‘Israel is Mobilizing to Protect Arab Citizens’

by Arthur Schwartzman

But years of apparent neglect have left few with confidence in or respect for the police

The Bennett government has vowed to finally tackle the proliferation of weapons and rampant violence in the Arab sector. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90

It seems like the Israeli police are yet again losing the respect of the citizens. A recent incident brought to light why exactly esteem for law enforcement is so low in the eyes of the public.

Four people were arrested last Saturday after they allegedly broke into a cafe in the Arab town of Kfar Qassem and attacked police officers and a volunteer who arrived at the scene. During the arrest, a confrontation ensued, during which dozens of people attacked the police. The suspects in the attack were affiliates of the Islamic Movement, who tried to prevent officers from arresting the first suspect who rioted in the cafe. However, residents of Kfar Qassem who were present at the incident claimed that these were two people who were involved in the original attack and were subdued during the arrest.

This incident made plenty of noise online, and memes began popping up left and right, ridiculing the police for being helpless in the Arab sector.

Israelis tend to complain about the lawmen, whose job is to protect the public. The average Israeli shows little respect for the police, as the general feeling on the street is that the police are doing too much to harass the law-abiding population and paying no heed to those who truly need to be prosecuted.

A lot of frustration comes also from the Arab sector itself, as the villages see less policing and more violence, and illegal weaponry is rampant there.

MK Mansour Abbas, Deputy Chairman of the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement, Chairman of the Special Committee on Arab Society, and Chairman of the Ra’am party, told Radio 103FM regarding the recent incident: “Almost nothing has been done to address crime and violence in Arab society. In the shadow of the Netanyahu government for ten years, nothing has been done, and today we are reaping the fruits of neglect.” He later added: “There is no place for violence against the police. On the contrary, we call on all citizens of the country to maintain law and order, and I work daily to improve the cooperation between the police and the Arab population.”

In light of all this, the government has adopted the proposal of the Deputy Minister for Internal Security to combat crime in the Arab sector. It will advance legislation to set minimum penalties for possession and trafficking in arms. At the first meeting of the ministerial staff, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said: “The problem has been repressed and neglected for years, and how now reached monstrous proportions. The state is mobilizing to protect Arab citizens – but it will take time.”

Mixed reactions could be heard in the Arab community in response to the ministers’ decision to involve the IDF and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) in the fight against crime in the sector. On the one hand, social organizations warn that this is a racist move that could infringe on the rights of citizens. On the other hand, some say that “all measures must be taken” given the emergency situation that has arisen. In the middle are desperate citizens who believe that the current plan, like its predecessors, will not succeed in bringing about change.

The recent assault on the police officers birthed the headline (meme): ”The Arab sector is commencing an operation of confiscating arms from the police.” As silly and funny as it may sound, it reflects the low esteem that Israelis have for law enforcement. Of course, the Arab sector has a beef with the men in uniform, whether blue or green, mainly for nationalistic reasons. Nevertheless, all agree that something needs to be done. Will this move be the right one? Will Arabs finally get some sense of security? Will Jews eventually regain trust in the ‘blues’? Only time will tell.

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