arab communities. In response to this discontent, in August 2021, the Israeli police created a unit dedicated to fighting crime in the Arab community. The government then announced that they were launching a large operation, known as “Safe Route”. The operation was supposed to continue until 2026, but the results are yet to be seen.
Since the start of the year, only 19 percent of murders in the Arab community have been solved, even though the figure is 70 percent in the Jewish community, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. More than 70 percent of homicides take place in the Arab community even though they only make up 20 percent of the population.