Israel is using rise in crime to impose greater controls on its Arab population – Middle East Monitor

More Palestinian citizens of Israel are being killed as each day goes by. There have been over 100 murders half-way into the year, nearly triple the number in the same period last year, which also observed a fatal crime spike.

Within the space of several hours, last Thursday, five Palestinians, including a 15-year-old, were shot dead at a car wash near the city of Nazareth. Not long before that, amid a string of killings in Palestinian communities, a 3-year-old girl in Kafr Kana was seriously wounded by gunfire and a 30-year-old man was severely wounded.

Last month, a 50-year-old man was shot dead in a store in the northern Arab city of Umm Al-Fahm. The same city, earlier in April, saw 9-year-old Mahdi Hariri shot dead near the Eyal Interchange in central Israel, and another man from Barta’a, wounded.

Palestinian citizens of Israel – those who remained during the Nakba and their descendants – make up 20 per cent of the country’s population.

With racism seeming to be one of the core features of Israeli policies, the unprecedented rise in fatal violence, including organised crime, possession of illegal weapons and police inaction are all what community members condemn as institutional racism by the Israeli state and society.

READ: Extremist ministers support detaining Arab citizens of Israel without charge or trial

Years of calls for the Israeli government to take crime in their cities more seriously and to devote more resources to stem the tide of killings have fallen on deaf ears, with successive Israeli governments doing little to address the problem.

It was not until after the 91st murder of a Palestinian resident of Israel, 50-year-old Khaled Khaldi,  when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with lawmakers from the Knesset’s Arab-majority parties and Arab local council representatives and agreed to the establishment of a ministerial committee, which he would chair, to “eradicate the criminal scourge”.

However, having foreseen Netanyahu’s failure to progress with any meaningful policy changes due to widespread Palestinian distrust of Israel’s police and new government, the most right-wing in the country’s history, Ra’am party, refused to join the meeting.

One of the first proposals put forward under the guise of flattening the crime rates in Palestinian society is deploying Israel’s internal intelligence agency, Shin Bet, whose agents have, for decades, used torture against Palestinian prisoners, subjecting them to conditions that violate the Convention against Torture, to which Israel is a signatory.

According to testimonies, the Shin Bet uses mental and physical violence, including choking, forcing victims into stress positions that cause intense pain, and tightly cuffing their hands to prevent blood flow.

Human and civil rights organisations, including Adalah – the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, criticised the Agency’s involvement even further.

Suhad Bishara, Legal Director of Adalah, wrote that Netanyahu’s plan was “particularly alarming” given that it “further threatens the basic rights of a group that is already systematically targeted and oppressed by the police.”

Dead men tell no tales, could be Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir's MO toward Palestinians - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Dead men tell no tales, could be Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir’s MO toward Palestinians – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

“Moreover, if the government promotes legislation to expand the powers of the Shin Bet for this purpose, we will oppose it on the grounds that it intended to establish an enforcement system specifically for one ethnic and national group and, thereby, entrench two separate legal systems – one for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the other for Jewish-Israeli citizens – and is, therefore, blatantly racist,” she added.

Additionally, Ben-Gvir introduced a controversial bill earlier this week in Parliament which would enable him to issue administrative detention orders up to a year against anyone the minister thinks poses a danger to the public, including Palestinians.

Much like how the purpose of the Shin Bet Agency is to fight terror – imposing and expanding on administrative detention mechanisms – are typically used against any Palestinians accused of carrying out ‘terror’ attacks. It is rarely, if ever, used against illegal Israeli settlers who terrorise Palestinians.

Therefore, far-right Israeli ministers, particularly the extremist National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is doing little to hide the fact that he is seizing the crisis as a golden opportunity to further his own political agenda against the population which he incited for years.

Their provocative approach comes as no surprise as it comes straight after leaked recordings of the private meeting between Ben-Gvir and Israel’s Police Commissioner, Kobi Shabtai, expose them saying “There’s nothing we can do. They murder each other. It’s in their nature. That’s the mentality of the Arabs.”

READ: Far-right minister seeks power to impose administrative detention

A settler in Kiryat Araba, one of the most radical settlements in the Occupied West Bank, Ben-Gvir holds far-right views on the Palestinians and has a history of hostility toward Palestinians, including calling for their displacement.

He has been convicted of incitement to racism, destroying property and repeatedly joined Israeli settlers in storming Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Occupied Palestinian city of Jerusalem.

As the Israeli National Security Minister, rather than investing in a long-term plan to improve infrastructure and conditions for Palestinian citizens by addressing the injustice and inequality at its root in Palestinian communities, Ben Gvir is only exploiting his position by adopting new tactics and laws to tighten its grip on Palestinian citizens suffering under its colonial rule.

This further exposes how Israel’s sudden interest at combating crime in Palestinian communities is insincere and the government is still, in fact, neither prepared nor bothered to deal with the burning problem, despite the feigned expressions of shock over the escalating crimes.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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